uSenior leadership has propelled Whittell into state tournament |

uSenior leadership has propelled Whittell into state tournament

Sophomore Kelly Karmann guarantees no return by Lovelock as she drives the ball to the feet of Mustang defenders last Saturday in Zephyr Cove. Karmann and company will go for their second straight state title this weekend in Reno.

By Jeremy Evans

Tribune staff writer

Whittell and volleyball success have been implied the past few years. This season, though, it has become almost guaranteed.

“I think we really have a lot of the same physical and athletic abilities as last year, but I think the big thing going in this year is the leadership,” said Jackie Marino, a three-year starter who leads the team with 734 assists. “The seniors have really developed our leadership skills. We don’t let our team down, even in stressful situations. We’ve never had a breakdown this year.”

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If Marino and the rest of the Warriors can avoid such breakdowns today against White Pine in the semifinals of the NIAA 2A State Championships, they could be playing for their second consecutive state title on Saturday. And while Whittell has won three state titles before -1977 and 1986 as a 1A school and in 2000 – it hasn’t had the perfect blend of talent, leadership and experience as this year’s team.

Of the seven seniors on the Warriors’ roster, Whitney Gielow is a four-year varsity player, and Marino, Tina Hordzwick, Anna Kingman and Sydney Colvin are all three-year letterwinners. Coach Dan McLaughlin has said the experience of these players makes his job easier because it’s like he has numerous coaches on the court.

But the schedule McLaughlin put together this season – 10 matches against larger schools – has only added to the confidence Whittell already had. The Warriors won nine of those matches, six of which came against 4A schools, and their lone loss came against Golden Sierra, a team that finished second last year in California’s Division IV state tournament and is the favorite to win it this season.

“The seniors are definitely the ones that hold this team together,” said McLaughlin, now in his 10th season as the school’s head coach. “They’ve been there before and they know what it takes. It’s a different world now compared with how we were back then. This level of competition is amazing. This is the most aggressive schedule we’ve ever attempted.”

Whittell has gone 82-19 (.820) during the past four years, including a state title last year and a third-place finish in 2002. The Warriors haven’t even lost a postseason game since the 2002 state tournament, a string of six matches that could increase to eight should they sweep their opponents in the semifinals and finals.

“It’s been a really great season,” said Hordzwick, who’s second on the team in both kills (198) and digs (58). “I’m sad that it’s my last, but it’s definitely something that I’ll always remember. It’s a good way to leave. My sophomore year, we weren’t that great. Then my junior year, something just clicked with this team.”

While success has become customary the last two years at Whittell, the reason for all the wins is in the team’s makeup. Not only does McLaughlin have the luxury of experienced players, he also has tournament-tested talent at every position.

Marino has developed into one of the state’s best setters and Hordzwick has evolved into one the school’s all-time great players. McLaughlin mentioned that Anna Kingman has turned into a quality player on the right side, Sydney Colvin has worked to become one of the team’s best defensive players and Gielow plays with the consistency one would expect from a four-year letterman. Throw in two-year varsity players in Kristin Karmann and Megan Lowe and Whittell has a perfect mix to overcome bad spells in any match.

“Kristin helps immeasurably with her attitude and her versatility,” McLaughlin said. “She doesn’t play a lot, but that’s not because she’s not a good player. It’s just because of our great depth. You never hear anything out of her about playing time. She truly is a team-first kind of a player and the same thing goes for Megan. A team that has the kind of depth I have creates a little difficulty for Megan, but she plays with all the desire that everybody else has.”

It’s that depth that has created incredible team chemistry, as well as a brand of camaraderie available only when a team has seven seniors that each possess different qualities. Because not only do the Warriors know how to win, they expect to win.

“We have the will to win, we want to win,” Hordzwick said. “Somehow we always pull it through and we win. When it comes down to the moment where we want to win, we’ll do it.”

Whittell’s Super Seniors

Whitney Gielow

Varsity Letters: 4

2004 Stats: 6 aces, 7 blocks, 43 digs

Jackie Marino

Varsity Letters: 3

2004 Stats: 55 kills, 19 aces, 734 assists, 31 digs

Anna Kingman

Varsity Letters: 3

2004 Stats: 85 kills, 17 aces, 12 blocks, 38 digs

Tina Hordzwick

Varsity Letters: 3

2004 Stats: 198 kills, 36 aces, 18 blocks, 58 digs

Sydney Colvin:

Varsity Letters: 3

2004 Stats: 23 kills, 16 aces, 26 digs

Kristin Karmann

Varsity Letters: 2

2004 Stats: 13 kills, 11 aces

Megan Lowe

Varsity Letters: 2

2004 Stats: 27 kills, 14 aces, 9 digs

Whittell’s 5-year success

2004: 21-1, ???

2003: 25-4, 2A state champs

2002: 18-7, third at state

2001: 18-7, didn’t qualify for state

2000: 24-7, 2A state champs

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