In a season full of firsts, Sunrise Mountain’s boys soccer team has one more goal on its mind.
“Taking state,” junior Carlos Cruz said.
The Miners (10-5-2), playing for the first time in the playoffs, are looking to make noise as the first team from the school to make a state tournament. The Southern Region runner-up plays Truckee in the Division I-A semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday at Dayton High. Tech (18-5-3) plays Sparks in the other semifinal at 2.
Sunrise Mountain hasn’t had much to get excited about in athletics. The school’s only previous postseason win came last season in girls bowling. The rest of the school’s teams were 0-6 in the playoffs.
But upset wins over Clark and Desert Pines in the region tournament gave the Miners a shot at going to state, along with a trip to the Reno area.
“For most of these boys, it’s going to be an experience of a lifetime for them,” coach Brett Underwood said. “They’ve never gotten a chance to do anything like this, so it’ll be a neat treat with them.”
Junior Enrique Pedraza said the team is looking forward to the whole experience of going to state, right down to the eight-hour bus ride.
“It’s a new memory, and it goes down as history,” Pedraza said. “And we’ll have something to talk about later on. A new adventure.”
Sophomore Luis Olandez said the team now has the support of the rest of the school, something that was often lacking.
“We made history. Most of all, we made our school proud,” Olandez said. “They know now that we could do it. They used to think, ‘Oh, these guys suck.’ That’s why they didn’t want to try out. Now they see us and they want to wear our shirts. It feels good.”
Olandez said the team has earned respect, not just at school but from other teams.
“We worked hard for this,” he said. “I think we deserve it. We were always looked at as a sucky school. Now this year, we earned our respect that we need.”
The Miners defeated Clark 1-0 in the region quarterfinals, then handed Desert Pines its first loss of the season, 3-1, to earn a trip to state.
The region final didn’t go as well, as Tech edged Sunrise Mountain 3-2 in overtime. The Roadrunners scored the winning goal with just nine players on the field after two red cards.
“The toughest part about the loss was losing with them having (nine) players and us having a full squad,” Underwood said. “That was the part that hurt them the most. That was the part that really stuck with me. That’s statistically not supposed to happen, and it did.”
Olandez said the team needs to put the tough loss behind it and focus on the present.
“It hurts, because it was an important game to win,” Olandez said. “But we still had in mind that we still had to play over here in Reno. What happens in that last game stays in that last game. We can’t keep it inside. We have to let it out.”
A win over Truckee could mean another shot at Tech.
“It was just a game, you know,” senior Luis Garcia-Chapurro said of the loss to Tech. “We have another opportunity in state to beat them and be state champs.”
No matter what happens, the team has cemented its place in Sunrise Mountain’s annals.
“It’s the best feeling knowing we’re going to have our names in the books of the school now,” Cruz said. “It’s going to be in the history.”