Summer vacation winding down for prep athletes |

Summer vacation winding down for prep athletes

Students won’t return to classrooms for a month, yet high school athletes will begin toiling in the August heat on Thursday in preparation for their fall seasons.

Legally, the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association allows teams to begin conditioning Thursday. Regular workouts – with pads – won’t begin until Monday when teams technically have three days of conditioning under their belts.

In recent years, fall has been kind to the South Shore prep teams.

Last year, the South Tahoe and Whittell volleyball teams advanced to their respective state tournaments. The Vikings captured their second zone championship and then went on to a third-place state 3A finish – their best state showing since winning the championship in 1991.

Seeing how the Vikings cope without Adrian Hankoff, the Northern Nevada League’s top player the past two years – and now a member of the Washington State University team – will be interesting.

The Warriors also have some elite players to replace, including Sarah Sufka, Karin Kaleta and Aurora Terry, but their biggest challenge – at least early on – will be logging ample practice time.

You see, the school’s tartan floor is being replaced by a $130,000 wooden floor, and won’t be ready when most high school teams open their seasons later this month.

“Because of the gym floor we won’t start until Sept. 10,” said Warrior coach Dan McLaughlin. “It just means a minor inconvenience for me in the short run. In the long run it’s going to better for the school, the kids, and I won’t be getting kids who can’t finish practices in the middle of the season because of injuries. It’s really going to be a nice addition to this community.”

In the interim, the Warriors may practice at Kingsbury Middle School.

Easing McLaughlin’s concerns is a returning core of players that may not need as much preparation time as a young team might.

“I don’t think it will hurt us that much because I have a veteran team … a lot of decent players who have played enough,” he said.

Burgeoning club teams and AYSO leagues, which embrace more than one thousand local kids, are starting to pay dividends at the high school level. Both of Whittell’s soccer teams advanced to the state semifinals before losing to powerhouse Truckee.

“We have high expectations, but we’re not going to get there without a lot of hard work,” said Whittell boys coach Steve Maltase, the reigning Nevada 3A Division II coach of the year.

Maltase, however, must find some scoring out of his seven returning starters who can no longer count on the offensive fireworks of recent graduates Dusty Apocotos and Chris Boudreau.

South Tahoe, which won 12 of 14 games after losing four of its first five, came within a victory of advancing to the boys zone finals and state semifinals, while the girls unexpectedly qualified for the zone playoffs.

The productive fall also saw the Viking girls tennis team go from laughingstocks of Northern Nevada to 9-4 and a zone playoff appearance; STHS’s cross country team qualify for state; sophomore golfer Misty Butts become one of a few Vikings to make a trip to state; and a record five state qualifiers for the Whittell harriers.

Of course, the arrival of fall makes most sports enthusiasts think of football. However, the sport wasn’t easy to digest last year – especially at Whittell – where the Warriors’ infamous losing streak reached record proportions at 19.

With few players committed to the sport and one season left in the 3A ranks before dropping down a classification, the prospects of Whittell burying the streak aren’t good.

“We’re hoping to get the young kids out there and get the JV program going. That’s where it has to start,” said Whittell coach John Summers.

South Tahoe, on the other hand, should be a team to watch. Following a 4-5 season, which included an season-opening upset of eventual zone runner-up Reed, the Vikings have the talent to return to the playoffs.

If a young line can give double-threat quarterback Tim Sprinkles time to throw and run and the defense makes considerable improvement, the Vikings’ first playoff absence since 1996 will be quickly forgotten.

Add Jake Hurwitz, one of the state’s top sprinters, to Sprinkles’ abundant talents, and South Tahoe will be one of the more exciting teams in the Reno area to watch this fall.

“We’re not real big, but we have a lot of good players at the key positions, so we should do pretty good,” Hurwitz said. “We have lots of potential, but as coach (Tim) Jaureguito always says, ‘A lot of teams have potential, we need to use our ability.’

“We set a goal as a team to get at least to the playoffs.”

When conditioning practice opens on Thursday it will be interesting to see if Viking basketball star John Giannoni returns for his second season of football. Hurwitz said he would be surprised to see Giannoni to rejoin the team, but “I wouldn’t mind it all. He’s a great runner and good all-around athlete.

“But we’ve learned to work without him. He’s a great player, but it’s his decision. Whatever he wants to do is OK with me and the rest of the team.”

Therefore, as Gene Hackman once said in Hoosiers, “I would hope you’d judge us for who we are, not for who we are not.”

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