2004 Carson Valley sports year in review
And what a year it was!
We had heroic individual efforts on local, state and even national level, and we had a couple of teams scrape together Cinderella seasons seemingly penned directly for a Disney movie script.
To say the athletic department at Douglas High School had a successful year would be a little bit of an understatement.
The eight major team sports combined for 154 wins, 59 losses and three ties, and only three of those teams had double-figure totals in the loss column. Every single team finished well above the .500 mark.
The Carson-Douglas rodeo club even sent two Douglas High students to the national championships with Keston Denny qualifying in steer wrestling and Jesse Bartorelli earning a ticket in bareback riding.
After pouring over the issues from the past year, we selected the stories that stuck out above all the others in our Valley. After the dust cleared, our top ten stories of 2004 were:
1. Douglas softball wins first regional title since 1993
The Lady Tigers showed early and often that it could go on monster streaks when it had to, which proved to be its most valuable weapon through the Northern 4A Regional Tournament.
Douglas came in as the top seed from the Sierra League but promptly lost in the second round.
The Tigers came back to win four consecutive games to claw their way into the regional title game against McQueen.
The Lancers took an 8-0 lead and appeared well on their way to claiming the title, but Douglas put together a rally for the ages and took an 11-10 lead on a three-run home run from catcher Valerie Smith.
McQueen put a runner on second, and the Lancers’ top hitter knocked a sinking line drive into right field with only one out, a sure RBI hit. Tiger outfielder Kristy Olsen came out of nowhere to make a diving catch.
Olsen sprung to her feet and made a strong throw to second, doubling up the runner and clinching the title for the Tigers.
Douglas pummeled Silverado 12-0 in the first round of the state playoffs, led by a no-hit pitching performance from Kellei Kizer, and knocked McQueen out 7-3 in the next round to advance to the state championship.
The Tigers ran into a tough Centennial squad in the title games, however, dropping 13-2 and 5-4 games to the Bulldogs at Carson High School, despite a late rally in the second game.
It was an end to a magical season for the Tigers in which they opened with 3 straight losses at the prestigious Best of the West Tournament in Bullhead City, Ariz., and then proceeded to win their next nine games.
Douglas also won the Reed Easter Tournament and put together a 13-game win streak through the second half of the season on its way to an overall 40-10 record.
The Tigers featured one of the deepest and most dangerous pitching rotation in the state with Kayla Dunn, Kizer and Brittany Puzey all garnering all-league honors. Puzey was named the Sierra League Player of the year with a 2.42 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 119 innings.
Dunn gave up only 11 earned runs and Kizer walked just 20 batters.
The trio combined to strike out 303 hitters and allowed only seven home runs on the year.
The pitching alone could have carried the Tigers to the regional title, but Douglas also boasted possibly the most ferocious lineup in the North.
Douglas led off with twin spark-plug hitters Kaycee Wilcks and Olsen, who combined to steal 44 bases and score 95 of the Tigers 267 runs on the year.
Puzey batted third with nine home runs, 40 RBIs and a .438 average. Dunn was the clean-up hitter, driving in 60 runs and Valerie Smith sat in the fifth spot with a .394 average and 41 RBIs. Third baseman Stevie Smith rounded out the core of the lineup in the sixth spot with 33 RBIs and a .368 average. All six were first-team all-league honorees.
Defensive standouts shortstop Jessie Kizer and utility player Sam Willson each earned second-team honors for their play on the year.
“It was a very solid team,” Douglas coach Todd Wilcks said after the season. “We had great pitching, we hit the ball well. There weren’t any real weaknesses. It was just a great squad.”
2. Douglas Pee Wee football advances to national title
It was a run that covered anything from the amazing to the improbable, but at the end of the road the Douglas Pop Warner Pee Wee football team found themselves facing the Newington, Conn., Knights in the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
Douglas used a staunch defense and an efficient offense to roll to the Sagebrush Empire League title with a 9-1 record. And then things got interesting.
The Tigers’ title run earned them a berth in the Pacific Northwest Regional Championship game at Sparks High in late November.
