WINNEMUCCA – Back when the playoffs consisted of six teams, the Elko boys soccer team would have qualified for the regional tournament.
Not so anymore.
Taking five teams from the Division 3A North “A” league and three from the “B,” the Indians closed their season with three straight wins overall and two on the final weekend of the regular season but wound up sixth in the standings and a spot out of the postseason.
The Indians played Thursday at Fallon, receiving much more of a game from the Greenwave than in Elko’s 10-1 home victory on Sept.28, at Adobe Middle School.
The second contest provided a give-and-take struggle that resulted in a 5-3 victory for the Indians, the game not put away until the 75th minute.
Elko jumped to an early 2-0 lead, coming on a goal by junior Natu Meles in the 10th minute and another by junior Raul Cortes five minutes later.
However, it only took the Greenwave five minutes to cut the deficit in half with their first score.
The Indians responded with their third goal of the match in the 35th minute by sophomore Jose Ventura for a 3-1 lead, but the Greenwave quickly cashed their second goal of the game in the 37th minute – trimming Elko’s halftime lead to one at 3-2.
In the second half, Meles notched his second goal of the contest in the 60th minute for a 4-2 advantage, answered once again.
Fallon put home their third goal of the game in the 70th minute, leaving just 10 minutes to try to tie up the contest, trailing 4-3.
The capper for the Indians came off the foot of junior Sammy Aguirre in the 75th minute – Elko withstanding a game-ready rally from Fallon by a final score of 5-3.
“The game was a lot harder than we expected, especially after winning so easily the first time,” said Elko coach Alonso Lujan. “I gave more playing time to the kids who didn’t get on the field much this season.”
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Elko closed the regular season Friday with another slim victory, defeating Lowry 4-3, in Winnemucca.
The win avenged a league-opening home loss to the Buckaroos by the same score on Aug. 28, in Elko.
The Indians built another 2-0 lead, coming on scores by Cortes in the 10th minute and Ventura in the 15th.
Lowry fought back, scoring the final two goals of the half, leaving the score knotted at the break.
Elko grabbed a 3-2 advantage in the 60th minute on a penalty kick when Meles was knocked down while trying to shoot in the box, senior Eddy Sainz booting the PK.
Only five minutes later, the Bucks forced another tie, 3-3.
With 10 minutes remaining, Meles drove home the Indians’ final goal of the season – the kick serving as the game-winner.
Elko closed the year with a 4-3 victory, improving to 7-10-1 in league play.
“We started the game with a lot of 1-on-1s, and it felt like we were going to score a lot of goals but we couldn’t finish,” Lujan said. “When you can’t take advantage of those chances, you start to get frustrated and feel nervous.”
Lujan said he expects Lowry to be a good team the next few years.
“They’re only graduating four players, and they are not their stars. They have a freshman who is tall and really fast. He plays with us on the Elite (FC) travel team,” Lujan said. “He’s going to be a nightmare for the next three years.”
Despite Elko’s absence from the postseason, Lujan said he has high hopes for next year’s team.
“I think we are going to be good next season. Sparks and Truckee are always good, but North Valleys is graduating like 21 kids,” he said. “We should have at least 11 seniors next season. Our year really came down to the loss at South Tahoe. We played without seven kids. Three of four were injured and three or four had other commitments and didn’t go. If we would have won that game, we would have tied them in the standings and had the tiebreaker for the final spot to the playoffs.”