Warriors primed to win seventh straight state volleyball title | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Warriors primed to win seventh straight state volleyball title

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Tahoe Daily Tribune fileTeam unity has been the foundation of the volleyball dynasty that Whittell High School has established.

With game, match and 2A state championship point on the line, freshman Megan Mize, having just served four straight points to put the Warriors in this position, took an extra deep breath. Her serve was perfect, landing in the middle of the Lincoln County back line. A nervous Lady Lynx defender, adrenaline flowing, returned the serve a little too far, allowing junior Lauren Andrew to “roof” the overpass into an open spot, giving Whittell its sixth straight state volleyball championship.

The Whittell players mobbed each other at midcourt, as coach Tony Fathergill raised his long arms to the ceiling in joy. The ecstatic Warrior crowd chanted, “Six straight years, six straight years!”

With a strong contingent of returning seniors, plus a group of valuable underclassmen, coach Fathergill has no reason to believe that a seventh straight championship banner won’t be raised in Warrior gym.

“We’re absolutely expecting another state championship,” Fathergill said. “We have a strong crew of returning players. With this talent, we will be able to speed up the offense and try new things.”

Optimism is justified with the roster of talent that Fathergill has returning. Led by 5-foot-11 all-state middle Isabel Concha-Foley, a senior, and senior all-state setter/hitter and last year’s captain Lauren Andrew, the squad returns plenty of veteran experience.

“The team is more balanced this year,” Andrew said. “We will have to develop our team unity, but I am confident that we will as we grow together.”

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Fellow seniors Jacquelyn Baines, a left side hitter who contributed to the previous three Whittell championships, plus solid hitter Kristen Pfotenhauer, a key component to last year’s title, bring valuable height and experience to the front line.

“This group of seniors is too smart to let complacency set in,” Fathergill added when asked about a possible letdown. “This team is built on discipline and teamwork. Everyone knows their role.”

Austyn Herrera, who missed last year’s playoffs due to a prior commitment, returns with a vengeance to earn one last championship her senior year. Herrera will rotate as a setter and hitter.

“Since I missed last year’s playoffs, I’m really looking forward to going for a championship this year,” she said. “There is more of a team effort this year, and the bond is stronger.”

Mize, a second team all-league selection last year as a freshman, gives Whittell a strong one-two punch in the middle when Concha-Foley is rotated out.

Another freshman star from the 2008 championship team, Darby Reeder, a first team all-league libero, brings another year of experience to the Warriors’ defense. Nina Jimenez, who recorded valuable time last season as a freshman setter when Herrera was unavailable, will add depth at the setter and the back row positions.

“All the freshman from last year have come back much stronger,” Fathergill said. “I’ve been surprised by the increase in their talent levels.”

Also returning is Sara Gillespie, a member of the varsity as a sophomore last season, who was lost during the second half of the year due to injury. The versatile Gillespie can contribute at several positions.

Three newcomers add depth and JV experience to the squad: Junior Karin Sharon brings height to the middle. With Whittell losing two defensive specialists to graduation, both Marissa Besson and Rachel Laub will be counted on to contribute on the backline.

The schedule starts out extremely challenging for Whittell with the High Sierra Tournament in Reno over Labor Day weekend. This always competitive tournament includes many of the top California programs, plus several Nevada 4A schools.

On Sept. 9, the Warriors will travel to play three-time 3A state champion Yerington. The first home matches are Sept. 24 against 3A contender Dayton, followed by a visit from 4A Reed on Sept 25.

“We want to play the best. I know we will be competitive in games against anyone in the state,” Fathergill said regarding the schedule. “We’ve recently scheduled Douglas, McQueen and Truckee. We’re trying to schedule the annual rivalry game with South Tahoe but still need to find a date. That’s always the biggest sporting event on the South Shore.”

With the optimism, talent and drive that the 2009 Warriors’ volleyball team possesses, there is no doubt that Whittell will again compete for another state championship. It wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows this program if the chant from the red and gold section after the Nov. 14 state championship match is: “Seven straight years, seven straight years!”

2009 Whittell volleyball schedule

Date Opponent Time

Sept. 4-5 High Sierra tourney TBA

Sept. 9 At Yerington 6 p.m.

Sept. 18-19 Yerington tourney TBA

Sept. 24 DAYTON 5 p.m.

Sept. 25 REED 5 p.m.

Sept. 29 At North Tahoe 5 p.m.

Oct. 2 At Lovelock 5 p.m.

Oct. 3 At Battle Mountain 1 p.m.

Oct. 7 At Douglas 6 p.m.

Oct. 9 At Silver Stage 5 p.m.

Oct. 13 At Incline 4 p.m.

Oct. 16 NORTH TAHOE 5 p.m.

Oct. 17 LOVELOCK 1 p.m.

Oct. 23 BATTLE MTN. 5 p.m.

Oct. 27 INCLINE 5 p.m.

Oct. 30 SILVER STAGE 1 p.m.

Nov. 6-7 Regionals TBA

Nov. 13-14 State TBA

Note: JV matches are held prior to the varsity matches.