NCAA DIVISION II WOMEN’S TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS : Frawley’s Traumatic Days at Court End Gracefully

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Karen Frawley’s tennis career at Cal State Northridge will end this week, probably in defeat, but on a much happier note than it began more than eight years ago.

Frawley was a CSUN freshman in 1978 when her doubles partner, Lori Andersen, shot and killed the CSUN coach, Susan Hyde.

Andersen was later convicted of second-degree murder in the lesbian love-triangle slaying, and sentenced to seven years in state prison. She was paroled in 1983.


Frawley, meanwhile, was devastated by the gruesome nature of the crime--Hyde’s burned body was found in a shallow grave in the Sylmar area, her fingers and knees missing and her lower legs cut off and placed on the body--and by the circumstances surrounding it.

The naive freshman “didn’t even know what the word lesbian meant,” her father, Bob, said Wednesday at CSUN as he watched his daughter lose to eighth-seeded Donna Sykes of Abilene Christian, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, in the first round of the NCAA Division II women’s singles championships.

“She couldn’t deal with it,” her father said. “She fell apart.”

A difficult season followed the Jan. 13, 1978, slaying.

“Everywhere we went, every team we played, nobody would talk to us,” Frawley said. “It was like we were lepers.”

Frawley, 26, has tried to forget.

“I think I’ve blocked out a lot of that time,” she said. “I honestly only remember two people who were on that squad. Other than that, I don’t remember anybody else. I literally cannot remember their names. I think I’ve blocked it out for my own preservation.

“Sometimes, it’s better to move on and forget things because it doesn’t help to remember.”

More trauma followed.

Frawley quit tennis for a year, then accepted a full tennis scholarship from Texas Permian Basin in Odessa, Tex. Again, she said, she encountered lesbianism in tennis.

“It just permeated the environment,” she said. “It wasn’t anything ever said or done. It’s really hard to explain. It’s like, if everyone is wearing a red shirt and you’re wearing a blue shirt, you’re going to begin to think that red shirts are normal and you’re going to start wondering why you’re wearing a blue shirt.”

Disillusioned, Frawley left Texas after nine months. She didn’t go back to school full-time for another three years.

She did some traveling, touring Australia and New Zealand and making her way across the United States. She strung tennis rackets and worked in a pro shop. She was a phone solicitor for a newspaper. She was a waitress.

“It was a time of exploring,” she said. “It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do.”

She also was involved in three major auto accidents, including one that nearly killed her, she said.

“I’ve been through a lot of stuff,” she said.

Finally, in the fall of 1984, she returned to CSUN, a 24-year-old junior trying to pick up the pieces.

“School was an unfinished chapter in my life,” she said.

Believing that she wouldn’t be eligible to play tennis, Frawley inquired about running for the track team. She discovered, however, that Division II rules do not require athletes to complete their eligibility over 10 consecutive semesters, as Division I rules do.

She was eligible to play tennis for two more years.

An ankle injury hampered her performance last season, when she played No. 6 singles, but a trip to the nationals with the CSUN team inspired her to train like she never had before.

Every night during the off-season, Frawley said, “I looked at the program from the national tournament and said, ‘I want to be there again.’ That was my motivation.” Incorporating a conditioning program and Nautilus training with her tennis, Frawley worked out more consistently last summer than she had in the past, she said. Some weeks, she said, she spent as many as 30 hours with her coach, Charles Arthur.

She started the season as CSUN’s No. 8 singles player, but when the Lady Matadors lost to Southern Illinois Edwardsville on Tuesday in the Division II team final, Frawley played No. 1.

“I went from playing like a dog to being a decent player,” she said.

She didn’t have a great season--her record in singles was about .500--but she beat all of her teammates during the season, no small accomplishment considering that Northridge was 28-2.

And she qualified for the national singles and doubles championships. She and partner Kelly Grattan will meet Donna Sykes and Carol Tabor in the first round of the doubles tournament today at 11 a.m.

“I’ve done everything that I’ve wanted to do,” she said. “It’s been a great year. I’ve had a lot of fun. I have no complaints whatsoever.”

That’s more than she can say about her traumatic past.


CSUN’s Kelly Grattan was a first-round loser to fifth-seeded Portia George of Southern Illinois Edwardsville, 6-1, 6-4. Teammate Susan Campbell lost in the second round to second-seeded Sandra Elliott of Northern Colorado, 6-1, 6-1. . . . Five of the eight seeded players advanced to the quarterfinals, which will be played today at 9 a.m. Karen Astraehan of UC Davis upset No. 7 Andrea Cox of Florida Atlantic in the first round, 6-4, 6-1, and Nancy Roe of Northern Colorado overwhelmed No. 8 Donna Sykes of Abilene Christian in the second round, 6-2, 6-0. . . . The first round of the doubles tournament, with Northern Colorado’s Elliott and Roe seeded No. 1, will be played today at 11 a.m.