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Sparks set to face familiar foe for state title
by Aaron Retherford
Nov 13, 2009 | 789 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/John Byrne - Sparks sophomore Cesar Garcia shields the ball from a Virgin Valley player during the Railroaders' 3-0 win at Golden Eagle Regional Park Friday afternoon.
Tribune/John Byrne - Sparks sophomore Cesar Garcia shields the ball from a Virgin Valley player during the Railroaders' 3-0 win at Golden Eagle Regional Park Friday afternoon.
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During what could easily have been considered a home game, the Sparks boys soccer team put on a show in front of a horde of Railroader fans in a 3-0 3A state semifinal victory over Virgin Valley Friday afternoon.

Sparks fans made the short trek up to Golden Eagle Regional Park in northeast Sparks and ended the day storming the field as the Maroon and Gold advanced to today's state championship game against No. 1 seed Incline.

The day started with Sparks dominating possession and that theme continued as the Southern Nevada champs were simply outclassed.

"We talked about how we're playing in our hometown," Sparks boys soccer coach Frank Avilla said. "We knew they (Virgin Valley) would get tired and it showed out on the field."

In the 24th minute, Sparks senior Christian Cordova booted a low line drive on a corner kick. Alex Magana was there to deflect it in with his head, breaking the ice and the scoreless tie.

Virgin Valley was lucky to escape the first half with only a 1-0 deficit. The Mesquite, Nev. school turned the ball over twice deep in its defensive end and its keeper also bobbled a couple balls that Sparks players were able to get.

However, the Railroaders weren't able to capitalize on the mistakes and had to settle for a 1-0 halftime edge.

"We talked about our rollovers and crushing the zones more," Avilla said of the halftime talk. "Virgin Valley was trying to play our style of game, wait for it, and then counter against us. We worked hard on that. Joel (Martinez) put that together this week as far as our tactical stuff."

The one-goal margin quickly changed in the second 40 minutes though.

Barely eight minutes into the second half, Kevin Partida dumped a pass over to Abi Quintino, who stutter stepped to the left and ripped a left-footed shot into the right side of the goal for a 2-0 advantage.

Sparks (14-4-2) kept hammering Virgin Valley's freshman keeper Nathan Lee with shots and he kept denying them until the 69th minute when Andrew Garcia broke free in the back and rifled a shot into the far corner of the goal for the final margin. Partida assisted on the goal.

Lee finished with eight saves in the loss, but the Bulldogs' offense never mustered much of an attack, recording just four shots in 80 minutes.

Sparks benefited from playing on the artificial turf at Golden Eagle and will play on a similar surface today at Damonte Ranch.

"I think with our speed it does help," Avilla said. "We develop speed here at Sparks High and we work hard on it. It turned out to be a big benefit for us."

Incline was a 3-1 winner over Truckee Friday in the other boys state semifinal and improved to 22-1-1 on the year.

Kickoff for the 3A state boys soccer championship is scheduled for 4 p.m.

"If you look at the record books, it's Incline and Truckee. We're coming up the rear and we want to start the same type of soccer dynasty they've established up there," Avilla said. "Those guys represent our side of the state very well in soccer. We're just happy to be where we're at, and we're happy to be a part of the North soccer league. It's one of the best leagues in the state."
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