Whittell is jacked up over chances in rugged 3A soccer league | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Whittell is jacked up over chances in rugged 3A soccer league

Steve Yingling / Tahoe Daily TribuneWhittell High 17th-year coach Steve Maltase directs his team during a passing drill on Wednesday in Zephyr Cove.

ZEPHYR COVE – After a surging conclusion to their 2009 boys’ soccer season, the Whittell High School Warriors are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the 2010 campaign.

The Warriors welcome back eight starters from a team that closed out last season by tying Truckee and beating North Tahoe – a pair of regular Northern 3A playoff teams.

“Since the end of last season, all the team has been talking about is the next season. We’ve all been stoked since those last games,” said senior sweeper Blake Heldt-Werle. “The energy has been high throughout the whole summer. Everyone is excited to play and win.”

Continuity and enthusiasm are prompting team members to consider reaching the postseason a realistic goal, even though the 3A Tahoe League added South Tahoe and Dayton in the offseason. Whittell hasn’t made the postseason tournament since 2003, and the Warriors haven’t won the league title since claiming back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998.

“Winning games, playing aggressive and getting to that state title and trying to win it,” said T.J. Kolesnik, a senior forward who led the Warriors in scoring a year ago, in listing his season goals.

“First of all, we want to make it to zone,” Heldt-Werle said. “We really want to see how far we can go, get to zone and see if we can go beyond.”

Steve Maltase, handling the Warriors’ squad for the 17th straight season, is excited about the prospects for his experienced team.

“We have some good returning guys, we have some good leadership and we have a good group of young guys,” Maltase said. “We can be a little more prepared early in the year instead of trying to develop kids. Now we can work more on strategy and getting ready instead of working on skills so much.”

Kolesnik and Heldt-Werle are joined by returning starters Trevor Fairbank, senior; Tim Stone, junior; Jenner Felton, junior; Austin Neil, sophomore; Garrett Bronken, sophomore; and Marshall Neil, sophomore. Austin Neil has developed into a solid goalkeeper, giving the Warriors an extra layer of defense.

Whittell’s veteran team members have added motivation to succeed in the coming season. Maltase has hinted to players that this may be his final season in charge of the Warriors.

“He’s been saying this is his last year coaching soccer,” Heldt-Werle said. “I know it’s our last year, and if it’s his last year, we really want to go out as best as we can.”

Besides skiing, this is the first time all five Lake Tahoe high schools will participate in the same sports league. South Tahoe was realigned by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association in Class 3A last spring, and Whittell, North Tahoe and Incline all play up in soccer, bringing the neighboring schools together along with Dayton and Sparks.

“We’re not going in with our heads down. They are pumped for the season, and that makes me excited,” Maltase said. “We’re used to being the small school and the odds against us, and we’re used to competing at a high level.

“We’re going in taking the challenge. Every game is going to be hard. Technically in this league, you could go 0-12. It’s that good. I’d take our league against any 4A league because from top to bottom our division has been so strong.”

Whittell won’t have to wait long to start its new soccer rivalry with South Tahoe. The South Shore schools meet Sept. 7 in South Tahoe’s home opener.

“A lot of the younger players are really intimidated to go against teams like South Tahoe and Sparks,” Heldt-Werle said. “They don’t understand that we have really good communication this year. We have a lot of skill among the team. Our core is solid, and our team needs to realize that we are a lot stronger this year because of that fact because everyone else is losing while we are gaining.”

Kolesnik attended South Tahoe for one year, and former Whittell teammate Cody Williams has played for the Vikings for two seasons. Their flip-flopping of schools should give the home-and-way matchups an extra boost.

“They think they are one of the top teams. We know smaller is a disadvantage, but we’ll see how we play South Tahoe,” Kolesnik said.

Whittell will scrimmage Douglas on Saturday in Minden.

Whittell’s 2010 boys’ soccer schedule

Date Opponent/Site Time

Aug. 27-28 Quincy tournament TBA

Sept. 2 TRUCKEE 6 p.m.

Sept. 7 At South Tahoe 5 p.m.

Sept. 10-11 Del Campo tourney TBA

Sept. 13 QUINCY 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 At North Tahoe 5 p.m.

Sept. 16 At Yerington 5 p.m.

Sept. 21 DAYTON 6 p.m.

Sept. 23 At Incline 5 p.m.

Sept. 30 At Sparks 5 p.m.

Oct. 5 At Truckee 4 p.m.

Oct. 12 SOUTH TAHOE 6 p.m.

Oct. 14 NORTH TAHOE 6 p.m.

Oct. 15 At Quincy 4:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 YERINGTON 6 p.m.

Oct. 21 At Dayton 4 p.m.

Oct. 26 INCLINE 6 p.m.

Oct. 28 SPARKS 6 p.m.

Nov. 2-6 Regional tourney TBA

Nov. 12-13 State tourney TBA

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