The Coyotes historic soccer run finally came to end Sunday, one win short of their ultimate goal.
Lake Tahoe Community College lost 1-0 to Santiago Canyon in the final of the California Community College Athletic Association Women’s Soccer State Championships in Ventura, Calif., and had to settle for being the state's second best team.
Lake Tahoe went through the entire season unbeaten before the title game, won a Golden Valley Conference title for the second year in a row and went deeper in postseason than any Coyote team before.
"I couldn't be more proud of this group of women," said Coyotes head coach Jeremy Evans. "No other team worked harder and wanted to win the state title more than this team, but for those who have actually played athletics, they know this is part of the deal: you don't always win your last game. As disappointed as the girls are, they'll look back and appreciate the joy of winning 20 games, of being nationally ranked in the top five all season, of winning another conference championship, of advancing to a final four, of making it to a state title game, and being a team in every sense of the word."
Lake Tahoe (20-1-4) normally is real loose before games with nerves taking a back seat. The team would listen to music, dance, laugh and enjoy the moment, almost to the point where Evans said he had to calm them down a bit for fear of being disrespectful to other teams.
But Evans said there was none of that pregame and the team for whatever reason started Sunday’s game timid. They weren’t as confident as usual.
"That didn't happen against San Francisco State, Sierra or Fresno, and it definitely didn't happen in the state semifinals (2-0 victory over San Bernardino)," Evans said. "And since I had never seen it before, I didn't know how to change it. It was as if the moment swallowed them and I couldn't get them to focus. If that game is played any day this week, I think it'd be a much different game."
Santiago scored the game winner late in the second half off a set piece in which the Tahoe foul occurred out of bounds.
Evans believed that free kick should have never been allowed since the foul happened outside the playing field. A referee can give a card or talk to the player, Evans explained, but Santiago should've been awarded a throw-in rather than a free kick.
"Knowing that, it didn't matter because Santiago was the better team on Sunday," Evans said. "There's no other way to state it. And while that particular goal and free kick should've never been allowed to develop the way it did, the team that deserves to win usually finds a way to score. That was also the case Sunday."
Santiago and Lake Tahoe played the first 45 minutes even, with both teams enjoying about the same amount of possession.
But as the game progressed, Coyote scoring chances dried up and they never really threatened the Santiago goal in the second half.
Santiago took control and enforced its will physically and dominated possession until late in the game when Tahoe looked to equalize.
"I'll be eternally grateful for the chance to coach this special group, and to have coached them alongside assistants Tomaz (Marinelli) and Nicole (Vandehurst) and with the support of our men's coach Nick (Arbelaez) and Jeremy (Vandehurst), our athletic trainer," Evans said.
"They helped make this journey a special one and created a positive experience for these student-athletes. Wins and losses are great, but this will be an experience they'll never forget. I'm glad I could share it with them."