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Sparks seniors keep spirits up
by Aaron Retherford
Nov 09, 2009 | 1541 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Byrne - Sparks seniors (from L-R) Pepe Mercado, Abi Quintino and Ivan Torres will help try to lead the Railroaders to a state title.
Tribune/John Byrne - Sparks seniors (from L-R) Pepe Mercado, Abi Quintino and Ivan Torres will help try to lead the Railroaders to a state title.
The Sparks boys soccer team just can't get over the hump when it comes to facing Incline.

After dropping a pair of 3-1 decisions to the Highlanders during the 3A Sierra League schedule, the Railroaders lost again 3-1 during Saturday's Northern 3A Regional championship game.

Sparks understandably was down after losing a chance for the school's second boys soccer regional crown. The first came in 2005.

But the Railroaders could easily start feeling the Highlanders are unbeatable, and that's dangerous since the two teams could meet a fourth time.

Incline is 21-1-1 on the season with its only loss coming in a preseason tournament to Bishop Manogue, which just happened to win the Northern 4A Regional championship without allowing a goal in three games.

The closest thing to a loss for Incline during the regular season was when it tied Reed almost two months ago. Since then, the Highlanders have rolled to victories in 14 straight contests.

So how does Sparks keep its confidence up after losing for a third time to what appears to be the second best team in all of Northern Nevada? Well, it starts with a foursome of four-year starters: Abi Quintino, Ivan Torres, Danny Ornelas and Pepe Mercado.

Those seniors will be looked upon to keep the Maroon and Gold in the right state of mind.

"Danny, Pepe, Ivan, Abi, all these kids push each other. And they play good competition at practice against each other as well as in our games," Sparks boys soccer coach Frank Avilla said.

All four bring something different to the table. Quintino is known as the team's biggest offensive threat, but he's willing to take a backseat to his teammates to help facilitate the offense. Mercado is a defender who could play up front, but he plays where needed.

"He's just the type of kid you want out there. When things are going wrong, all of a sudden there's Pepe," Avilla said.

Ornelas and Torres are the mainstays on defense. Avilla practically has to drag them off the field if he wants to sub for them.

But Avilla said all four are similar in that they lead by example, which is a good sign because the three at practice Monday were all upbeat about the upcoming state tournament and a chance to play Incline in the championship game. Ornelas missed Monday's practice due to illness.

"Not taking away from them. I think they're a good team. But I don't think they're better than us," Quintino said. "We were playing well in the first half, but we just made some mistakes in the back. I think we can take them though. We just have to work harder and communicate better."

Torres, Ornelas and Mercado are all part of the strong defensive back for the Railroaders, which saw first hand how talented Incline's senior forward Alex Reyes-Manrriquez is when he recorded a hat trick in the regional title game.

Sparks still believes it can stop the Highlander forward from adding onto his 35 goals if another rematch presents itself.

"I think marking two guys on him will pretty much stop him because that's what we did the other games," Torres said. "The times he had one-on-ones with us, are the times he got away, so putting two people on him would probably work."

But in order to possibly challenge Incline again, Sparks (13-4-2) must get past Virgin Valley in the state semifinals, and the Railroaders are eager for that opponent.

"I'm looking up for it. It's the first time going to state for soccer," Mercado said. "I just want to play against the best in the 3A. That's what I'm looking for."

That's just not lip service. Sparks really wants to play the best in the 3A.

While it would be easy to hope Truckee upsets Incline in the other state semifinal game, so the Railroaders could play the Wolverines, a team they have beaten twice, the local squad has the Highlanders in its sights.

"I want to play Incline. I don't want to play Truckee," Quintino said. "We already beat Truckee, so I want to play Incline and get some revenge right there. We're just rivals."

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