Warriors successfully defend state title
RENO – There have always been teams with players who talk about how much they enjoy each other’s company and how the closeness of teammates resembles a family. Then there are the 2004 Whittell Warriors, who just might have redefined how teams will use those phrases in the future.
While Whittell sophomore Kelly Karmann may have provided the clinching blow, a kill that secured a sweep of Lovelock and the Class 2A state championship, it was the Warriors’ group of seniors which put the game in perspective.
“This team is like my family,” said Tina Hordzwick, a outside hitter who recorded a game-high 12 kills. “I love everyone. It sucks that I have to go off to college next year, but I want them to know that I’m really going to miss them and that we’ve accomplished so much together. It’s awesome and a good way to end my senior year.”
What Hordzwick and the rest of the Warriors accomplished hasn’t been done on the South Shore by a sports team competing in Nevada in more than 20 years. With its 25-23, 25-14, 25-13 win over the Mustangs on Saturday at Galena High School in Reno, Whittell became the first local team to win back-to-back state championships since the Warriors’ cross country team won four straight from 1977-1980.
“It’s kind of like a dream experience,” said senior setter Jackie Marino, who had 27 assists. “It’s crazy because we did it last year, but I know all the seniors are really sad. We all love this team so much. Things will never be the same, no matter where we go play in college or anything else. This is definitely the best team I’ve ever been on. There isn’t one player that we’re trying to glorify.”
Whittell (23-1) won last year’s state championship in similar fashion. In the 2003 state championship game against Faith Lutheran, the Warriors squeezed out a 28-26 victory in Game 1, then completed a sweep in the next two games. Against Lovelock, a team Whittell had already beaten three times this season, it again had to survive a late scare in the first game before winning in three games.
With the Warriors leading 24-20 in Game 1, the Mustangs got three consecutive service points from Cassie Booth before her fourth serve went long, allowing Whittell to post a two-point victory and generate some much-needed momentum.
“We made a lot of mistakes and it was close, then we hung on to win at the end,” said Whittell coach Dan McLaughlin. “We have a lot of ways we can beat you. It can stay close, but at some point one of the girls goes on a serving run. Every game it’s been that way. I always know with this team that if we stay close, somebody, somewhere, goes on a run.”
In game two, it was sophomore Jessica Woods who supplied the serving touch, recording the final six service points. Then in the third game, it was Karmann who provided the heroics. The 6-foot-1 middle blocker had seven service points and three aces in a key run that turned a 5-4 deficit into an 11-6 lead. She also had three of her six kills during the match in the final game. Her older sister, Kristin Karmann, added four service points later in game three that helped Whittell post its eighth- straight postseason sweep, a run that has included both the Northern 2A championships and Class 2A state championships the past two seasons.
“What makes a team special is when you beat special teams,” said McLaughlin, whose team won nine of 10 matches against larger schools this season, including six against 4A teams. “Lovelock is a great team, a great team. Don’t take anything away from them. On a ordinary year, they win state. That’s how they good they are. But this year, we’re an exceptionally talented team.”
In the past five years, the Warriors have gone 108-26 (.805), with three state titles and a third-place finish in 2002. Although they lose seven seniors, they return a talented group of sophomores and juniors, including Kelly Karmann and Woods, both of whom were all-state players last year as freshman.
“I was really confident that we were going to win and we were going to pull through, no matter how bad we played,” Woods said. “I don’t think we were so nervous, but I think we kind of came out a little too cocky. But then we found out they were going to be tough competition. We were striving for state all year and I’m glad we made it.”