Warriors well-armed to repeat state title | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Warriors well-armed to repeat state title

Steve Yingling

Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily Tribune Jackie Marino works on her serve with the Whittell High School varsity volleyball team on Tuesday in Zephyr Cove.

ZEPHYR COVE – The ball touched the ground so infrequently that the players must have been using balloons instead of volleyballs. Players shouted encouragement and direction without provocation. When coach Dan McLaughlin instructed them to run five laps, no one complained.

A week into preparation for the 2004 volleyball season, the Whittell High Warriors don’t look like they’re satisfied with the Nevada 2A championship they won last year in Henderson.

“A lot of us played club this last year and it feels like we’re starting where we left off,” said senior setter Jackie Marino. “We’re really strong already and we’re gonna get a lot better than we did last year.”

They see the upcoming season as challenging because McLaughlin has lined up the toughest schedule in school history. They’ll play five Nevada 4A schools, most of whom have an enrollment at least six times larger that Whittell; a pair of 3A schools; Golden Sierra, one of the best teams in California last year; and highly competitive Nor-Cal and the High Sierra tournaments.

“Whether we do well or not, nobody at Whittell has ever played a schedule like this,” McLaughlin said. “This may not be the greatest team because Rich Owens had some phenomenal teams.”

Moreover, the Warriors are determined to become the third team in school history to win back-to-back championships. The 1977-78 and 1985-86 teams claimed consecutive class 1A titles, but Whittell has yet to capture back-to-back 2A championships.

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“There is a lot more pressure on us, but I think we’ll do awesome because we have a great team,” said senior outside hitter Tina Hordzwick. “We have great hitters, a great setter and great defense.”

“We’re really excited to play well in the big tournaments than we are to become the best team at Whittell,” Marino said.

If they are overconfident, they aren’t saying so.

“We’ve talked about it and we know that anyone can be beaten on any given day, so you have to work hard every game,” said senior defensive specialist Whitney Gielow.

But who could blame them if they were. The Warriors are deeper than an Olympic-sized swimming pool. They probably could field a second Warriors’ team and finish 1-2 in the Northern Nevada 2A League.

“They work hard and they want to repeat,” McLaughlin said. “You always feel pressure, but there also is a confidence that these kids have. They’re very talented and I’m very deep.

“You know what (Former Baltimore Orioles’ manager) Earl Weaver said, ‘It’s one thing to have the best talent and another thing to win with it.'”

Whittell returns four all-state players in three-year varsity players Marino and Hordzwick and sophomores Jessica Woods and Kelly Karmann. And the talent doesn’t stop here.

Second-team all-leaguers Gielow and Katrina Kacirek, a junior, are back as are honorable mention all-leaguers Sydney Colvin and Anna Kingman, both of whom are seniors.

“I’m going to have girls sitting on the bench who would start for any team in the league,” McLaughlin said.

During their surprising state title run a year ago the Warriors learned the keys to success.

“You have to be a good leader and a good team player,” Hordzwick said. “Leadership is so important because it seriously showed with both (Jackie and I) … if we get going, that’s how your team plays.”

They also got in a groove where they felt nearly invincible.

“Last year we had such a good connection,” Hordzwick said. “I’ve never played on a team where on the court we were almost unstoppable. We were in our own little world. It was so nice because we were so comfortable with everybody and we knew (our teammates) could do what they had to with the ball. I love that about this team and I want to have that again.”

The skilled reserves won’t be nailed to the bench. Seniors Kristin Karmann and Megan Lowe and juniors Christina Richardson, Meri Johnson, Katie Komorowski and Sarah Ingenluyff are pushing the regulars to a higher level.

“It seems everyone works a little bit harder because everyone knows that even if they’re seniors that there are younger players who could take their spots,” Marino said.

Whittell opens its season Sept. 2 at home against Incline.

Notes: Thirteen of the Warriors’ 14-player roster played club volleyball … McLaughlin, who has directed Whittell to two state titles in the past five years, is assisted by Damon Kixmiller, Mike Williams and Coral Cortez … “Every single coach contributes so much to tour team. There is no way we’d be as good as we are without them,” Marino said.

Date Opponent Time

Sept. 2 INCLINE 6 p.m.

Sept. 7 SMITH VALLEY 5 p.m.

Sept. 10-11 High Sierra Inv. TBA

Sept. 13 At Douglas 6 p.m.

Sept. 14 At Golden Sierra 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 Nor-Cal Invite

Sept. 21 NORTH TAHOE 6 p.m.

Sept. 22 At Damonte Ranch 6 p.m.

Sept. 24 At Battle Mtn. 1 p.m.

Oct. 2 * SILVER STAGE 10 a.m.

Oct. 5 LOVELOCK 5 p.m.

Oct. 6 CARSON 6 p.m.

Oct. 8 At Hawthorne 5 p.m.

Oct. 9 At Lovelock Noon

Oct. 15 DAYTON 6 p.m.

Oct. 19 At Coleville 5 p.m.

Oct. 23 At Silver Stage 11 a.m.

Oct. 25 SPANISH SPRINGS 6 p.m.

Oct. 28 HAWTHORNE 5 p.m.

Oct. 29 At South Tahoe 6 p.m.

Nov. 2 COLEVILLE 3:30 p.m.

Nov. 6 Zone tourney TBA

Nov. 11-13 State tourney TBA

* homecoming