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Leeper inspires 6-0 state quarterfinal victory

Steve Yingling

How do you motivate a team when everyone else in town has looked out their windows at the driving rain and sleet and decided that the day was best suited for sitting by a toasty fire and reading a novel?

Given the miserable weather conditions for the Nevada 3A state girls soccer quarterfinals at Whittell High on Saturday morning, any coach would have been at a loss to inspire his players to compete.

Except for Warrior coach Mike Leeper. By simply refusing to let his Warriors wear fleece long pants underneath their game shorts, the second-year Whittell coach got all the hustle he needed.



Corky Novotny scored two first-half goals and Catlin Fagan added two net stretchers after intermission to propel the Warriors past overmatched Pahrump 6-0 in Zephyr Cove.

“I’m sure you’re warm for the first 10 minutes, but that stuff gets heavy. When you’re running around with 10 pounds of soaking-wet clothing on, its really a disadvantage. As long as you’re moving and doing things on the field, you shouldn’t be able to feel it. Plus, it gives you incentive to move,” Leeper said of his ingenious tactic before the game even commenced.



“His excuse was that we had to run a lot to keep ourselves warm. We were all over the field trying to warm up,” said Whittell senior defender Megan Glasson.

Not that Whittell needed an extra edge against Pahrump, which wore sweats to combat the cold that Las Vegas natives aren’t accustomed to. Whittell dominated Pahrump so severely that junior goalie Renee Cascino could have set up a picnic lunch in front of her goal box.

“All of our big players stepped up big, which is important because the rest of the team looks to them for leadership. When they come out and play hard like they did today, it lifts everybody up,” Leeper said.

In addition to her two first-half goals, Novotny assisted on Whittell’s first score of the second half. Nearly 10 minutes into the second half, Novotny neatly slipped a pass by a Pahrump defender, setting up Mandy Ralls in close range for the Warriors’ third goal.

“We knew we were going to win this game because it’s their first year,” Novotny said. “They’re good but they still need to learn some things. They need better passing and they need to work more as a team.”

Pahrump certainly received a lesson in teamwork Saturday.

Fagan put away the Trojans by scoring twice within a 79-second period. First, she blasted a shot that deflected off two Trojans before landing in the net. Then, the sophomore cashed in a free kick by Courtney Benvenuto, beating the goalie to her right with a shot from point-blank range with 19:38 left.

Sophomore Maggie Jones concluded the scoring with seconds remaining, stealing the ball in the goal box and then slyly lifting a shot over the goalkeeper’s head

“One of the best things we’ve worked on is relaxing and passing around the field,” Glasson said. “In the past we’ve been too anxious to score goals and too anxious to win and make it to the playoffs. Then we forgot about passing and keeping things under control,” Glasson said.

Whittell advances to the state semifinals where it will confront longtime playoff roadblock Truckee. The Wolverines ousted the Warriors in last year’s semifinals, 4-1. The teams meet Friday at 2 p.m. at Dayton High. The finals are scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday.

Whittell parents made the playing conditions better for the players early Saturday morning, arriving at 7 a.m. to remove one to two inches from the field.

“In these playing conditions for the girls to show up and play hard and with the support of the parents, it was a real team effort and a real team win,” Leeper said.

Whittell uses its heads to qualify for semifinals

Their parents have probably told them more times than they’d like to admit, but the Whittell High boys soccer players certainly used an ageless piece of advice on Saturday. They used their heads.

Juniors Chris Boudreau and Todd Echan scored on headers as the Warriors silenced Boulder City 4-0 in a Nevada 3A state quarterfinals Saturday on a slick, windwhipped field in Zephyr Cove.

“I thought we played one of better games this year all the way around,” said Whittell coach Steve Maltase. “We came out and played the way we should at home and defended our home field.”

The Warriors’ ninth win without a loss at Whittell this season sends them into Friday’s semifinals in Dayton.

Despite supplying all of the energy and action early on, Whittell wasn’t rewarded until 19 minutes and 10 seconds elapsed in the first half. Boudreau broke the scoreless tie by heading in a corner kick from Antonio.

“That was definitely one of my better goals,” Boudreau said. “I saw an opening and ran straight through and just connected with the ball.”

Maltase also enjoyed the perfectly executed play from the sidelines.

“That was one of the best goals of the year. He’s not really known for the header, more for the (flip) throw-in, but that was a great finish,” Maltase said. “That’s one of Chris’ best game since he’s been at Whittell. I hope he’s still got a couple more of those in him. His energy kept us all going.”

But Whittell was content with one goal. With 12:21 left in the half, Antonio Flores followed a Dusty Apocotos miss that escaped the goalie’s grasp and rolled along the crease of the goal line. Boudreau triggered the play with one of his patented flip throw-ins.

“Usually the corner kicks and throw-ins are pretty strong for us, and that’s how we score most of our goals,” Boudreau said. “I wasn’t holding up my end today because the ball was slippery and I couldn’t hold onto the ball.”

The score could have been much worse than 2-0 for Boulder City at the break because Apocotos, Whittell’s leading scorer, hit the post and crossbar with attempts.

“Dusty played real well. That was just unfortunate. Luckily the other guys picked him up,” Maltase said.

Apocotos also nailed the cross bar in the second half as his blast from 30 yards hit glanced off it with 33:00 to go.

However, the Warriors sealed Boulder City’s fate when Echan put one in the back of the net on a head shot started by Kyle Spignola’s corner kick with 24:56 remaining.

“We had a lot of good crossing and that led to the headers,” Echan said. “I actually called for mine. The goalie was totally on the right side and Dusty and Chris were going up at the same time and I just called them off and put it in the back.”

Boulder City wrapped up the scoring with an own goal inside the final minute. Pedro Salinas was the only Warrior back when a Boulder City player kicked the ball back to his goalie, only to have it float over his head and into the net.

“That was kind of like the accumulation of our pressure. We were pressuring them all the time, and defensively they made a lot of mistakes,” Maltase said.

Whittell’s only sore spot was its composure during a seven-minute span late in the game. Yellow cards were issued to Apocotos and Flores.

Rather than risk losing the two for Friday’s semifinal, Maltase sat his two stars for the remainder of the game.

“That’s one of the things we need to work on, keeping our mouths shut. We didn’t need it because we were up 3-0,” Echan said.

Whittell goalie preserved the shutout by making a save diving save in the closing seconds.

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