Warriors’ championship run unmatched in Class 2A | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Warriors’ championship run unmatched in Class 2A

Paul Andrew, Tribune correspondent

Don Mize / Special to the TribuneWhittell High senior Isabel Concha-Foley soars high for a kill attempt against The Meadows in the Nevada Class 2A state volleyball championship on Saturday in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS – When the final shot hit the ground in the Nevada state volleyball championship on Saturday, The Meadows High School captured the 2A title from the Whittell Warriors, 25-22, 25-19, 12-25, 25-17.

As the Mustangs swarmed the court in jubilation, and tears filled the eyes of Warrior players, the incredible string of six straight state championships was over for the tiny Zephyr Cove school.

The Whittell girls battled valiantly, but just weren’t able to overcome the powerful attacking style, strong defense and depth of their opponents from Southern Nevada. With two keys players sidelined with injuries, the remaining squad was forced to play unfamiliar positions and more minutes than normal.

Whittell lost the first two championship games. Backs against the wall, the Warriors came back with a flawless third game, winning by 13 points. The fourth game was close until the Mustangs pulled away late, claiming the championship that resided at Lake Tahoe for the previous six years.

The amazing streak started in 2003, under the coaching leadership of Danny McLaughlin. That team was deep and talented, with all-state performers Katrina Kacirek, Jackie Marino, Whitney Gielow, Tina Hordzwick, Anna Kingman and others leading the charge. Two dynamic freshmen from that squad, Jessica Woods and Kelly Karmann, would each be an integral part of the first fours years of this dynasty.

The domination of 2A volleyball continued as the years went on. Coach McLaughlin solidified the reputation of the program by scheduling, and frequently beating, many of the top 3A and 4A teams in Nevada.

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The small school also ventured outside the state, participating in tournaments that included powerful programs from California and throughout the country. In 2005, the Warrior girls defeated No. 7 nationally ranked Berkeley Prep from Florida in the prestigious Durango Tournament in Las Vegas.

The 2006 team not only dominated the 2A division but defeated every 3A and 4A Nevada opponent it faced, finishing the season ranked No. 1 in Nevada for all divisions, an incredible accomplishment for a school hovering around 200 students.

With Woods and Karmann graduating as the first South Shore athletes in any sport to win four championships, rivals were hopeful the dynasty would end. New stars Jordan Reeder, Kendra Koskin, Brittney Makara and others took over the reins, winning the 2007 championship in a close, five-set match over Needles.

In 2008, Tony Fathergill took over coaching duties from McLaughlin.

Fathergill worked the girls hard, utilizing a rotation in which each player had a role and saw time on the court. Two girls barely stood 5-feet tall, and two freshman played prominent roles. Despite a slow start, the team bonded together, winning a miraculous five-game battle against The Meadows in the semifinal, then a close championship match over Lincoln County, giving Whittell their unprecedented sixth straight 2A title – one more than the previous record held by Moapa Valley.

This year’s team started strong, posting a 5-1 record in the Yerington Tournament, plus beating several 3A and 4A teams during the regular season. The Warriors finished 20-8 overall and a perfect 10-0 in the 2A Northern division, giving them momentum heading into the postseason.

Though the seventh championship eluded the girls in the end, they showed fight and determination that has become a Whittell trademark throughout the years.

For seniors Lauren Andrew, who saw her career cut one week short by an ACL tear in the zone tournament; Isabel Concha-Foley and Austyn Herrera, who plan to play at Cabrillo College next year; Jacquelyn Baines ;and Kristin Pfotenhauer, they can all be proud of the contribution they added to this legacy that will be talked about for years.

The returning Warriors: Megan Mize, a starter whose season was cut short by knee surgery earlier in the season; Sara Gillespie, still recovering from a knee operation from last year; Darby Reeder, Nina Jimenez; Rachel Laub; Marissa Besson; and Karin Sharon, this difficult learning experience will help them face future challenges on and off the volleyball court.

With the tradition, dedication and desire the girls in this strong program have shown throughout the years, no one will be surprised if a new championship run starts in the very near future.