Whittell High produces two Most Valuable Players
George Whittell High school has about 250 students.
And roughly one third of them play sports.
It seems very unlikely that a school of that size would produce one Nevada State Most Valuable Player in soccer -let alone two.
But, that’s just what happened this fall. Both Caitlin Fagan and Joe Piccola earned the honors in their senior years.
Fagan, a midfielder, was an unlikely winner because she was forced to play through some serious injuries to her hip late in the regular season and almost didn’t play in the state tournament.
“After the Incline game, I didn’t think I was going to be able to play,” Fagan said. “I felt pretty decent before the Battle Mountain game (in the state semi-finals), but toward the end of the first half I fell pretty hard on my tailbone and I couldn’t walk very well, let alone run.”
But, she worked through the pain and helped her team to the Nevada 2A State title.
Still, Fagan said she had no idea she was even in the running for the award, let alone was going to win it.
“It’s amazing, it really hasn’t sunk in yet,” the senior said. “This is the best way to go out.
“It was a big surprise because there are a lot of good players out there. Veronica Walker (of Incline) should have been right up there as well.”
As a four year starter for the Warriors, Fagan has garnered more and more accolades in each season. As a freshman, she was named to the honorable mention All-League team. Then as a sophomore, Fagan was named to the second team and was third team All-State as a junior.
“It really gives you more confidence when someone recognizes your ability,” Fagan said. “It makes you want to play better and step it up even more.
“I wasn’t really pleased with my junior season, so this year I wanted to do better and be the leading scorer on the team, but I never dreamed of being the state MVP.”
As unlikely as Fagan’s award was, it was even more unlikely for Piccola to be given the same honor.
The senior goal keeper was named Co-MVP with Ryan Degadillo of Incline.
Piccola has only been playing organized soccer for four years. After being coaxed out for the team as a freshman by Maltase, the 5-foot-9-inch keeper dedicated himself to learning the craft of playing between the pipes.
“I always played tennis growing up,” Piccola said. “But, once Maltase asked to play soccer, I started to concentrate on that more than anything else.”
That dedication slowly began to pay off as Piccola went to Nike camps every summer and honed his skills enough to make the varsity squad as a sophomore.
“We’ve had a tradition of good keepers here,” Maltase said. “So I was anxious to see how he would replace Jesse Rizzo.”
Because of his small stature for a keeper, Piccola was always having to prove to everyone that he not only belonged on the varsity squad, but was a good keeper.
During the summer of his sophomore year, Piccola was one of only 100 players invited an elite camp for goal keepers in San Diego on the campus of University of San Diego.
It was there, that people began to find out more about his abilities and began to respect him as a great athlete.
“I love the challenge,” Piccola said. “Even when we go to Incline, they have no respect for me, and they’re some of my good friends.”
Piccola made the Olympic Development Program’s state team that same summer when he was only 15 years old and in his second year of playing keeper.
While at Whittell, Piccola began getting All-State honors as early as his sophomore year. He was named toe the second team both his sophomore and junior years.
However, as a senior Piccola didn’t expect to win the state MVP, especially because he has a whole new defensive unit in front of him.
“There were some times when we had problems with unity,” the senior said. “We hardly ever had the same guys out there for more than two games in a row.”
What even made it more unlikely for him to win the award was the position Piccola played.
“Normally they (the league) don’t give it to goalies,” he said. “And we didn’t win state either which made me an unlikely winner.”
Now, with loads of experience and awards under his belt, Piccola has his eyes on bigger and better things. He hopes to be playing for the No. 22-ranked Sonoma State Cossacks (Division II) next fall.
“I can’t wait,” Piccola said. “That would be awesome if I could play there.”
Maltase thinks his keeper has a great shot at playing at the next level.
“He’s an outstanding player,” the coach said. “He’s going to be the hardest for us to replace, he definitely has a shot to play in college.”
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