by Joey Crandall

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December 30, 2011
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Sports Year in Review: Championships, bright futures headlined 2011

We'll go ahead and call 2011 the year of the individual in Carson Valley sports.

Douglas High School produced four 4A state champions during the calendar year, all in individual sports, and Sierra Lutheran added another 11 small-school individual titles, along with a pair of team titles in track and cross country.

Douglas saw one of its former baseball standouts get yet another stride closer to the major leagues with a late-spring promotion, and produced its first wrestling state champion in five years.

Not that the team was entirely set aside during the year. One group ascended to the top 15 in regional rankings of the Western United States and another advanced to its third regional final in five years.

Here's a look at the stories that most caught our attention during the last year:

To say the 2011 cross country campaign was a breakout year for the Douglas High cross country program may be a bit of an understatement.

Freshman phenom Lindsey Adams lifted the program to new heights, becoming the first female at the school to win the state title and only the second individual to win a state cross country title.

She was surrounded by a talented core that boosted the Lady Tigers to a second-place finish in the team standings and set Douglas up as a potential title contender over the next two or three years.

It was the first time since 1998 that the cross country program had qualified for state as a team. Douglas also had a young and talented group on the boys, including state qualifier Brandon Pankey, that could make the overall program a major player on the state level.

If nothing else, the team's new orange-and-white checkerboard uniforms will give the cross country community plenty to talk about in the coming years.

The Douglas wrestling program had fallen on a state title drought since Shane Miller (now the Tigers' head coach) had won the 185-pound class in 2006.

Dillon Spates changed that last winter as he wrapped up a dominating senior campaign with impressive wins in both the regional and state tournaments in the 130-pound class.

He went unbeaten against Northern 4A opponents and won the Lawrence Miller Invitational for the fourth-consecutive year.

Spates signed with Waldorf College and has already qualified for nationals with the Warriors.

After a strong 2010, the Douglas High track & field team got another outstanding year out of its pole vaulters. Junior Amanda Brazeau repeated her state title, breaking her own school record with a vault of 11 feet, 9 inches, while junior Nick Maestretti claimed his first state championship on the boys' side with a vault of 15-3.

The duo was part of a deep crew that included Colt Sliva and Justin Seyfried, who both narrowly missed the cut for state.

Brazeau stands as the school's best-ever female pole vaulter by nearly four feet.

Maestretti along with several of the school's male pole vaulters, could make a push for the school record of 16 feet in the coming year.

If there is one moment from 2011 that will inevitably embed itself in the pages of Carson Valley sports lore, it would have to be the final seconds of the Northern 4A regional basketball semifinal at Carson High School in February.

Douglas trailed Hug by two in an already epic double overtime matchup with just seconds left on the clock. Best case scenario would have seemed for the game to simply go to a third overtime.

As the ball was inbounded from the Hug baseline, Douglas senior Theo Denson somehow squirreled away unchecked to the lower right corner of the Tiger baseline. After calmly receiving the pass, Denson gave a quick jump turn behind the 3-point line and launched the shot that would become the stuff of small-town legend. The ball slipped through the net as the buzzer sounded, giving Douglas the 78-77 win. The crowd's reaction to the shot instantly became The R-C's photo of the year.

The win clinched Douglas' third regional final appearance in the last five years, a truly remarkable feat in the present age of hyper-pressurized AAU offseason training.

Douglas fell to Manogue two days later in the regional championship.

The Douglas girls' tennis program has developed itself into a competitive unit over the past five years, but it appeared its season would come to a quiet close against the perennial power Galena Grizzlies in the regional semifinals.

Galena had narrowly beaten the Tigers earlier in the season, but were playing with the benefit of home-court advantage in the postseason.

Douglas got three much-needed wins from its singles players in the second round, including upset victories from Sarah Weaver (who won an 11-9 tiebreaker) and Courtney McKimmey. The doubles team of Amanda Caras and Kelly Sonnemann sent the match into a tiebreaker round with its 6-4 win in the third round.

