Spanish Springs improved to 11-3-3 -- all 17 matches are league affairs -- and can still win an HDL crown if it gets a win over Reed in its lone remaining regular season match and Reno drops two of its remaining four matches.
"We did all right today," Spanish Springs coach Mike Faker said in an upbeat tone following Tuesday's triumph. "Our offense is coming around. Things are starting to work out. We still have a lot of work to do before the playoffs get started, but we'll start getting to work on that tomorrow at practice."
Spanish Springs got Tuesday's scoring starting just before halftime. Makayla Long found the back of the net for a Cougars goal in the 38th minute. Audrey Barham gave away the assist. Two minutes later, halftime rolled around and the guests had a 1-0 advantage in northwest Reno.
Spanish Springs extended its edge to 2-0 nine minutes after halftime. Kirsten Lealtad scored the 49th-minute goal after Long contributed an assist.
Shortly thereafter, McQueen's offense showed signs of life. The Lancers (6-7-2) trimmed the SSHS advantage to 2-1 when senior midfielder Katja Hermann scored at the 54-minute mark after she got an assist from Emma McGinnis.
"I think we played one of the better games we've played all year," first-year McQueen coach Steve Choman said. "We had some dry spells where Spanish Springs capitalized, but we had a lot of opportunities ... It was a full 80-minute effort. Unfortunately, we just didn't have the goals to show for it. Hopefully, we'll continue to compete and get better as the playoffs near."
The match's scoring concluded when Long tallied her second score of the match, a 77th minute goal where she got control of a loose ball in the McQueen defensive box and knocked it into the net. Karen Corral made the pass into the box, recording the assist.
The two-goal, one-assist outing was a stellar performance for the sophomore Long.
"I've been in a little funk lately," Long said. "Today I made some runs. I got the ball and was able to put it in."
Spanish Springs' last remaining regular season match is scheduled for Tuesday against arch-rival Reed, on the Raiders' home field in east Sparks. Spanish Springs could still finish anywhere from first to third in the final league standings. A first or second-place finish would get the Cougars a first-round home playoff game.
Faker said a top priority over the next week-plus before the playoffs begin is getting his team to win more 50-50 balls.
"We have to get those 50-50 balls," the veteran SSHS coach said. "It's big in every game. Our passing is good. Our defense is good, but you can't let a ball drop. You have to get a head on it. It's an attitude. We have to be mentally tougher."
At North Valleys, Reed thumped the host Panthers, cruising to an 6-0 HDL road win.
Reed built a 4-0 lead by the intermission and tacked on two more goals in the second half to account for the final six-goal margin.
"We set the tempo very early on, right from the get go," Reed coach Jason Saville said. "We even had a couple scoring opportunities before we got our first goal. We were just really moving the ball well ... We were firing away and it didn't matter who was in and who was out. It was a good night for the Blue and Gold tonight for sure."
Reed didn't waste any time finding the scoring column. Danielle Uptain gave Reed a 1-0 lead five minutes into the match after she got an assist from Kendra Bujnovsky. The next Reed score came in the 17th minute when Aubrie Ciesynski posted an unassisted tally.
Reed got goals in the 31st and 34th minutes respectively after Vanessa Martinez and Katy Day scored. Kennady Whitehead racked up an assist on the Martinez goal while Day's score was unassisted.
In the 51st minute, Bailey Sambrano scored for the Raiders after she was given an assist by Lindsay Marsh. The final RHS goal on the day came from Ali Miller, whose score was unassisted.
Reed sits 8-4-3 with one league match remaining. That is against Spanish Springs at home Tuesday at 7 p.m. Reed could clinch the HDL's No. 2 seed and a home playoff game with a win.
At Fernley, Sparks was handed a 6-0 loss in a Div. I-A North League match. The Railroaders opted to play the match in spite of dealing with their grief after losing long-time assistant coach Michael Landsberry, who was killed in a shooting at Sparks Middle School Monday morning.
"There have been a few distractions this week," Sparks coach Jerry Miller admitted. "Like one of our players, Gabriella Hernandez, said 'we were just playing for Mr. Landsberry. So it didn't matter how it turned out. We played for him ... The girls played hard. It was a pretty physical game. There were lots of bumps and bruises."
Fernley standout Maria Sanchez recorded a hat trick, scoring goals in the 31st, 38th and 75th minutes.
"She's fast, has got good moves and she's got a cannon of a leg when she shoots. None of her shots were even within 20 yards. It was an amazing display," Miller said.
Fernley (4-9) got off 14 shots on goal compared to just four by Sparks.
Sparks (2-11) will be in action again next Tuesday when it travels to play Fallon at 4 p.m. in a conference clash.