Back in action: Whittell boys soccer program returns after year hiatus | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Back in action: Whittell boys soccer program returns after year hiatus

Anthony Gentile | agentile@tahoedailytribune.com
Whittell soccer players Nicholas Petty (left) and Genaro Mena (middle) celebrate with a Warriors’ teammate after Mena scored in the team’s 6-4 win over White Pine on Saturday, Sept. 12.
Anthony Gentile / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

The Whittell boys soccer program is back on the pitch this season after a one-year hiatus. And with a young team, the Warriors plan to use 2015 to progress and build for the future.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Warriors sophomore midfielder Genaro Mena said. We didn’t have a team last year. We tried, but not enough people came out, and we didn’t really have a coach either.”

Whittell didn’t field a boys soccer team in 2014 due to a lack of numbers, after qualifying for the Div. III state tournament the year before. In the weeks leading into this season, the Warriors had 17 players but still were without a coach.

“When we first came out, we didn’t even know if we would have a team,” Warriors sophomore midfielder Nic Buchholz said. “On day two of practice we came out very serious. We knew we had to work and we’ve just been busting our tails this entire time.”

“It’s fun to play now. We’re just working on everything and hoping to progress.”Genaro MenaWarriors midfielder

Just prior to the start of the 2015 campaign, David Caputo was named head coach of the Warriors. And on Sept. 4, Whittell returned to the pitch for its first match in nearly two seasons — a contest against Tulelake (Calif.) in the Quincy Tournament.

For Caputo, the job presented a chance to get back into the sport he loves. After playing soccer at Wright State, he moved to Tahoe and coached skiing at Heavenly for eight years — now he’s back on the pitch.

“The opportunity came up and it was really hard to say no to; I wanted to make sure someone was here for these guys,” Caputo said. “It’s nice that they’re back on the soccer field, and I’m here to have them play the game I love so much.”

Only five upperclassmen are on Whittell’s 2015 team, including seniors Chris Evans and Joshua Petty. As a result of their inexperience, the Warriors are a work in progress this season — but Caputo said he already sees improvement.

“I see them getting better with their touches, and their passes are improving,” Caputo said. “As long as we can keep their heads high and keep them working in a positive direction, by the end of the season we will see some positive results.”

Whittell is still finding its identity on the pitch with the season underway, and its main focus has been conditioning. An abbreviated offseason means the Warriors are still working to get into game shape.

“These guys need to really start working now on their fitness so we can last the entire game without injuries and play that full 80 minutes,” Caputo said.

In matches, Whittell is focused on establishing possession. Evans leads the team from the back, playing defense in front of junior goalkeeper Sam Berry.

“We’re looking for Chris to take a leadership role and take control of the team, especially with the defense because everything starts out of the back,” Caputo said.

Sophomore Julio Loera is the Warriors’ most dynamic player, and the talented midfielder will spark the team’s attack this season. He has already formed a nice partnership with Mena in the midfield.

“He’s our playmaker,” Caputo said. “The big thing is making sure that he doesn’t feel the burden of the team and take too much on.”

Whittell notched its first win of the season Sept. 5, beating Quincy (Calif.) 4-1. The Warriors opened Div. III play with a loss at home to West Wendover last Friday, Sept. 11, but bounced back with a 6-4 win over White Pine the following afternoon — their first home win and first in league play.

“It was awesome having something on our record to show we’re here, we’re trying and we’re improving,” Buchholz said. “We’re a young team, so we can build for future years and make a great name for ourselves in soccer.”

The Warriors face a challenge in their return to the pitch this season. How well the team stays together and progresses throughout the course of the campaign will ultimately determine the team’s success in 2015.

“It’s fun to play now,” Mena said. “We’re just working on everything and hoping to progress.”