With the Nevada Day fireworks show blasting overhead, Enrique Mendoza finished off a pretty good show of his own Saturday night at Carson High School. Mendoza's second goal of the night broke a 1-1 tie in the 73rd minute and lifted Carson to a 2-1 victory over Elko in opening round play of the Northern 4A Regional boys soccer tournament.
The Carson win capped a day in which all four Sierra League teams advanced to the regional semifinals. It also gave the Senators a matchup against Sierra League and defending state champion South Tahoe, a 3-1 victor over Bishop Manogue earlier in the day.
Even though South Tahoe has won two pervious meetings by 1-0 scores, the Senators are looking forward to having another opportunity.
"They beat us twice, now we're working to prove ourselves to South Tahoe and the rest of the state," said junior midfielder Loren Wooldridge, who assisted on Mendoza's first-half goal.
"Anything can happen, it's No. 3 against No. 1 and we're excited to be there," added Carson coach Jason Koop.
In the meantime, give the Senators a little time to savor a big win against a talented Elko team that came into the tournament as the High Desert League's No. 2 seed (11-1-2).
"They're a very good team, very deserving of the seed they got," Koop said. "They're big, strong, fast and they worked well together. This was no gimme, but at tournament time, there are never any gimmes."
It was all decided underneath a fireworks show that was launched - with 15 minutes left to play on the game clock - from an open field just beyond the fence on the northeast corner of the field.
Carson saw its 1-0 lead vanish in the blink of an eye in the 70th minute after a shot by Elko's Pedro Zugazzaga's was stopped by Carson goalkeeper Bud Kop. The ball was bobbled and dropped by Kop in front of the goal line, and Nathan Bain was right there to put a follow shot into the back of the net.
"That was the most distracting thing," Koop said of the fireworks. "Both teams had to play with it, but Bud came off the field and said his head hurting and I can't blame him because he was the closest one out there to the fireworks."
Carson had outshot Elko 11-1 in the second half up to the point, but all of a sudden, the Senators found themselves locked in a 1-1 battle.
"Give credit to the boys. They could have gotten down after that, but they just fought back and got another one," Koop said.
Royal Good set up the game-winning play with a throw-in from the right side that bounced inside the 18-yard box. Jeremiah Schenzel flicked the ball to the far post, where Mendoza was cutting in from the back side.
"We've been working on that ... just a lot of finishing," said Mendoza, a sophomore midfielder.
Good nearly put in the clincher two minutes later, but his header to the far post was deflected away on a diving, fingertip save by Elko goalkeeper Channing Christiansen. Christiansen entered the game midway through the first half after Jacob Byers sustained an injury and finished the game with seven saves - six in the second half.
Carson took a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute when Wooldridge ripped a corner kick to the far post, where Mendoza went up and flicked a header into the back of the net.
Carson's lead stood up for 65 minutes, thanks to a solid performance by the defensive back line of Brian Arce, Kevin Brush, Mats Boehnke and Chris Thorson.
"We've gotten better as the season has progressed and they really seem to be jelling," Koop said. "We also have guys who are coming off the bench and doing a good job. Jose Aguilar came in and gave us some quality minutes tonight."
Arce was also a factor in keeping Elko standout Dean McCabe in check. McCabe, a first-team all-league performer in 2003, took four of Elko's five shots in the first half, including a breakaway midway through the first half in which Arce came up from behind to pressure the shot. Kop came up with a save on the play, one of five he had on the night.
Contact Dave Price at email@example.com or call 881-1220.