Youth and skill compliment, age and wisdom
Shelly Zaskoda and Whitney Gielow are the only two 2001 regular starters on Whittell’s 2002 volleyball team.
And, surprisingly, the Warriors of 2002 have gone further than the Warriors of 2001.
There’s a whole new crew of young Warrior players, and they’ve managed to outperform a 2001 team that had four seniors who earned 2A first-team, all-league recognition.
Go figure, right?
If you did, you’d come up with a handful of individuals from the Warrior lineup who illustrate that youth and skill sometimes compliment age and wisdom remarkably well.
Especially when the aged and wise happen to have boatloads of raw athletic talent.
The combination made for a Whittell team that finished second at zone and as the No. 2 seed in the NIAA/U.S. Band 2A State Girls’ Volleyball Championship. It’s the first time the Warriors have advanced to state since winning it all two years ago.
“We didn’t know what kind of team we were going to have this year,” said senior co-team captain Alicia Thorne. “The (younger girls) have proved to be awesome players.”
Sophomores such as Gielow, Anna Kingman, Tina Hordzwick, Sydney Colvin and Jackie Marino are a big part of why the Warriors have been so successful this year.
But the process of driving a bunch of young guns to the NIAA/U.S. Bank State 2A Girls’ Volleyball Championship begins at the top and goes down. It starts with head coach Dan McLaughlin, who coached the 2000 Warriors to their first state title in 14 years, and their first state title since moving up to 2A.
Next in that pecking order would be a core of experienced players with talent such as Zaskoda, Jessica Rickman, Thorne and Marie Peterson.
Zaskoda, co-team captain with Thorne, has been with volleyball since middle school. She’s been a leader on offense and the kind of smart player who helps a young team perform beyond its age.
Thorne, who’s played with Zaskoda, Marie Peterson and others since eighth grade at Kingsbury Middle School, has been a strong force all around — and particularly serving.
No one can underestimate the ability of Rickman, who returned from South Medford High School, in Medford, Ore., to join her former teammates for her senior season. She’s been a consistent killer and blocker.
Moving from a 4A school to a 2A school was a scary thought at one time for the star hitter. But with the Warriors, she feels right at home.
“My old team wasn’t as well-rounded as this team,” she said. “There are some big schools that don’t have the talent we have here.”
In all likelihood, the Warriors of 2002 will also have first-team, all-league players.
The difference then comes from the youth.
“They tell you what needs to be done, and when you do a good job, they tell you. They’re really encouraging,” said Kingman of the upperclassmen guidance. “Half of these girls I had never talked to before. But now I’m friends with all of them. There’s not one person on this team I don’t like.”
The Warriors have relied on chemistry and depth throughout the year. Now, they need to pull out all the stops.
Two of the four teams in state are undefeated, including the Warriors’ first opponent, The Meadows’ Mustangs.
The Warriors beat them two years ago. Last year, the Mustangs won it all. Nearly all of their players will return this year.
“I know if we play as a team, we’ll win,” Rickman said. “If we play at the highest level we can, I know we can beat them.”
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