Whittell plays with all heart but falls to Incline in soccer playoffs
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Anna White was mad.
Her normal big smile that illuminates the world wherever she goes was replaced by an angry scowl following Whittell’s 2-1 loss to Incline Thursday in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association 3A Northern Region Girls’ Soccer Championships.
White, the team’s co-captain and senior leader, was upset at the officials, angry at losing, irritated that her previously undefeated team had to play schools way bigger, and, finally, just plain crushed the Warriors season came to an end.
“Us playing two divisions higher against schools two times our size, there’s not much we can do except play our hearts out, and that’s what these girls did today,” White said. “I couldn’t be happier with how much effort they put it. As a captain and for the last game of my season I couldn’t ask for more. I’m satisfied we put it all out there, but I’m just sad.”
Whittell plays in class 1A for football, volleyball and basketball, but when it comes to soccer, the NIAA has just two divisions for playoffs, 3A and 4A. That forces tiny Whittell, with maybe 200 students, to be included in an 8-team bracket that also included North Valleys that has about 2,000 students.
But playing Incline, with about 300 students, who battled their own demons all season competing against larger schools, was closer to their weight class.
And the Warriors didn’t give the Highlanders an inch. They contested every ball, every pass and ran until they could hardly breathe.
Incline earned both goals it scored and following the game, the Highlanders let out a collective sigh to be moving on after they scored the winning goal in the final couple of minutes.
“I was impressed with Whittell, they have some really good players that pose big threats,” said Incline head coach Michael Coudriet. “They gave us a great battle with it coming down to the final minutes.”
Whittell head coach Mondo Gonzales was proud of the effort and the scare his girls put into the Highlanders.
“Oh man, I think we played well, it was one of our best games of the season,” Gonzales said. “It could’ve gone either way at the end. The girls did well, really well.”
Incline scored first with 20 minutes left in the first half with a shot that careened off the crossbar and bounced down, into the goal, giving the goalkeeper, Genesis Alvarez, no chance.
Alvarez had a great game, making several terrific saves throughout to keep the Warriors close.
Whittell got even late in the first half. Kyla Rippet blasted a free kick into the box from about 40 yards out. The ball by inches went over White’s head but sophomore teammate Ava Campbell was there to head it in right before the Incline keeper was able to make a play.
“Ava and I were lined up on the back post and she stayed out wider than me,” White said. “The kick just barely went over my head and then Ava knocked it in. I think it bounced off of somebody at some point. I’m not sure, but it was a great goal.”
“It was beautiful and textbook,” Gonzales said. “She was patient. She watched it bounce and you could see her put her head right there.”
The game remained 1-1 until about 2 minutes left, when Highlander Sami Giangreco blasted an unstoppable shot from about 15 yards. The exhausted Giangreco was relieved when the ball went into the net.
“It was a hard fought game on both ends of the field,” Giangreco said. “… It took us longer than we expected but we stayed focused. We knew we didn’t want to go into overtime because we were already drained.”
The Warriors played this season with seven first time players this season out of 16 on the roster and they went unbeaten through 14 regular season games.
The seven newbies combined with star power at the top — White, Campbell, Rippet and Brianna Johns — was a perfect blend for the Warriors to win the 3A Northern League B title. The Warriors (13-1-1) gave up just 10 goals on the season while scoring 82. White led the team with 31 goals.
“Overall, I’m extremely pleased with the season,” said Gonzales, a first-year coach. “Especially for the newer girls to learn to play together with the experienced players, we couldn’t have done this if they all didn’t come together.
“We had five seniors and Anna was the league’s most valuable player and leader in goals,” Gonzales added. “It will be tough to lose her. Brianna our center mid was great. Kyla, our sweeper played well and Ava our sophomore, they all played really well.”