Warriors loaded on defense, but can they score? | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Warriors loaded on defense, but can they score?

Losing one of the state’s top scorers and your No. 1 assist man who creatively put the ball in play with a flip would devastate most teams. But eight returning starters for Whittell High’s boys soccer team should ease the pain from the graduation of Dusty Apocotos and Chris Boudreau.

“It’s going to be interesting. We have a pretty good chance of doing what we did last year, but we have to play well,” said Whittell coach Steve Maltase, the reigning Nevada 3A Division II coach of the year.

Senior midfielder Kyle Spingola believes the Warriors are capable of equaling or bettering last year’s division championship and state-semifinal appearance.

“It’s possible if we all step it up,” Spingola said. “We lost one of the top scorers in the state, but once we step it up we have a good chance of doing what we did last year.

“We’re definitely setting our goals higher this year. Last year, our goal was to make it to state; this year, we’re going to try and go all the way.”

With Whittell’s stingy 1998 defensive unit still intact, those lofty goals may be within reach. Returning are junior goalie Joe Piccola; senior defenders Todd Echan, Scott Corwin, Bryce Schussel and Trevor Bartholomew; senior midfielder Spingola, junior midfielder Pat Heeran and junior forward Omar Sanchez.

“I’m putting more pressure on the defense because that’s really the only area that’s intact, where other positions, we have to fill,” Maltase said.

The area of concern entering Friday’s opener at the Pahrump Tournament is scoring. Who will stretch the back of the net now that Apocotos has taken his one-goal per game average to U.C.-Davis?

“We definitely have some missing ingredients. We have to find some ways to score goals,” Maltase said. “We lost Dusty, Chris and Antonio Flores and you’re talking about 70 percent of our offense. That’s probably about 35 goals scored between them.”

Echan’s versatility will help. Despite his defensive responsibilities a year ago, Echan still managed to score 15 goals. Spingola and freshman Nestor Flores also should help ignite the offense.

That didn’t happen when the Warriors stepped up a classification to play South Shore neighbor South Tahoe in a scrimmage last week. The Vikings won, 3-0.

“We missed two penalty kicks. We played pretty good … we’re not way behind. We’re a ways away from where we want to be,” Maltase said. “I can’t talk too big right now because I don’t have a measuring stick.”

That measuring stick will come Friday at the Pahrump Tournament. The Warriors play Pahrump at noon and White Pine at 2 p.m., then conclude the tournament with double-elimination play Friday night and Saturday.

Whittell plays two-time defending state champion North Tahoe in its home opener next Thursday.

“Every chance we can get to play those guys it’s a good thing, considering they are the ones we have to look at if we want to go all the way through state,” Spingola said.

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