Tourney favorite Whittell has target on chest
By Jeremy Evans
Tribune staff writer
The fear of the unknown has done little to dampen the Whittell High volleyball team’s spirits going into this week’s NIAA Class 2A State Championships. The Warriors realize they could face two Southern 2A opponents in White Pine and Needles they know little about, but they also know the prospect of winning a second consecutive straight championship has little to do with their opponents.
“I think it will go good,” said Whittell senior Tina Hordzwick. “If we play as a team, I think we’re unbreakable.”
The Warriors will get that opportunity on Friday, when they open with White Pine in the state semifinals at Galena High School in Reno. If Whittell wins, the Warriors will play in the championship game on Saturday against either Southern 2A champion Needles and Northern 2A runner-up Lovelock.
“I know very little about them,” said Whittell coach Dan McLaughlin. “White Pine played Lovelock in a tournament and lost to Lovelock fairly easily, then Needles beat White Pine in five games in their championship. I know that they didn’t get this far in the tournament by being a bad team. I’m sure they got people who can hit the ball and pass the ball, so we’re going to approach from the perspective that we’re going to have to play well.”
That hasn’t been much of a problem for the Warriors (21-1). Of the 15 other teams in the state tournament (1A-4A), they’ve beaten six of them already this season. Whittell also has a chance to become the first South Shore team to win back-to-back Nevada state championships in more than 15 years.
“I don’t think we’re cocky,” said senior Megan Lowe. “We’ve seen other teams that when they get cocky, it can change around instantly. I think we have a lot of confidence in ourselves and we want to make a statement. Two years ago, we weren’t very known by many people and now we’re starting to get known a little bit.”
The Warriors, who have swept all six of their postseason matches since losing in the 2002 state tournament, have experience on their side. Four Whittell seniors – Hordzwick, Sydney Colvin, Whitney Gielow and Anna Kingman – have earned a combined 13 varsity letters during their career, meaning all of these players were part of the 2002 team that finished third in the state.
Needles, meanwhile, lost in last year’s state semifinals to Faith Lutheran, and White Pine of Ely didn’t compete in either zone or state tournaments last year. However, it did defeat The Meadows in the first round of this year’s Southern 2A Regional Tournament, a team that won state titles in both 2001 and 2002.
Lovelock’s only two league losses this season were to Whittell, which also swept the Mustangs in last week’s zone championship match. The Warriors know they go into the tournament as the heavy favorite.
“It’s the price you pay when you’re good,” said McLaughlin, who also led the Warriors to a state title in 2000. “You’re always expected to do good. You always have a target on your chest.”