Year in review: 2005 |

Year in review: 2005

by Joey Crandall

From the Douglas baseball team capturing its first league title in nearly 15 years to the Tiger boys’ basketball team scraping together a late-season bid for the playoffs, 2005 carried with it plenty of twists and turns in the Carson Valley sporting world.

The 2005 graduating class of seniors sent 18 athletes on to college athletics to join the more than 30 other Douglas grads playing at the next level.

Sierra Lutheran High School embarked on its first full year in varsity athletics at the 1A level and Douglas said good-bye to longtime athletic director Steve Wilcox.

Gardnerville’s John-Henry Lambin was mentioned in Sports Illustrated for his work encouraging asthmatic or dyslexic children to play sports and Gardnerville’s Headquarters Skateshop was twice mentioned in Thrasher magazine.

Douglas grad Kristy Olsen appeared on ESPN2 while playing outfield for the Iowa State softball team. The Cyclones upset No. 4 Texas 1-0 on a run that scored after Olsen sacrificed the runner over to second base.

We delved into the issues of the past year and selected the 10 stories that stood out over all the others. The stories that defined this year in Douglas sports were:

1. Hot seats at Douglas High

It was simply a tough year for coaches for the Tigers.

Douglas had coaches in four of the eight major sports resign in 2005.

Three coaches resigned after tenures marred with problem parents, threats of legal action and any other variety of issues that cropped up. Two of the resignations came during their respective seasons.

Ironically, in spite of the tumult off the playing field, each program made the

playoffs, one won a league championship and another finished as league runners-up.

Keith Lewis resigned as the boys’ basketball head coach to spend more time with his family. His resignation came after guiding the team into the playoffs with a late-season rally and nearly upsetting top-seeded Reed High in Sparks.

Jim Puzey resigned as the head softball coach with one week left in the regular season. He submitted his resignation after throwing a player’s bat into the ground during a practice – denting it – and yelling at the team. The team scraped together one win in the playoffs, but lost twice to end its season.

Velvet Steel resigned halfway through the volleyball season after a group of parents persisted in questioning her about her procedures in selecting the team at the beginning of the season. Steel said the communication she received bordered on harassment and felt it would be a distraction to the team. Douglas swept through its league schedule, capturing its sixth-consecutive league championship and appearing in its seventh regional championship match in eight years.

Fred Schmidt, longtime coach of the girls’ soccer program, resigned after 11 years at the helm in order to focus his attention on his family and on a new job.

2. Douglas captures Sierra League baseball title

After losing four of the top five spots in its lineup and its entire starting pitching rotation, no one really knew what to expect from the Tiger baseball team in 2005.

What Douglas had, as it turned out, was one of the most potent lineups in school history.

The Tigers proved early and often that it had the skill and the speed to score runs in bunches and that it would be sound enough defensively to back up an extremely strong pitching staff.

Douglas rattled off a 17-1 record in Sierra League play and had a 13-game win streak at one time en route to finishing the regular season ranked No.1 in the Sierra Nevada Sports Media Poll.

The Tigers claimed the Sierra League championship with stunning sweeps of Reno and Wooster on back-to-back weekends. Reno had never failed to win the league championship since the Sierra League’s inception in 2000.

Douglas eventually fell to Spanish Springs in the regional semifinals, a team that handed the Tigers four of its nine losses on the year. The only other Northern Nevada team that was able to top the Tigers was Carson, in a classic 11-inning 6-5 tilt at Ron McNutt Field in Carson City.

John Glover was named the Sierra League coach of the year and second baseman/pitcher Chad Walling was named Sierra League player of the year. Outfielders Spike Agosta and D.J. Brady, catcher Roman Davis, shortstop Jimmy Pierce, pitcher Tyson Estes and designated hitter Phil Mannelly all earned first-team nods while third baseman/pitcher Chris Balcom was a second-teamer and first baseman Kyle Luken was named honorable mention.

3. Douglas volleyball wins league title, again

When it comes to talent-laden rosters, it doesn’t get much deeper than the 2005 Lady Tiger volleyball squad.

Coming off a state runner-up finish in 2004, everyone penned Douglas in as the favorite coming into this Fall. The Tigers returned five of six starters and a number of solid role players off the bench.

They didn’t disappoint. Douglas was rarely challenged along the way, taking down Galena in its opening tournament and rifling through its league schedule 14-0.

Galena came back to win the regional championship in four sets after Douglas raced out to an early lead. The Grizzlies went on to claim the state championship.

Setter Katy Marsh was named the Sierra League player of the year while Whitney Estes and Monica Knight each were named first-teamers.

