Whittell girls fall to Incline in state championship match
FERNLEY — Eventually, somebody had to score.
In an evenly matched, back-and-forth state championship clash between Division III powers Whittell and Incline on Saturday, neither team could muster a goal through 80 minutes of physical, high-caliber action.
The game would have to be settled in overtime.
The defending state champion Highlanders, who battled through two overtime periods before edging North Tahoe in a penalty shootout the night before, did not want to repeat that marathon performance.
They didn’t have to.
Nine minutes into the sudden-death overtime period, Incline sophomore Vanessa Andrade slid to save a ball from going out along the Whittell baseline.
Not only did the talented forward keep the ball alive, she sent it directly to the front of the goal, where a streaking Caitlin May hit it into the back of the net, sending Incline players and fans into a frenzy.
“It was a good game,” Whittell coach Patrick Kelly said. “I’m proud of how the girls played. The outcome is not what we wanted, but they all played hard, and that’s all you can ask for.”
The game would not have remained scoreless through regulation had it not been for the clutch play of both teams’ standout senior goalies — Incline’s Sarah Wright and Whittell’s Brittany Boulet — both of whom made several deft saves.
“Boulet had the best game I’ve ever seen her play. And Sarah did the same thing,” Incline coach Tom Canino said.
The Warriors, the only Division III team to defeat the Highlanders during the season, came out with vengeance after falling to Incline, 2-1, in the regional championship the week before.
They pressured Wright and the Incline defense off the bat, putting together promising runs as forwards Kenya Maltase and Jenny Shepack nearly scored on several occasions.
But Wright was up to the task — as were senior defenders Kerrie Tonking and Misha Gehring — and Whittell never found net.
Meanwhile, Incline was finding its legs. The Highlanders began possessing and piecing together runs of their own late in the first half and into the second — held scoreless only by the effort of Boulet with help from Skylar Smith, Daria Sharon, Michael Gardner and Gianna Miller.
Andrade almost gave Incline a lead on at least three chances. She sent a blast off the crossbar late in the first half, while Boulet snatched the ball out of the air on two of her attempts in the second half.
“I thought at times our communication broke down,” Kelly said. “The first half we were moving the ball well and communicating well. We kind of lost that in the second half. But I’m proud of the way the girls conducted themselves.”
Whittell, which loses seven seniors, finished the year 15-3-0 in Division III play. Incline, which also graduates seven seniors, finished the season 16-1-1 against the DIII.
“Hats off to Whittell,” Canino said. “They came to play today. I have nothing but respect for the game they played.”