Warriors win first state soccer title
What the Whittell High girls soccer team really needed on the sideline Saturday in the Nevada 2A championship in Lovelock was a medic tent. The Warriors had enough injuries to keep a staff of doctors and trainers busy, but treatment would have to wait until after the title match.
After years of coming up a few wins short of a championship in the Nevada 3A ranks, these gritty Warriors weren’t about to miss out on the chance of their prep athletic careers.
And when Jackie Laurian found the right corner of the goal with 15 minutes to go, all the pain was worth it as the Warriors edged rival Incline 3-2 for the school’s first girls soccer championship.
“It’s amazing. We were definitely beat up … everybody was taped up, icing and taking painkillers and everything. Everyone just sucked it up and played their hearts out,” said senior Caitlin Fagan, who endured the pain of a debilitating hip to enjoy the finest hour of her high school career. “It’s the best feeling I’ve ever felt and I’m sure the rest of the team feels that way. And to beat Incline to do it is definitely a plus.”
Fagan wasn’t the only Warrior gritting her teeth to suppress the pain. Forward Mandy Ralls played with a black and blue and swollen ankle and freshman goaltender Elise Thomas didn’t let the residual pain from a broken collarbone keep her from the pipes.
“It was a gutsy performance by the whole team, because it’s been one of those years. I couldn’t be any prouder of them,” said Whittell coach Mike Leeper. “The girls weren’t going to let the injuries and adversity hold them back. They knew they had one more game to play and knew they were going to come to battle.”
Ralls was the least expected to suit up for the final. She didn’t play in the 5-1 semifinal win over The Meadows on Friday. The senior didn’t take long to make her presence felt, though, depositing a well-executed cornerkick from Fagan into the back of the net at the 10-minute mark.
Incline evened the score before Fagan scored unassisted on a 20-yard free kick in the 25th minute.
“Caitlin was limping all over the field, and I couldn’t ask anything more from her,” Leeper said.
But Incline tied the score 30 seconds before halftime when Veronica Walker slipped by the defense for a shot from close range.
“Everyone was kind of down at halftime because of that goal, but we came out after that and kept it up and finished it off,” Fagan said.
The unyielding play of each team signified overtime until Laurian found herself alone in front of the goalie in the 71st minute and slid in the winning goal.
“This was our best chance to do anything and it turned into the best feeling ever,” Fagan said.
Besides the gritty player of the walking wounded, Leeper lauded the defensive play of Heather O’Brien and Lindsay Schultz on the Walker sisters, Erica and Veronica.
“All of Incline’s offense comes through those two, and Heather and Lindsay marked those two well,” Leeper said.
In the rout of The Meadows, Fagan scored twice, and Laurian, O’Brien and Jenna Hayes knocked in a goal apiece.
“It was as good as we can play, and all the young players got to enjoy the state experience, because I knew we were going to have a big battle Saturday,” Leeper said.
While the Whittell girls were one goal better in the state finals, the Warrior boys tasted the other side of the verdict in their Nevada 2A finale with Incline.
Whittell scored the first goal, but the Highlanders went on to beat the Warriors for the third time, 2-1, when Eric DelGadillo headed in the game-winner in the first overtime Saturday in Lovelock.
“They put together their best soccer in the last weekend of play, and I’m really proud of them for that,” said Warriors coach Steve Maltase. “It could have gone either way, but Incline put the ball in the net.”
Oscar Cortez continued his hot-shooting postseason, breaking a scoreless tie 10 minutes in. Pat Heeran set up the goal by beating defenders down the side of the field and then crossing the ball to Cortez, who knew what to do with it.
However, the Highlanders tied the game in the 56th minute when Sergio Hernandez took the ball down the left side before switching to the middle of the field for a right-footed shot off the post and into the goal.
“It was just about as perfect of a shot as you could get,” Maltase said.
After the teams played to a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation, two 10-minute overtime halves came into play. DelGadillo scored in the first overtime, and the Highlanders held on.
“For the second 10 minutes they went into a defensive stand and we had a ton of opportunities, but they came up strong in the back,” Maltase said.
Whittell hammered White Pine 6-0 in Friday’s semifinals as Cortez scored four goals. Thomas Greenwood and Bryan Sigel also scored.
Whittell finished its first season in the 2A with a 15-9-1 record.
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