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October 6, 2012
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Division changes hover on Whittell's horizon

It's nothing personal. Just numbers.

Whittell High School will officially drop to Division IV next season after successfully meeting the enrollment criteria of less than 170 students for two years in a row. The shift will pit the Warriors against an entirely new group of smaller schools. It will also drop the Warriors to eight-man football next year, which is something they got a sample of in their first two non-league games this year.

But again, this will all happen next year.

In the more immediately future, soccer was approved a midseason facelift in the same Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association's Board of Control meeting on Monday and Tuesday in Sparks.

This means the Warriors boys and girls soccer teams will now have separate Division III/IV regional and state tournaments. For years, Division I-A and DIII/IV schools shared one division in soccer, and smaller programs like Whittell battled their larger counterparts for postseason appearances.

The new state tournaments will be comprised of three schools from the North and one from the South. In addition, playoff qualification will be based on a point system, which includes points accumulated for wins against league opponents and teams competing in a higher division, according to NIAA Assistant Director Donnie Nelson

Four of the nine northern schools in the DIII/IV will qualify for the playoffs. Currently, the NIAA is searching for a suitable location to host the DIII/IV regional tournament.

The decision to split soccer playoffs was passed by a 7-2 vote, Nelson said.

Whittell voted for the playoff split, but Incline voted against the proposal. The Highlanders are currently in second place in the Mount Rose league, and Incline coach Tom Canino said the school would rather compete against better competition.

"I voted against the move because we want to compete where we are," said Canino, who serves as Incline's co-athletic director and boys and girls soccer coach. "From experience we know that a title is more meaningful when it includes a Truckee, Sparks, South Tahoe, etc."

Whittell's soccer coaches were both in favor of the playoffs split, although they did say it would not change the level of intensity they already planned on bringing to the field this year. In general, the Whittell consensus is that the playoff splits are positive.

"Right away I had parents text messaging me yesterday afternoon," Bluethman said. "They were so excited. It's been in their hearts all year long."

Before Friday's game against Sparks, the soccer girls were currently 1-4-1 in league and 11-4-1 overall. The boys were 3-3 in league and 13-3 overall.

Whittell's overall division drop, however, was met with some resistance. There are concerns that the move will drop the level of competition Whittell faces, athletic director Kathy Bluethman.

"Some people are worried that it's going to be too easy for us, but smaller schools have strong athletes as well with great skill levels who are going to give us good competition," Bluethman. "I think we're going to do very well though because we do have incredible athletes here."

Football coach David Housel was among those worried about the level of competition. It is Housel's first year with the team, and he hoped for more time to build the program and make the team competitive once again before the final decision was made.

With Housel at the helm, the football team has 22 players this year, more than the Warrior squad has seen in years. They also have a legitimate shot at the fourth playoff spot. Housel said he is expecting 30 players next season.

On the flip side, dropping a division will likely dramatically increase Whittell's playoff appearances across the board. Either way, at the end of the day it all came down to numbers, and Whittell is well within Division IV criteria.

The Warriors rang in with 147 high school students this year and 158 last year.

"It wasn't like we want to go down because we're not playing well. That never had anything to do with it" Bluethman said. " It was basically because our class sizes are getting smaller and smaller, and I just want to have an equal level of competition."

- Steve Puterski and Sylas Wright contributed to this story


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Oct 6, 2012 12:39AM Published Oct 6, 2012 12:32AM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.