Sparks wrapped up the 3A North regular season title on Tuesday with a 2-1 home win over Incline on senior day.
The Railroaders (19-2-1, 12-2-1) pulled six points ahead of North Tahoe atop the standings with one game, at Lowry on Thursday, remaining. The Lakers have two games left and can potentially make up six points, but Sparks owns the head-to-head tiebreaker.
First-year Sparks coach Jose Espana wasn’t ready to celebrate a league title. However, he admitted his team is in a good spot.
“(We’re) in control,” he said.
With the game tied 1-1 in the 70th minute, senior Jose Valdez sent a through ball to fellow senior Jesus Partida, who finished the 1-on-1 opportunity with the Incline keeper for the game-winning goal.
“Just grinding it out, is basically what it came down to,” Espana said. “We grinded out that last one.”
The goal was Partida’s second of the day. He gave Sparks a 1-0 lead just three minutes in with an unassisted laser inside the near post from 20 yards out.
That score held until Incline (11-5-4, 7-4-4) evened it up 12 minutes into the second half.
“I think (that) was a bit of a mental break down defensively,” Espana said. “That’s the stuff that I’m saying we need to clean up a little bit.”
The Highlanders finished with three shots and the lone attempt on goal that found the net. They all came in the second half. Sparks got off 11 shots, six were on frame.
Espana pointed out numerous facets of the game his team can improve upon while gearing up for a potentially deep postseason run. The fact a massive class of 15 seniors played at home for the last time could have factored.
“Anytime it’s senior day, you have those jitters and there are more fans than typical. It’s just one of those things you end up seeing those jitters, that excitement,” he said. “Hopefully we can get those things cleaned up and get these guys refocused.”
Sparks ends the regular season on Thursday at Lowry, which will not be advancing to the postseason. The Railroaders blanked the Buckaroos 6-0 at Sparks three weeks ago.
It will be the first of what Espana hopes will be several trips to Lowry in the coming week and a half. Sparks opens the 3A North regional tournament next Thursday, at Lowry.
Cougars beat Raiders in finale, 3-1
Spanish Springs took care of Reed, at Reed, in the final game of the regular season on Tuesday night, 3-1.
The Cougars (7-7-2) entered two points back of the Raiders (7-8-1) for third place in the High Desert League, but finished one point ahead of their cross-town foes with the win.
Both teams will open the 4A North regional tournament on the road against stiff Sierra League competition next Thursday.
Due to its fourth place finish, Reed will open at undefeated Carson (15-0-1). Spanish Springs will go to Galena (14-2-0). The Grizzlies’ only two losses this season were to Carson.
Reed lost at home to Carson, 9-1, on Sept. 10. Spanish Springs fell at home to Galena, 3-1, three days later.
Sparks eliminated from postseason contention
The Railroaders’ dwindling playoff aspirations took their final blow on Tuesday afternoon.
Sparks (6-12-3, 3-10-2) was officially removed from the playoff picture with its sixth straight loss, 4-1, at home to Incline (5-7-2).
Sparks ends the season on Thursday afternoon at home against Lowry.