Returning to the big leagues
The Whittell High boys soccer team received a huge surprise this fall.
High-scoring midfielder Nestor Flores surprised everyone by returning to Zephyr Cove to play for the Warriors.
“Nestor’s coming back is huge because we didn’t count on him being here,” Warrior coach Steve Maltase said. “It’s a huge bonus not only talent-wise but also for his leadership.”
As a sophomore last fall, Flores found the net a school-record 37 times and tallied 13 assists. He led the team to a 15-9-1 record and a second-place state finish after narrowly losing to Incline 2-1 in overtime.
He had one stretch last season where he scored 11 goals in a two game, and he’s not done yet.
“My goal this season is to score even more,” he said.
While Flores will remain the Warriors’ main scoring threat, 10 other players return.
Maltase’s entire defense returns, which will help take the pressure of sophomore goalkeeper Devin Farnsworth. Farnsworth has the immense task of trying to replace state Most Valuable Player Joe Piccola.
“With the whole defense back this year, we should be a lot stronger on that end of the field,” senior Brett Schussel, who was a first-team all-state defender a year ago. “Hopefully, the goalie won’t get a lot of balls this season.
“He may not be up to Joe’s caliber this season, but he will be in a year or so.”
Joining Schussel on the defense are Max Glasson; Justin Haynes; Ullysses Flores, a 2000 honorable mention all-state selection; and Chase Bartholomew.
“I look for Brett to be one of the leaders back there on defense,” Maltase said. “He’s going to have to be the most vocal and help Devin out.
“Brett and Ullysses are the two seniors who will have to corral the defense.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Warriors return a extremely stong midfield. In addition to Nestor Flores, junior Kyle Bellotti and senior Weston Salomon form the nucleus of the midfield.
Senior and second-team all-state forward Oscar Cortez anchors an unsung group of scorers who will look to take some of the pressure off Nestor Flores. The other forward will be senior Argenis Flores.
“I think the focus on Nestor will be beneficial to the rest of the team,” Schussel said. “If other teams try to double or triple team him, we will be able to get the ball to the outside which will open the field up for Nestor.”
This season, the Warriors move back up to the 3A level, pitting them once against the other powers around the lake.
North Tahoe, Incline and Truckee historically have been among the elite soccer programs in the state, and Whittell welcomes the challenge of rejoining their league this fall.
“We’re going to have to play well against them this year,” Nestor Flores said. “We’re going to have to work extra hard.”
Maltase feels that moving up a level is more a mental block for his players than a physical one.
“It affects the kids more than it does me,” he said. “Most of them were so young the last time we played in the 3A, but we’ll have to remind them that we hung two banners on the wall in the last four years in the 3A.”
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INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Incline Village has played in two consecutive state championship basketball games, winning once, but entering this season the Highlanders have just one player with any varsity experience.