Warriors like their playoff matchups
Both Whittell High School soccer teams enter the playoffs as No. 4 seeds, but the Warriors aren’t thinking like teams that barely made the postseason.
After banging heads with the toughest teams the Nevada 3A has to offer in Lake Division powers Truckee, North Tahoe and Incline for two months, the Warriors are ready for a change of pace.
For the Warrior boys that means a Northern Regional quarterfinal matchup with Sagebrush champion Yerington (12-3-3) on Thursday at noon at Lowry High School in Winnemucca.
“We have a lot of potential and we have the potential to be the darkhorse in this tournament,” said coach Steve Maltase, whose Warriors slipped into the playoffs with a 9-8 record in the Lake Division. “We’re just going to go out there and surprise some people.”
Positive vibes are also being sent out by the Whittell girls’ teams, which enters the postseason with a 7-5-3 division record. The girls will play Sagebrush Division champion Spring Creek at 10 a.m. Thursday at Lowry.
The Spartans ousted the Warriors from the playoffs 1-0 last season and followed that with a 3-1 victory earlier this season in Zephyr Cove. The Spartans’ recent dominance in the series hasn’t damaged the Warriors’ confidence, though.
“We are going to get revenge,” said WHS standout junior goalie Elise Thomas. “If we all play hard, we can beat them.”
The Whittell boys will also face a team that has given them fits in recent games. The Warriors lost to Yerington 1-0 in the season-opening Warrior Cup and a regular-season match 4-1 in Zephyr Cove. The Warriors, however, defeated the Lions in the semifinals of the Warrior Cup.
“That’s a perfect matchup for us,” Maltase said. “That was probably the low point of our season. I think we are playing a lot better and maybe they are too.”
Goals are usually hard to come by in the postseason and both WHS teams contain players who find the net consistently.
Senior Jackie Laurian has stretched the net 32 times.
“She always seems to get fired up for the big games,” said WHS girls’ coach Mike Leeper of Laurian, who scored the only goal against the Spartans earlier this season. “We’ll have to have maximum effort, but I think the availability of victory is there.”
The Warriors’ cause is also enhanced by Thomas’ potential to keep the other team from scoring.
“We wouldn’t be able to do anything if we didn’t have Elise or Jackie,” said senior co-captain Heather O’Brien, who is out for the season with a torn right ACL.
Thomas has been in tight playoff games before, an experience that doesn’t get any easier as she gets older.
“I know the game counts and it’s very nerveracking,” she said. “It you make one mistake, it could be it.”
Senior Nestor Flores gives the Warrior boys an advantage in close games. Flores has scored 26 goals and assisted on 14 of his teammates’ goals. But the Warriors’ chances might hinge on their ability to deny Yerington quick scoring opportunities.
“We’ll have to do a good job of counterattacking and defending their long balls,” Maltase said. “They like to send balls over the top, so if we can win balls in the air, it should diffuse their attack.”
Regional semifinals are Friday and the finals are set for Saturday.
NORTHERN 3ASOCCER PLAYOFFS
At Lowry HS, Winnemucca
Thursday, Nov. 7
Yerington vs. Whittell, noon
Spring Creek vs. North Tahoe, noon
Battle Mountain vs. Truckee, 2 p.m.
Lowry vs. Incline, 4 p.m.
Spring Creek vs. Whittell, 10 a.m.
Yerington vs. North Tahoe, 10 a.m.
Lowry vs. Incline, 2 p.m.
Battle Mountain vs. Truckee, 6 p.m.
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