Sparks will get a chance to knock off top-seeded Incline for the Rail City school’s second 3A boys soccer regional championship when the teams kick off their finals matchup at noon.
In order to reach the championship game, the No. 2 seeded Sparks squad switched things up against the No. 4 Lakers. In the Sierra League rivals’ last meeting, Sparks senior Abi Quintino tallied five of the Maroon and Gold’s six goals.
On Friday, Quintino played a lot of midfield and initiated many of the pushes upfield.
“We knew they were going to mark him pretty good,” Sparks boys soccer coach Frank Avilla said of North Tahoe’s defense on Quintino. “He was just dishing off and setting up a lot of plays. He was very content with his role today.”
Eric Ojeda and Andrew Garcia teamed up to combine for a couple goals against North Tahoe. In the first half, Ojeda was the benefactor of a Garcia assist, and the role was reversed two minutes into the second half when Ojeda assisted on a Garcia score.
In the 65th minute, Sparks (13-3-2) added another marker when Edgar Casillas found the back of the net off an assist by Kevin Partida.
Javier Torres picked up his second straight shutout in the playoffs with two saves. Sparks’ defense held the Lakers to five shots, while the offense unleashed 27 shots of its own.
Incline advanced to today’s championship by taking down league rival Truckee, 2-0, in Friday’s second semifinal. The Highlanders were 8-0-0 in Sierra League play, beating Sparks twice.
However, the Railroaders stuck around after their game to observe Incline in hopes of finding an opening for their third clash of the season.
“Incline is a very good team this year,” Avilla said. “They’re very well versed in soccer. They play with an aggressive style of ball. We know our work is going to be cut out for us. But we’re good, too. We still haven’t peaked, but we’re starting to. Each game I hope we get a little bit better. Today we played very well, and if we do that, I think we’ll have very good results against Incline.”
Sparks won the 2005 regional championship after a string of three straight upsets as a third seed.