4. Standout athlete dies in car accident

Just weeks before the start of the 2005 football season, Douglas High lost a talented and loved student-athlete in Cory Jackson.

Jackson passed away in a car accident in Kingsbury Grade on July 21, becoming the second Tiger in as many years to die in a car wreck. Softball player Nicole Snyder died in a car accident in the summer of 2004.

Jackson wrestled, swam and played football for the Tigers. He finished 13th at the Northern 4A Regionals in the 100-meter butterfly.

He also volunteered with the Family Support Council and with Carson Valley Days.

5. Puzey named Pack Edge athlete of the Year

After a stellar high school career, Brittany Puzey was named the Pack Edge Northern Nevada female athlete of the year for her efforts in softball and basketball during her senior year.

Puzey, who will play outfield for the University of Nevada softball team this year, was a unanimous all-region and all-league pick in her senior season in basketball and helped lead the Tigers to their fourth-consecutive regional semifinal appearance.

Her senior softball season ended early after she broke her thumb sliding into first base, but she was the Sierra League player of the year in 2004 and defeated defending state champion Centennial with an eight-strikeout, two-hit gem early in the 2005 season.

About a month after breaking her thumb, Puzey returned to the Tigers’ lineup with limited base running duties and several at-bats.

6. Brinkmeyer named Sierra Nevada athlete of the year

Not long after Puzey was named the Northern Nevada athlete of the year by the Pack Edge, basketball teammate Erin Brinkmeyer was named the athlete of the year by the Sierra Nevada Media Group.

Brinkmeyer started 118 of the 119 games played in her four years with the Lady Tiger basketball program.

She had a hand in 86 wins and played for the two winningest teams in Douglas history.

She was the build-around player for the most successful era in Douglas girls’ basketball history.

Brinkmeyer averaged 17.1 points a game in her senior season and scored more than 500 points on her way to unanimous all-region and all-league selections.

She was a 3.9 student and was ranked 15th in a class of 400.

She is starting for the University of the Redlands this season.

7. Girls’ basketball wins 22

With two of the region’s top athletes, it was no surprise that the Lady Tigers basketball team rolled to a 22-7 record in 2005.

Brinkmeyer and Puzey were joined in the starting lineup by senior point guard Tammy Gough, junior center Monica Knight and freshman guard Bridget Maestretti.

Douglas broke the state record for free throws made in a season (440) and outscored Wooster 35-1 in one quarter late in the season.

The 22 wins was the second-most in the program’s history, second only to the 2001-02 Tigers who won 26 on their way to a state runner-up finish.

Douglas topped a tough Galena squad in the first round of the playoffs and pushed top-ranked Reed to the brink in the semifinals before losing 62-58.

8. Makeshift football lineup makes playoffs

Following tough loss to eventual region champion Hug High School, the Douglas football team had its playoff hopes severely bruised when 13 players, including nearly every starting skill player, were suspended for violating the school’s policy on alcohol.

The remainder of the Tigers roster struggled to find its feet in a loss to Reno, but bounced back to thump Wooster and clinch a playoff spot.

“I can’t be prouder of these guys on the whole,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said at the time. “It was against all odds and they got after it and did a great job.”

Among the Tigers who stepped up in the final two games were quarterback Cole Hamzik, running backs Julius Bailey, Phil Mannelly and Brock Peterson, receivers Steven Passalacqua and Michael Koerner and tight end Brent Koontz.

9. Grobben takes No. 3 regional seed

After a stellar youth career in which he became a literal landmark at the Lampe Park Tennis Court, Gabe Grobben finally got to participate in his first full high school tennis season.

The result was a downright masterful performance as Grobben piled up a 27-1 record to claim the No. 3 singles seed out of the Sierra League.

Grobben had been ranked No. 1 in NorCal play at the age of 10, and was simply dominating on the Northern 4A high school circuit. Several opponents throughout the year were left with nothing to do but laugh as Grobben blew his powerful serve by them and used his precision ground game to dismantle them.

He took an early exit at the regional tournament, losing to the High Desert No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals.

10. Track project gets funding approval

The long-running, and often long-suffering, effort to get an all-weather track put in at the high school finally got its final approval from the Douglas County School Board in August.

The board agreed to fund the remaining balance of the project, up to $100,000 of the cost.

Groundbreaking is expected in March and the track should be completed in August of 2006.

Said fundraising coordinator and Douglas cross country coach Keith Cole, “That track will be such a great thing for the community all the way around.”

n Joey Crandall can be reached at or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.