On the heels of last week's 4-4 tie with UC Santa Barbara in a game some observers are calling the most exciting women's college soccer game ever played in this area, Cal State Dominguez Hills is on the soccer map.
Even though many people aren't quite sure where the small Division II school is--it's in Carson--the women's team is making its presence known. That comes with being undefeated and rated ninth nationally.
The Lady Toros have tied Division I powers California and Santa Barbara and are shooting for a spot in the playoffs, which would be a notable accomplishment. The women's NCAA tournament is run as a single-class event and is generally dominated by Division I schools.
But Dominguez Hills Coach Marine Cano said that his team's 6-0-2 record and last week's tie with Santa Barbara have had visible effects.
"We're on a roll," he said Monday. "It's kind of opened some eyes. People were pretty excited about that game, and people are still calling me about it. I used to have to beat the bushes for recruits. Now I'm getting letters and calls from all over the country (from prospective recruits)."
Last week's game was something of a homecoming for many Santa Barbara players, who were prep stars in the Palos Verdes-Torrance area, and had a playoff atmosphere. Several hundred spectators watched as Dominguez Hills built a 2-1 lead, fell behind, 3-2, scored in the last minute to force an overtime, then held a 4-3 lead with less than a minute left in double overtime.
Torrance resident Dianne Manore scored all four Santa Barbara goals, the last on a penalty kick with 30 seconds left in double overtime for the final score.
It may have been disappointing to settle for a tie, but the game did establish that Dominguez Hills is competitive with any team in the West. Earlier this season, the Lady Toros had tied third-ranked Cal, 1-1. Santa Barbara was ranked 18th in the latest poll.
"Santa Barbara has been to the playoffs the last three years," Cano said. "For them to be acting like it's a World Cup when they scored tells you the tide's changed. Last year, we could sneak up on people. This year, everybody wants to beat us.
"People ask me what it's like to be a small school playing these big schools. I don't look at it that way. We're a good team. We'll play anybody. If they beat us, we tip our hats to them, but nobody's going to have an easy time with us."
Cano, who also coaches the Dominguez Hills men's team, has come a long way since 1984, when the women played most of the season with 10 players and in one game were down to eight.
The team still isn't deep, with only 14 players, but Cano's starting 11 is talented. Robyn Queen, a transfer from Cal, has given the Lady Toros a new dimension at forward, teaming with Jill Draper. They have scored eight goals apiece.
Michele Salas, the leading scorer two years ago, has switched to midfield and often controls play, teaming with talented freshman Kristine White. Salas has four assists.
"Queen and Draper feed off each other," Cano said. "(Opponents) try to mark Robyn Queen, but they can't really stop her. Or she finds Draper. It's hard to find a forward like Robyn. With the pace she plays and her strength, your first reaction is to get out of the way. I'm waiting for the day she gets mad and just goes nuts, scores five or six goals."
Two years ago, Cano billed his undermanned team as having "the least talent but the most character in the country." Now he says the talent is there, and the drive and hustle remain. "These girls don't believe we can lose," he said. "I'm surprised to be undefeated at this point, but there's still a long way to go. We're not looking too far down the road. We know what we're out to do."
Azusa Pacific's football team has played two 20-20 games this season.
After going 60 games without a tie, the Cougars tied their second-to-last game in 1985 and have tied two of four this season. Though their record is 2-0-2, a loss or another tie would probably knock the team out of an NAIA postseason bid.
The big problems so far have been the lack of a pass rush--the Cougars have registered 3 sacks, compared to 20 at this time last year--and an unproductive passing attack.
Except for running back Christian Okoye, the busiest player has probably been punter Brent Hoover. He punted a school-record 11 times against Menlo College for 348 yards and had a 64-yarder.
Cal Poly Pomona will be the site of the second annual Rolex Western Women's Small College tennis tournament, Friday through Sunday. The men's tournament, which began last week, will end Saturday at Claremont-Mudd.
The regional men's and women's winners will advance to the national tournament Dec. 8-9 in Fort Myers, Fla. Players who win the small-college titles in December will be invited to the national indoor collegiate tournament in Richmond, Va., in February.
The tournament, organized by the Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Assn., brings together players from NCAA Divisions II and III as well as NAIA and junior college players.
Small College Notes Cal Lutheran's football team, already thin from injuries, has apparently lost linebacker Terry Rowe for the season. He injured a knee against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. . . . The Cal State San Bernardino women's volleyball team improved to 19-3 by winning its own tournament over the weekend. The Lady Coyotes will play host to UC San Diego, the top-ranked Division III team, at 7 p.m. Friday.