Things started to change when the local school hired Rob Moreland to take over its program prior to the 2008-09 season. Moreland is somewhat of a Northern 4A coaching vagabond having coached successfully both girls and boys at different Reno-area schools in the past decade-plus.
However, Moreland owns a business in Sparks and lives in the Spanish Springs valley so taking the SSHS job was a good fit, for both himself and Cougar athletes. Moreland brought instant credibility to the Spanish Springs boys soccer program and successful results soon followed.
In Moreland's first season at the helm, the 2008-09 fall campaign, the Cougars qualified for the regional playoffs. The program had just one postseason berth in seven previous seasons.
This recently finished 2010-11 season was the breakout effort for Spanish Springs. The Cougars earned the High Desert League's second seed, their highest finish ever. Then, the Cougars went on to post a trio of tight regional playoff wins and capture the Northern 4A crown. Not only was it the first in program history, but it was the first in an boys SSHS team sport since the Cougars baseball program took home a North title in 2005.
Moreland deserves high praise for quickly building a respectable and championship-caliber program in just three years. Congratulations Cougars on your regional championship and best of luck in repeating in 2011.
•I looked over the High Desert League girls soccer postseason awards list and noticed the three major individual awards, as well as the entire first team, were comprised of players from Reno, Spanish Springs and Reed, the top three teams in the league standings at the conclusion of the regular season. Shortly thereafter, I was imparted with the information that the coaches of those schools were the only three to attend the all-league meeting, meaning McQueen, North Valleys and Hug were not represented.
That should be unacceptable to the athletic administrators at the three schools who saw their coaches no-show. I understand conflicts come up, but those coaches with "better things to do" could have sent an assistant coach or sent a note with the top players they wanted to see recognized. In short, they could have found a way to communicate their choices.
The coaches who no-showed did themselves and their players an injustice. The girls soccer players at McQueen, North Valleys and Hug committed their time and effort for two and a half months. Their coaches could have gone to a meeting for an hour and a half.
I don't blame the coaches at Reno, Spanish Springs and Reed one bit for getting their kids maximum representation. It's hard to vote for a player from another school if a coach isn't there to make a case for her.
Attending the all-league meeting is a coach's responsibility as much as overseeing practice, coaching a game, or chaperoning a bus trip. If a conflict comes up, it's that coach's job to make sure their team is represented. This was clear dereliction of duty and the girls soccer players at McQueen, North Valleys and Hug paid the price for it.
•At Sparks High, the Railroaders' athletic programs dropped out of Nevada's large-school 4A ranks after the 2002-03 school year. After one transition year, Sparks became a full-fledged 3A North member for the 2004-05 season. The move was a good one for Sparks High programs.
It may not have been better for any one program more than Sparks boys soccer. The Railroaders have become a perennial Northern 3A region title contender. In fact, the Railroaders won their second regional title, since the classification change, earlier this month.
Sparks is now mentioned in the same breath as Truckee, North Tahoe, South Tahoe and Incline when it comes to regional favorites. That's largely due to the hard work of coach Frank Avilla and his staff as well as the supportive administration at Sparks.
Sparks fell in the 3A state title game last weekend, but they once again proved their mettle, beating every opponent they faced at some point in the season. The Railroaders should be lauded for another fine season.
Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune's sports editor. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org