Douglas was pitted against a tough Almaden, Calif., squad that had emerged undefeated through 13 games. The first big snow storm of the season greeted the Chargers as they arrived in Nevada and Douglas wasted little time jumping all over Almaden, winning 20-0 on a field covered with nearly a foot of snow.
The win clinched a spot in the Pop Warner Super Bowl Playoffs in Orlando, Fla. After a furious fundraising campaign to even get the team there, the Tigers showed up and shocked the Yuma, Ariz., Scorpions with a 14-12 win and advanced to the national title game against Newington.
Douglas lost, finishing the season with a national runner-up trophy and several appearances on ESPN, but left behind a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten.
The Tigers finished the year with seven shutouts to their credit. They outscored their opponents 217-40 and were the first Douglas team to ever even qualify for the regional playoffs.
3. Rippee named top athlete in Greater Nevada
It was a honor that surprised no one who’d ever seen him play, but NevadaPrep.com named Douglas High’s Luke Rippee as the Greater Nevada athlete of the year by awarding him the 2003-04 Dan Scafidi Award in June.
Simply put, Rippee was quite arguably the best all-around athlete to ever put on the orange and black for the Tigers.
He closed out his career at Douglas with a stellar senior baseball season, being named the Sierra League player of the year. His play at shortstop was gritty and he managed to make more than a few highlight-reel type plays, but it was his bat that drew attention in the 2004 season.
He batted over .400 for the Tigers out of the leadoff spot, and was also one of the region’s top power hitters on the year.
He also started at point guard for the Douglas basketball team for three seasons, earning second-team all-league honors as the Tigers went 17-11 before being eliminated in the first round of the Northern 4A Regional playoffs.
But it was his play on the football field that most will remember him for. In his senior season, he threw for 1,968 yards and 17 touchdowns. He rushed for an additional 12 touchdowns on the year and led the Tigers to a remarkable 11-1 record.
For his career, he obliterated the school’s all-time records with 4,064 passing yards, 292 completions, and 39 touchdown passes in three seasons starting at quarterback for the Tigers. He also rushed for 22 scores and was a hard-hitting safety on the defensive side of the ball.
Rippee was named the Northern 4A player of the year in both his junior and senior seasons and walked on at the University of Nevada as a safety. He closed out his high school career with a stunning 221-yard, two-touchdown, offensive-MVP performance in leading the Silver All-Stars to a 34-12 victory in the Sertoma Classic in June.
“Rippee would have been remembered as a shining light in the Minden-Gardnerville area even if he’d never touched a football, basketball or baseball,” NevadaPrep.com editor Chuck Hildebrand wrote. “His athletic abilities, both individually and in terms of taking his teams to heights never before scaled at Douglas mark him as the most influential Greater Nevada athlete of the new millennium.”
4. Spike Agosta breaks Douglas single-season rushing mark
Heading into what was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Douglas football team, no one really knew what to expect.
Tiger running back Spike Agosta made relatively short work of answering a good number of the questions surrounding the team, taking Douglas’ opening play from scrimmage 44 yards down the sideline for a touchdown against Reed.
The theme stayed true throughout the year as Agosta became the Tigers’ go-to back, running behind a scrappy and physical line anchored by tackle Tyson Estes and rounded out by guards Henry O’Hair, Cory Hartzell and Trevor Freitas, center Datin Whatcott, tackles Brent Koontz and Nate Newton, tight ends Bryan Brady and Kyle Luken and fullback Keenan Copp.
Agosta broke Dusty Cooper’s single-season rushing record with a 238-yard, three-touchdown performance in the season-finale against Carson and wrapped up the year 1,881 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was the region’s leading scorer, thanks in part to 39 PATs and a handful of field goals he kicked, putting him at 207 points on the year. He was named the Sierra League Offensive Player of the Year for his efforts. In recognition of Agosta’s record-breaking year, linemen Estes, Whatcott, Newton and Freitas all earned all-league honors as well.
Douglas wrapped up the year with an 8-3 record and advanced to the regional semifinals before losing at McQueen to a tough Lancer squad.
5. Shawn Estes enjoys comeback season
After several seasons of bouncing around the big leagues trying to find a place to fit in, former Douglas High standout Shawn Estes made a case for himself in the Colorado Rockies rotation.
