Fathergill grooming another winner at Whittell | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Fathergill grooming another winner at Whittell

Steve Yingling / Tahoe Daily TribuneMegan Mize, a Whittell High juniors, strikes the volleyball during Friday's practice in Zephyr Cove. Mize is returning from a knee injury suffered during last season.

Whittell High has lost many quality volleyball players to graduation in the past and still come back the next season and dominated.

Much like they did earlier this decade when Jessica Woods and Kelly Karmann graduated, the Warriors will need to fill gaping voids left by all-state players Isabel Concha-Foley and Lauren Andrew exhausting their eligibility.

Don’t bet against Whittell coach Tony Fathergill and his Warriors pulling it off.

“This team is a lot like two years ago where everyone underestimated us, and I think they were a bit surprised that we were still standing at the end,” said Fathergill, a third-year Whittell coach. “We’ve always thrived on the major aspects of teamwork and working together, and these kids have already started off this week on the right foot. They are working hard, getting to know each other. The team chemistry is really coming together. You can tell by the way they interact that they are all good friends, and that goes a long way.”

The Warriors welcome back one of the state’s most versatile players in junior Darby Reeder as well as junior Megan Mize, who missed most of last season with a knee injury.

“Our offense and defense are going to rotate around (Darby),” Fathergill said. “She’s got great experience playing at the club level, great court awareness and she’s just good strong player.”

With a knee brace giving her added protection during workouts, Mize is gradually working her way back into game condition.

“She will be up to par in the next few weeks. A powerful player that once she gets the rust off and gets back into things, she’ll be fine,” Fathergill said.

The Warriors also benefit from the return of Sara Gillespie, Nina Jimenez, Rachel Laub, Marissa Besson and Karin Sharon.

The other 2A schools haven’t forgotten the Warriors who return, Reeder said.

“Although they know stuff about seniors that graduated, they will still be looking at us because we made a lot happen in the past two years,” Reeder said.

While the Warriors won’t be as overpowering as in the past, their defense, passing and serving could deliver a lot of victories.

“Offensively, that’s something we’re going to need to improve a little bit because we did lose those seniors in the middle and outside,” Reeder said. “Our serve receive and our back row are all returning, and we just need to get back in the rhythm of playing with each other.”

Whittell will lose some of its longstanding rivals in league play by shifting to the Mount Rose League. The Warriors won’t meet Battle Mountain until regionals, and Whittell will only play defending regional champ Lovelock once. But the Warriors will play crosstown neighbor South Tahoe twice – Oct. 8 at South Tahoe and Oct. 13 in Zephyr Cove.

If the Warriors do come together, then a spot in the state finals for the eighth straight year isn’t out of the question. The Meadows High School ended one of the longest championship runs in state history by dethroning the six-time champion Warriors 25-22, 25-19, 12-25, 25-17 last November.

“Especially with some of the younger players who haven’t had the chance to play for a state title, I’m definitely looking forward to trying to start a new streak,” Reeder said.

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