Sparks will get the chance to defend its DI-A North boys soccer regional title—because of a freshman.
The Railroaders were locked in a scoreless draw with South Tahoe in Friday’s regional semifinal at Elko after one overtime period before coach Frank Avilla called freshman Bryan Espin’s name.
Espin, who was a JV call-up, is one of the faster players on the Railroaders’ roster and was inserted to help counter South Tahoe’s speed. Three minutes into the second overtime, he used his burst to go on a run before he was tripped inside the box, earning a penalty.
Junior captain Genaro Vazquez, the team’s leading scorer, took the kick and sent the Railroaders to the DI-A North title game with a 1-0 victory.
South Tahoe, the No. 4 seed, finished the season 8-2-7.
Sparks, which won the DI-A North regular-season league title, improved to 17-1-4 on the season and will play Elko on Saturday at noon with the chance to claim its second-straight league title.
Both teams will go to state next week at South Tahoe High regardless of the outcome.
Sparks won its first league matchup of the season against Elko, 2-0, at home and played the Indians to a scoreless tie in Elko on Oct. 16. The Railroaders also beat the Indians, 1-0, in a shortened tournament game in August.
“For some reason, Elko and South Tahoe just matchup up against us,” Avilla said. “I don’t think it’ll be any different tomorrow. We just need to play with faith and confidence.”
If Sparks prevails, it would be its second-straight year celebrating a regional title on its opponent’s home field. The Railroaders beat Truckee, in Truckee, in last year’s regional title match.