Weaver rebounded with a 7-2 win in the tiebreaker over a player who had beaten her in the first round and Ingrid Carlson and Rochelle Seymour picked up a crucial doubles tiebreaker win to clinch the match for the Tigers. Junior standout Kari TenBroeck contributed four wins on the day as well.

The win moved Douglas to its second regional final in three years.

Former Douglas baseball standout Chris Balcom-Miller continued to grind away at the minor leagues of professional baseball, completing his first full season in the Boston Red Sox organization.

The 6-2 right-handed pitcher got a late-May promotion to the Double-A Portland Seadogs where he started 16 games. He went 3-6 with a 4.81 ERA once he arrived at Portland, but struck out 75 batters in 82 innings while walking only 32.

Balcom-Miller, 22, is currently projecting out as a bullpen arm or back-end-of-the-rotation starter at the major league level. He should start the year back in Portland.

It seemed from the time the 2011 senior core of the Douglas girls' soccer team first set foot on campus, they were intent on completely re-writing the school record books.

As freshman, they started their careers winning their first 13 games. They seldom looked back.

2011 was the year those records found a final resting place as the senior core of four-year veterans - Tia Lyons, Katie Dry, Bri Randall, Shannon Hubbard and Cora Moody - exited as the school's all-time winningest class (85-9-6).

As a team, the Tigers tied the school record for wins in a season (22), closed out the longest unbeaten (32) and longest win (22) streaks in school history and tied the school and state 4A record for shutouts in a season (16).

Randall, the team's senior keeper, broke the state record for career shutouts (31).

Lyons became the school's all-time leading goal-scorer (67) and she and Lexi VonSchottenstein each broke school records for goals in a game (4).

The year brought a major shift in offensive strategy for the Douglas football team, long known as a balanced power run unit.

The Tigers debuted an up-tempo, no-huddle offense heading into the year and quickly took to making its own marks in the school record books.

Douglas featured the region's top passer (junior Michael Nolting) and top rusher (junior Conner Peterson) during the regular season while Nolting raced away with the single-season school record for total offense (3,245 yards and 32 touchdowns).

Nolting also carried every single-season passing record and Peterson rose to No. 2 on the school's career rushing charts (2,354 yards) with his senior year still to come.

Not to be lost in the mix was a deep and talented core of athletic receivers, led by seniors Nate VonAhsen, Nick Maestretti, Connor Hughes and Steven Werth.

The offensive line steadily improved as the year went on and played its best game against Reed in the regional semifinals.

Sierra Lutheran High School, which opened its permanent campus near the Carson-Douglas line in 2010, took a major step forward with its athletic program this fall when it unveiled its long-awaited gymnasium.

The state-of-the-art facility gave the Falcons an immediate home to its volleyball and basketball programs and represents the first piece of a strong foundation toward the future strength of the athletic program.

The 2010 Douglas High volleyball team was so dominant during its state and regional title run that many joked the team could have been just as successful at the college level.

The group, which included an all-senior starting rotation, made good on those suppositions as seven seniors signed with four-year schools in the spring of 2011.

All seven contributed to their college programs this fall, with several acting in starting, or high-value, off-the-bench roles.

Brenna White, a rangy outside hitter who signed with Mercy College in New York, established herself as one of the best players in the country at the Division II level, leading all NCAA divisions with 652 kills and setting a freshman record for kills in a season. The highlight of the season came during a 31-kill effort against Molloy in November.

The other signees were Mia Townsell (Chicago State), Shannon Dugan (Lynn University), Keely Latham (University of Charleston), Jackie Harper (Anderson University), Emily Garcia (Bentley University) and Erin Allison (Marymount University).

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The Record Courier Updated Dec 30, 2011 04:17PM Published Dec 30, 2011 04:12PM Copyright 2011 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.