When Palo Verde’s boys soccer team won the Class 5A state championship in 2021, the Panthers scored 117 goals in 25 games.
Panthers coach Scott Hunt said it’s been more of a team effort to score goals this year, but he believes that has helped the team jell and get better toward the end of the season.
“Every coach would wish to have that pure goal scorer, but I think we’ve relied on our defense a lot and our goalkeeper, and then played as a team to create those goals,” Hunt said. “And I think they’re getting better.”
Palo Verde, the Southern League champ, will play Hug in a Class 5A state semifinal at 4 p.m. Friday in Carson City. Coronado will play Northern champion Sparks in the other semifinal at 2 p.m. The state title match is at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Coronado coach Dustin Barton admitted that the Cougars were “asleep” in the first half, but said they’ve put the loss behind them.
“It’s been a long and grueling year, it’s been a long season, but we’re revived,” Barton said. “We’re ready to go. We had that loss in the region final, but that woke us up. It brought us back to reality.”
Coronado and Palo Verde finished first and second, respectively, atop a challenging 5A Southern League. Both coaches said their depth has been key for getting through the league schedule.
“All the teams knew it was going to be like that. It’s 5A and all the best teams in the state,” Barton said. “We were able to find a happy medium of keeping everybody fresh, subbing people a lot and trying to keep fresh legs all season and be injury-free.”
Added Hunt: “The depth of our team has been great because I can make some subs, and I think other guys give us a different book and they’re strong players. … You have to be tested, you have to be down in some games, you have to be ready for those types of games that you have to grind out. It’s been good for us.”
Barton said he’s been impressed with the chemistry his young team developed so quickly. He said he’s stressed to his players this week to play within themselves.
“That game on Saturday, it wasn’t really us that first half,” Barton said. “We need to get back to how we played all season, being unselfish, not trying to do too much and playing simple.”
The Panthers won the regular-season league title last year before losing in the region semifinals. Hunt said the team felt last season was a “disappointment” and saw on the first day of tryouts the “hunger” from his returners who were a part of the 2021 title-winning team to try and win a state championship this year.
“That’s huge, anytime you can have that leadership on the field, and those guys are stepping up that’s been there before. It’s huge for us,” Hunt said.
In 4A, reigning state champion and Mountain League champion Faith Lutheran will play Bonanza in a state semifinal at 2 p.m. Friday at Coronado. Desert League champion Sierra Vista and Cheyenne will play in the other semifinal at 4 p.m.
In 3A, Southern Region champion SLAM Academy will play North Tahoe in a state semifinal at 9 a.m. Friday at Cristo Rey. Virgin Valley will play Northern champion South Tahoe in the other semifinal at 11 a.m.
Class 5A boys soccer state tournament schedule
At Carson High
Game 1: No. 2S Coronado vs. No. 1N Sparks, 2 p.m.
Game 2: No. 2N Hug vs. No. 1S Palo Verde, 4 p.m.
State title game
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 12:30 p.m.