League champions: Whittell girls soccer claims 2A Northern League title after tying White Pine in finale
ZEPHYR COVE — The Whittell girls soccer team delivered the result it needed to claim the 2A Northern League championship Saturday, Oct. 29. In a clash between the league’s top two teams, the Warriors tied White Pine 1-1 at home to win their third league title in four seasons.
“I’m happy for the hard work the girls have put in all season long,” Warriors coach David Caputo said. “They’ve really earned it.”
Whittell (13-1-2, 12-0-2 2A Northern) entered Saturday’s match needing a win or draw to secure the league crown. Neither team could break a 1-1 deadlock after White Pine (16-0-3, 11-0-3) scored three minutes into the second half, and the Warriors hung on for the crucial point.
“It means a lot going into regionals No. 1 in our league,” Warriors senior Madison Idso said. “It feels really good.”
“We wanted it more,” added Warriors senior Gigi Stetler.
The Warriors opened the scoring in the third minute Saturday, when sophomore Isabella Cibulsky put home a loose ball from close range. Whittell controlled possession for the rest of the first half, but couldn’t generate significant scoring chances and took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
After the break, White Pine struck quickly to even the score. The Bobcats scored in the 43rd minute, when Trace Deeds got on the end of a cross from Samantha Gamberg and deflected it home to make it 1-1.
The game opened up after the Bobcats goal, and went back-and-forth until the final whistle. With two minutes left, Whittell senior Ali Copsy hit a shot that deflected off the crossbar and appeared to cross the line — but was ruled no goal and the match remained tied.
With the league championship hinging on a potential last-minute goal, Whittell junior Taimani Hussey punched away a shot from White Pine’s Lily Fullmer in the closing seconds. The Warriors’ goalkeeper’s second big save in the final 10 minutes preserved the tie and delivered the league championship.
“Tai has come up with some huge saves in some big games this year,” Caputo said. “We wouldn’t be where we’re at if it wasn’t for her.”
Cibulsky’s third goal of the campaign was one of Whittell’s biggest of the regular season, staking the hosts to an early lead that proved crucial. The Warriors’ last four matches included one-goal wins at Pershing County and Dayton, and Saturday’s tie against the Bobcats — all necessary results to finish atop 2A Northern League.
“It feels a lot better because we’re such a small school and the teams that we’re playing are bigger than us,” Copsy said of the league championship.
Defensively, Whittell held Gamberg scoreless for the first time all season. The Bobcats senior had 29 goals in 19 matches entering Saturday, and was limited to an assist while being covered all match by freshman Kyla Rippet.
“Kyla handled it really well,” Idso said. “I don’t know who else would have been able to go through that the entire 80 minutes and not let her past — it was impressive.”
Whittell enters the 3A Northern Region tournament as the top seed from its league, and opens the postseason against 3A Northern fourth seed North Tahoe (9-9-2) in the regional quarterfinals Thursday, Nov. 3, at Lowry High — kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. The Warriors and Lakers split their regular season meetings, with each team winning at home.
“We’re going to be those underdogs,” Caputo said. “We’re going to be the ones that no one is going to take as seriously — we can definitely surprise a lot of teams.”
The 3A Northern Region tournament continues at Lowry on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 4-5.
“We’re ready for a fight for sure,” Copsy said. “It’s going to be tough, but we’re ready and we all want it.”