Dayton holds off Whittell in regional quarterinal |

Dayton holds off Whittell in regional quarterinal

RENO Ð If a high school soccer game was 90 minutes instead of 80 minutes, the Whittell High girls might be playing for a state tournament berth this weekend. Unfortunately for the Warriors, 80 minutes was all they got.

Dayton’s Erika Garcia scored two of her team’s four goals in the first half and led the Dust Devils to a 4-3 win over Whittell in the first round of the Northern 3A regional tournament on Thursday at the South Valleys Regional Sports Complex.

Whittell (14-8-1) scored all three of its goals in a 15-minute span in the second half, but it was unable to find a fourth goal in the game’s closing minutes. Not that Dayton coach Tim Logan was disappointed.

“I was very nervous, and so were the kids,” Logan said. “I saw that game turning on us. Whittell is a fabulous team. We are happy to get out of here with a win. The lake schools are, well, the lake schools. They are always dominant, but I think the teams in our league are on the rise.”

Dayton (14-5), the No. 2 seed from the Sagebrush League, will play Tahoe League champion Truckee in a semifinal match on Friday in Fallon. North Tahoe, the No. 2 seed from the Tahoe League, will face either Incline, the Tahoe League’s No. 4 seed or Sagebrush League champion Spring Creek in the other semifinal.

With the top three teams advancing to next week’s Nevada 3A state tournament, the Warriors felt this might be their year.

“It’s been a great season, a great ride,” said WHS first-year coach Tony Cormier. “If I had to lose, this would be the way I would want to lose.”

The Dust Devils, who beat the Warriors twice during the regular season, went up 1-0 in the eighth minute on Garcia’s breakaway goal. Natasha Olivera and Sara Elissa both added goals of their own before Garcia added another breakaway goal in the 38th minute to give Dayton a 4-0 halftime lead.

But the Warriors made a tactical move in the second half by putting starting goalkeeper Hannah Daly on the field. Although Daly is a goalie for the United States Under-16 women’s national team, her ability as a field player also is an asset.

With Daly in a defensive-minded role, thus neutralizing Dayton’s fastest players, it enabled Whittell’s other top players to attack the Dust Devil goal.

In the 58th minute, senior Megan Alexander sent a ball into the box that was redirected by Tierney McKool to make it 4-1. Less than 10 minutes later, Alexander’s cross into the box again found an unmarked McKool, who flicked a shot past the Dayton goalie.

Then in the 73rd minute, Alexander, in no mood to let her senior year end with a loss, scored on a long-range shot that was only partially saved before bouncing into the net. Suddenly, the Warriors were trailing 4-3 and had all the momentum.

“We started off a little sluggish,” Cormier said. “They surprised us a couple times in the first half, and in a game like this, you usually pay for your mistakes. But we owned the second half. We beat them to every ball, so I am proud of all the girls.”

With Whittell continuing to push the attack, the referee blew the final whistle and ended any hope of a comeback. But with only two seniors graduating – Alexander and Becca Gardner – Whittell should be back in the playoffs next season.

“Unfortunately we are losing two seniors, but it’s only two and our team is not going to change much,” Cormier said. “The two of them will definitely be missed, but I think Whittell is going to be strong for years to come. I can’t wait until next fall.”

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