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White River sports previews, girls and boys hoops, girls and boys wrestling
With the start of another basketball season just around the corner, White River High girls coach Chris Gibson offers a traditional refrain.
“We’re just hoping to win a game,” he says.
That’s a huge understatement, of course, coming from a coach who has led the Lady Hornets to 11 trips to the state hoop tournament in the past 13 seasons. Gibson and his crew are always found near the top of the league standings and are no strangers to the state rankings.
Last season was particularly impressive, as White River won 27 of 30 games and placed third in the Class 2A state tournament in Yakima.
While his program took a hit with last year’s graduation of point guard Cassidy France, Gibson appears poised to keep his Hornets in contention for another league title.
The coming season will see senior Kennedy Hobert at the top of her game, combining 5-10 height with an ability to connect from the perimeter. She was the team’s leading scorer a season ago, averaging nearly 17 points per game and was named to the all-tourney team in Yakima.
While Hobert might be the central figure in the Hornet scoring, there are plenty of others ready to keep the offense humming. Senior Sutton Mills has plenty of experience at point guard, sophomore Amanda Lance can be counted on for both ball-handling and long-range firepower and senior Crystal Narolski brings a 6-foot presence to the middle. The remainder of this season’s varsity includes Kristin Sturdivan, Taylor Hillius, Mollie Rasmussen, Darian Gore, Katie Durrant, Katherine Timmerman, Maci Goethals and Ashlea Mills.
Hobert was an all-SPSL 2A selection a season ago and Lance earned second-team honors. Gibson was the league’s coach of the year.
The White River High boys basketball team will be looking to continue its winning ways, coming off a season in which the Hornets brought home second-place hardware from the Class 2A state tournament.
That lofty achievement – which included winning eight of 10 playoff games on the way to a 24-7 overall record - was sparked by seniors Jason Tyler and Billy Kiel, both lost to graduation.
But the cupboard is far from empty for coach Rick Tripp and his assistants. Height returns in the form of juniors Brandon Dove and Spencer Swigart and senior Alex Sayler is back at point guard, ready to run the Hornet show. Sayler collected first-team, all-South Puget Sound League 2A honors a year ago. Sophomore Dustin France returns for a sophomore season, having made the varsity club as a freshman, and other varsity veterans include seniors Robert Foster and Sam Schifter.
Rounding out the varsity roster for Tripp – last year’s SPSL 2A coach of the year - are juniors Bo Dudley, Clayton Holm, Brandon Garvin and Kellan Unjian, and sophomore Brandon Scheer.
With a handful of tournament-tested veterans on his roster, coach Rich Valdez is prepared to lead the White River High girls wrestling team into a campaign of high hopes.
Expectations are bred from success and the Hornet girls are no strangers to competing among the state’s best. White River took fourth-place honors at last season’s Class 2A state tourney.
“We are looking to improve upon that and keep building our program,” Valdez said. “There is a strong tradition of wrestling here at White River and we want to help keep that tradition strong and thriving”
Sam Mitchell, now a senior, heads this year’s crop of girl grapplers, having fought her way to third-place state honors a season ago. Also a veteran of the state tourney is senior Dylan Fagan, who claimed fifth place with a pin in her final match of last year’s state tournament.
Another qualifier for last year’s Mat Classic, Morgan Shirey, is back for another season of mat competition.
Having a large contingent of returnees gives the program a boost.
“Most of them were here last year and witnessed the level of commitment and hard work it takes to be successful on the women’s wrestling scene,” Valdez said.
“We feel like we’re in a pretty good environment to put a top team on the mat this year.”
White River High kicks off another wrestling season with a state placer on its roster – senior Chris Skinner – and a regional championship on its resume.
The regional title came last season and resulted in six Hornets earning berths into the Class 2A state tournament. Skinner was the only one advancing to the medal round, where he placed sixth at 182 pounds.
The good news for White River wrestling fans is four of the six are back for another campaign. Aside from Skinner, state tournament veterans include Brandon Short, Trevor Kurtz and Carl Klein.