Winning season, playoffs top Warriors goals |

Winning season, playoffs top Warriors goals

Mike Traum

Don’t tell the Whittell High girls soccer team members that they’re beginning just their second season.

In fact, don’t tell them they’re young or even smallish. Just tell them when and where to play.

“We’re out here to win,” said returning all-state junior Sabrina Darrow. “We have a strong team and we want to have a winning record. We’re taking everything seriously.”

Whittell kicked its way to a 6-7 overall record last season, including a loss in the state semifinals to eventual winner Truckee. And while the road to the Northern Nevada 3A soccer finals for both the boys and girls teams once again goes through the Wolverines, the youth-laden Warrior girls boast the strength and experience of a veteran squad – a group that plans on challenging for the 1997 title.

“We’re putting out our fullest, whether it be practice or games,” said returning all-state junior goal keeper Renee Cascino. “The girls are more dedicated this year. We’re going to have a real good team.”

Returners joining Cascino and Darrow include all-state center-forward sophomore Corky Novotny; with juniors Samantha Laurian, Megan Glasson, Charity Marshall and Liuna Solis. Freshmen Caitlin Fagan and Mandy Ralls will also be looked upon as on-the-field threats.

In short, it’s a mix of a solid core group and talented incoming crop from which first-year coach Mike Leeper expects only the best.

“We have a real solid group of returners. And we have a strong feeder program sending us solid players every year,” said Leeper, who assumed the job from Greg Merkel, last year’s coach who now heads the junior varsity coed team. “They’re dedicated, disciplined and focused. If they play to their ability, the only thing that can stop them is themselves.”

But don’t expect many missed opportunities from this band of Warriors. In just two short weeks of workouts, Leeper has instilled a strong sense of discipline and quickly gained respect from his new team.

“Coach is really working us hard, so I don’t think we’ll get tired as fast. You can really see the improvement in yourself and others,” Cascino said.

Added Novotny, “We’re more into it. We have a young team, but we’re really working together. Last year, I don’t think we’d go into it to win. It’s different now.”

The Warriors will once again will be fighting for a top-four league finish, with the main challenges coming from Truckee, Incline and North Tahoe. But if Leeper and the girls have their way, it’ll be the rest of the league chasing them for a playoff berth.

“I expect them to have the desire to win and be willing to listen, learn and improve. We’ve had a good week of daily doubles (practices) and everything is looking good up to this point,” Leeper said. “We’re going to be solid up the middle. As long as we can control the midfield, we’ll control the game. Everything comes from there.

“These girls want to win, which makes them easy to coach. It’s realistic to say we’ll be back to state. That’s our goal.”

Whittell begins preseason play this weekend at a five-game tournament in Quincy, Calif.

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