Despite the pressure of those expectations and some early-season struggles, the Raiders found their groove at the right time and rode a late-season surge to their third straight North state title. Reed's stellar season has earned it the title of Sparks Tribune Girls Team of the Year. The honor is chosen by the newspaper's sports staff and given to the top girls team, in any sport, from a Sparks-area high school.
“To win that (North state) title was breath-taking. For me to be able to experience something so special was great,” Reed's junior goalkeeper Carrington Grimes said. “Very few people get to experience and do that with such a great group of girls. It was a very rewarding thing and it showed me hard work really pays off.”
Reed won the High Desert League's regular season title last fall and then went on to reel off a trio of consecutive playoff wins to capture the North state crown. The Raiders
avenged a 5-2 September non-league road loss at Carson by getting by the Senators 1-0 in a first-round playoff affair. The RHS squad then posted another 1-0 playoff win, in the semifinals over Galena, to advance into the title tilt. Once there, Reed dumped Sierra League regular season champion Douglas 3-1, earning the right to hang another banner.
“The odds were against us,” Reed coach Jason Saville said. “We were not supposed to win back-to-back titles, let alone three in a row. This year, we'll be going for four in a row and that's almost an insurmountable challenge.
“But none of that matters if the kids don't believe in themselves,” Saville added. “They put aside individual awards, accolades and achievements and made everything about the team. They have a sense of pride about our program. Everyone in our program knows it better be about the team and about the program or they will find themselves out of the program.”
While Reed players may have put the team first, that didn't mean the High Desert League's coaches didn't recognize the Raiders’ individual talents. HDL coaches voted eight of 11 Reed starters onto the conference's all-league awards parade.
Reed senior Kayla Gomer was named the HDL's offensive player of the year after tallying 24 goals on the season. She was a four-time all-league honoree and holds multiple school records.
“Everybody should have a Kayla Gomer on their team,” Saville said. “Not only is she a phenomenal player, but she's all about the team. Plus people have heaped a lot of stuff on her and she's never stopped trying to get better. She's a vocal kid, but she leads more by example. She brings it every day and the other kids see that. And everything is always positive. She never said anything negative and she never quit.”
Gomer's junior sister, Kelsey, was a first team all-star after posting 20 goals. Another Raiders forward, Karina Espinoza, was also a first-team HDL pick.
Four Raiders were second-team HDL honorees: defender Savannah Gobelman, midfielders Chandra Stimpson and Alissa Marshall and Grimes at goalkeeper.
“I think we did get better throughout the year,” Grimes said. “At first, we started a little shaky but Jason (Saville) has amazing talents. He got us to raise our game. He helped us see what we could do and that we were all amazing athletes.”
In addition, Emily Good was an honorable mention pick for Reed at defender.
The Raiders finished their season with a 12-2-3 record. Reed lost the non-league game at Carson and lost an early season league game to Reno. The loss to Reno was the Raiders' first league loss in nearly three seasons.
“All the previous years we won it, we had always had a little hardship in the beginning, but we pulled through,” Kayla Gomer said. "But this past year felt a ton more rewarding. We lost our first league game in three years. It was hard to get over that. We had had to refocus on what we needed to do.”
Saville said the early-season defeats, combined with a corresponding drop in northern Nevada rankings, left his RHS club with plenty to prove as the season wore on.
“The girls really took it as a shot. We used those things as motivators,” the Reed skipper said. “There was a chip on their shoulders when people didn't give them the credit they thought they deserved. I'm glad to be honest. If that was a way to get the girls motivated, I hope it continues.”
Gobelman said she remembered plenty of practice and game day talks about proving to others how good the Reed squad was.
“It gives you something to prove. It was just another motivational type of thing,” she said. “Maybe people were saying we weren't that good. We wanted to step on the field and show them what was up.”