Estes signed a minor-league contract with the Rockies before Spring Training opened, but pitched himself into a starting spot with Colorado.
He was the Rockies opening day starter and won a 6-2 decision over Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks. In the game, he struck out three and walked two while retiring 14 of the first 16 batters he faced.
It set the tone for a successful season as he led the Rockies in wins (15) and innings pitched (202).
The winter rumor mill had him in negotiations with Arizona.
6. Douglas baseball team opens up on fire
Maybe it was a surprise to everyone except the Tigers themselves, but Douglas came out for the 2004 baseball season with the most potent batting lineup in the state.
Douglas rattled off an impressive 18 consecutive wins to open the season, and batted an amazing .366 as a team through that stretch. Through the win streak, Douglas had three of its starters batting over .400, and eight of its starting nine batting over .300. They ended six of their first 18 games by the 10-run mercy rule and put up at least 10 runs in 13 of their first 18.
Douglas was the lone undefeated team in the state and was ranked first in the Nevada by the Reno Gazette-Journal before dropping its first loss of the season to Atwater, Calif., in mid-April.
The Tigers later knocked off Reno High, the 19th ranked team in the country at the time according to Baseball America, with a 9-4 victory. It was the Huskies first loss to a Northern Nevada team in more than a year and a half.
Douglas opened with a 9-1 win over Galena in the regional playoffs but was knocked out in a loss to Wooster. Douglas finished with a 26-8 record and had first-team all-league honorees in shortstop Luke Rippee, second baseman Chad Walling, outfielder Bryan Miller and pitcher/utility players Chris Honer and Brandon Huff.
Third baseman Jimmy Pierce, outfielder D.J. Brady and pitcher Tyson Estes earned second-team honors and outfielder Spike Agosta and catchers Roman Davis and Stormy Herald each played significant roles in the Tigers’ offensive onslaught as well.
7. Douglas boys soccer team becomes the new cardiac kids
For a time, it looked like it couldn’t possible get any worse for the Douglas boys soccer squad.
The Tigers opened with four wins, but followed with a disastrous 1-5 stretch that essentially left them completely out of playoff contention.
It happened slowly and quietly, but Douglas started working its way back into the playoff picture with a tie against Elko and a slim 2-1 win over Hug on the road.
Douglas knocked off Reno with a goal from star forward/defender Colten Mellows in the closing seconds of the game and then came back to defeat Wooster on the road.
A tie with Carson to close out the season, and Douglas was suddenly in the playoffs as the Sierra League No. 4 seed.
“These kids have been facing elimination for the entire second half of the season,” coach Phil Sheridan said. “The last seven games have been playoff games.”
Douglas shocked No. 1 Galena with a huge upset in the first round of regionals and followed with a 2-0 upset win over No. 2 Wooster.
Douglas took a 1-0 lead early on in the regional championship against Carson but the Senators answered with three goals to take the title.
“I’ve had a lot of other teams that have won championships,” Sheridan said. “But I wouldn’t trade this group for them, because of the heart these guys have shown.
“In the middle of the season we lost those four league games in a row … These guys never wavered. They just kept saying ‘We’re going all the way.’ They truly believed it and I am proud of them.”
8. All-weather track gets needed boost
The long-developing all-weather track project at Douglas High School got a big boost in May after the Douglas County School District board of trustees dedicated $200,000 for the project for the 2005-06 school year.
Cross Country coach Keith Cole has been spearheading the project for several years and school board members Keith Roman and David Brady fought for the commitment.
The project will still need about $100,000 for completion. An all-weather track would be a valuable asset to both the high school athletic program and to the community, allowing for year-round training on a synthetic surface. Currently, the dirt track is often reduced to mud from frequent rain and snow storms. Once the mud dries, it leaves a dangerous running surface, creating more of an injury risk to athletes.
9. Matt Buyten’s X-Games heroics
Douglas High graduate and Indian Hills resident Matt Buyten found himself right in the spotlight on ESPN during the Step-Up event at the 2004 Summer X-Games held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Buyten was the surprise victor in the event, basically a high jump for dirt bikes, in 2003 and sought to defend his gold against a heavily competitive field.
