By Scott Gulbransen

Special to The Ely Times

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. Not after the season the White Pine varsity Ladycats put together.

In what was a historic and record-breaking season for the Ladycats, the end came swiftly and abruptly this past weekend in a 5-1 loss to Spring Creek during the 2017 NIAA 3A Northern girls Soccer Championship held in Winnemucca.

It was White Pine’s first loss of the season.

The tournament, which consisted of an eight-team 2A class and 3A class field, pitted the 2A Ladycats against the 3A Spartans. Spring Creek started the scoring early and it was just too much for first-year Coach Juan Carlos Cervantes’s team to catch up.

It’s the second year straight Spring Creek has ended the Ladycats season in the tournament. Last year, the Spartans downed White Pine 2-1 in overtime.

The deep and gritty Ladycats defense helped build the team’s undefeated season but facing the higher division Spartans, that defense couldn’t hold despite White Pine giving it their all.

Cervantes has to feel good about how his first season at the helm of the Lady Cats turned out. While he did inherit an established and winning program, this year’s squad finished the season a perfect 21-0 including being undefeated in league play at 14-0.

Because Nevada does not have a 2A state championship, the winner of final four in the state 3A championship will claim the state crown. Those teams include Truckee facing Pahrump Valley, and South Tahoe matched against Sunrise Mountain. The tournament takes place this weekend at Spanish Springs High School.

Cervantes attributed the loss to a hiccup with the team’s mental preparation heading into the game.

“Our season was good and we didn’t have as much adversity as you do sometimes,” Cervantes said. “Then, we get into this game and they score two early goals and we mentally froze.”

Cervantes said the team did spend time preparing for the game focusing on the mental aspect. The coach believes that loss of intensity early on was the key factor in the loss.

“We did have some depth issues as well but it came down to who wanted it more,” he said. “I tell our kids all the time: I can’t want it more than you.”

In thinking about how the loss will help prepare his team for next season, Cervantes was quick to, again, focus on preparing his team mentally.

“My goal is to have the girls think of themselves as athletes first,” Cervantes said. “Not a soccer player, not a female soccer player, but an athlete. We’ll work into next season a focus on the mental part of the game for sure.”