Warriors set up 2A dynasty
By Jeremy Evans
Tribune staff writer
RENO – For Dan McLaughlin and the rest of the Whittell High Warriors, Saturday’s NIAA Class 2A State Championship against Lovelock appeared all too familiar.
Earlier this season, Whittell played the first game of a Northern 2A match at Lovelock that was filled with unforced errors and other mistakes. The Warriors eventually pulled out a 28-26 win, then cruised through the next two games to complete the sweep.
On Saturday against the Mustangs – the fourth meeting between the two teams this season – McLaughlin’s team got itself in a similar situation with Lovelock. Fortunately, it ended with the exact-same result, only this one ended up leading to Whittell’s second straight state championship.
Down 17-16 in game one, senior Tina Hordzwick recorded four service points down the stretch and sophomore Jessica Woods provided two kills as the Warriors pulled out a 25-23 win. They followed with 25-14 and 25-13 victories in games two and three to post their fourth sweep of the Mustangs.
“It took a little focus,” said Hordzwick, who recorded a game-high 12 kills. “We really did have to play as a team because Lovelock is really an awesome team and they could’ve broken that focus. We really stayed together and we accomplished what we came here for. When we played Lovelock that first time, they had so many fans in their gym and that really killed us. But today, our fans were here to support us and they kept us going. As a team, it was probably one of our best performances.”
The Warriors (23-1) won state last year by sweeping Southern 2A opponent Faith Lutheran. In the semifinals on Friday, they swept White Pine, the No. 2 seed from the Southern 2A, to advance to their third state title appearance in five years. McLaughlin credited his team’s turnaround on Saturday to senior setter Jackie Marino.
“The key is when we started passing the ball,” said McLaughlin, who also led Whittell to a state title in 2000. “We didn’t start off passing well, then we started passing and playing defense. We have as good a setter as you’re going to find in the state of Nevada. And a volleyball purist would recognize Tina Hordzwick because she hit the ball off people’s hands, into spots, into locations. When you look at her stats, it’s remarkable how many times she got kills unspectacularly because she’s so smart. She’s one of the most intelligent outside hitters I have ever seen.”
Marino recorded a game high 27 assists and Woods finished with nine kills and two blocks, while fellow sophomore Kelly Karmann had six kills, five blocks and three aces. The Mustangs’ Felicia Booth, who has signed with the University of Iowa, had nine kills, seven blocks and four digs to lead her team. If not for the defense of Whittell, Booth could’ve easily finished with five more kills.
“I felt like we were kind of unbreakable, almost,” Hordzwick said. “Defense is so important when it comes to volleyball and our team. That is one of the things that can kind of set us apart from other team is that when our defense is on, we’re really tough to beat.”
In the second game, Woods recorded the final six service points and then Karmann three kills and three aces in the third game as the Warriors posted comfortable wins in both.
“What makes the big difference for us is the caliber of teams we’ve played,” said McLaughlin, whose team played 10 games against larger schools this season. “Because of the schedule we’ve played, no matter who we play against, we always know that we are in every game. We can play with anybody.”
Of the eight teams (1A-4A) playing in state championship games on Saturday, the Warriors (23-1) had beaten five of them this season, including 4A Douglas, which lost to Galena in four games in the 4A state championship game.
“This is our fourth time playing Lovelock and we’ve beaten them in three games in all the previous times we played them,” Marino said. “And it’s that confidence that keeps us going. I’ve played on a lot teams, high school and club, and I’ve never been on a team like this, where every single player gets along. Every player truly loves each other and is playing for each other.”
Whittell’s only loss this season was to Golden Sierra, the second-ranked team in California (Division IV).