After several rounds of competition, the only two left were Buyten and motocross legend Jeremy McGrath.
Buyten won the crowd over after separating his right shoulder on his attempt at 30 feet. He had trainers at the event pop his arm back in and proceeded to continue competing.
Buyten’s shoulder popped again, but he managed to clear 33 feet in the sudden-death overtime.
McGrath outlasted Buyten, clearing 33-6, but Buyten’s performance was described as one of the toughest and most memorable of the games.
10. Douglas boys swim team takes third
As far as surprises of the year went, the Douglas boys swim team may have taken the cake.
The Tigers battled injuries throughout the season and went basically unnoticed through the regional meet.
Douglas’ 200 free relay team of Hayes Wilson, Trevor Schaff, Justin White and Andy Sturgess took the regional championship and first-year sophomore diver Steve Owens finished his remarkable rookie year with a regional title of his own.
The relay squad took silver in the 400 free relay, enabling the Tigers to take a respectable-sized team to the state championships.
Sturgess took third in the 50 free and the 100 free at state, setting the school record in the 50 free with a time of 22.16 seconds. The 200 free relay team took third and Owens posted the top score from the north in diving, a 282.10, good enough for sixth overall. Douglas finished in third as a team, knocking off several Southern Nevada powers and rewarding itself for a season of hard work.
Nicole Snyder dies in tragic car accident: Snyder,16, who had long been involved with the Carson Valley softball community, was killed in a July 12 auto accident on Highway 395 between Carson City and Minden while on her way home from work.
Snyder was a star pitcher and utility player for the Douglas High junior varsity softball team and was expected to be one of the top players for the Tigers’ varsity program over the next two years.
Her death was a shock to the Douglas athletic program and is a memory the lies heavy on the hearts of Tiger athletes and coaches. Many of her friends have placed decals with Snyder’s jersey No. 1 on their vehicles, and several athletes are wearing black arm bands this season.
Douglas volleyball win Sierra League title: The Tigers, playing in their first year under coach Velvet Steel, piled up a 20-7 overall and 11-1 Sierra League record en route to a league title and Northern 4A runner-up finish.
Douglas blew past Southern No. 1 seed Palo Verde at state before losing the title match to Galena, settling for state runner-up.
The Tigers won 12 straight matches, including impressive playoff wins over McQueen and Fallon, before running into Galena in the regional championship. Douglas had only one senior in Kayla Dunn and promises to be on of the top teams in 2005.
Douglas tennis enjoys a re-birth: The Tiger tennis program suddenly found itself as one of the powers in the Northern 4A, featuring four of the top players in the region in Josh Sorich, Gabe Grobben, Melissa Oglesby and Nikki Villoria.
Sorich completed the regular season as the first Tiger male to go undefeated since the mid-70s. He competed as a singles player through the first half of the season before teaming with Grobben to enter the regional tournament as the top-ranked doubles squad.
Oglesby and Villoria entered regionals seeded second and fifth respectively in the girls singles bracket. As a team, the Tiger earned five regional seeds, an all-time high for the program.
Hatchett becomes a blue chip: Former Douglas football standout wide receiver Gabe Hatchett drew national recruiting attention after completing his junior college career, first signing with traditional power Nebraska before opting for Toledo.
Girls soccer loses in epic regional semifinal: A talent-laden Douglas High girls soccer team met its match in the regional semifinals against Galena.
After 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, Galena won the match on penalty kicks, getting a couple of spectacular saves from goalie Caitlyn Anderson.
The loss brought to an end a solid run by the Tigers, who finished the year 14-3-1 overall and 10-2 in league play, good enough for the Sierra League title. Douglas defeated rival Carson twice and had two five-game win streaks through the middle of the season.
Forward Christina Bradshaw finished her career as the second all-time leading scorer with 53 career goals. Allison Chapman finished the season with 14 goals and 12 assists, midfielder Krysten Bartshe had 11 goals and seven assists and sophomore forward Morgan LeFever had 16 goals and 15 assists.
— Joey Crandall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.