Orange County Prep Review : McKinney Overcomes Some Hard Knocks

Karen McKinney had to put up with her share of harassment, being the only girl on the Magnolia High School boys' soccer team this season.

As if opponents' intimidation efforts weren't enough, McKinney, a 5-foot 5-inch, 120-pound junior fullback, also had to fend off remarks from the sidelines that usually went something like this:

Get that girl off the field, she can't play!

Sometimes they weren't put that nicely.

Opposing players didn't always treat her with a lot of respect, but opposing coaches did. They thought so much of McKinney that they voted her to the All-Orange League second team.

Before you accuse Magnolia Coach Mike Kraemer of stuffing the ballot box, note that coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players.

"She was one of my top three players and was my second-best defender," Kraemer said. "My best defender, John McDonald, made all-league first team."

There was little joy in Sentinelville this season--Magnolia finished last and had a 1-15-4 record--but there was one happy girl at the soccer team's recent awards banquet.

"He (Kraemer) was listing accomplishments of the players who had made all-league, and was saying things that pertained to me," McKinney said. "I said, 'No way!' I was freaking out. I was totally shocked."

Kraemer wasn't.

"Guys would call her names, but she kept her cool," he said. "She started seven games and played a considerable amount of the others. She's very aggressive and tackles real hard for a soccer player, not just for a girl."

McKinney has lettered in softball, cross-country and track, but the Sentinels didn't offer a girls' team in the sport she loves most--soccer.

That didn't slow her down a bit. She started on Magnolia's junior varsity boys' team as a freshman and sophomore. She's planning to play on a women's team in college and feels that her high school experience with the boys can only benefit her.

"Guys make you tougher, that's for sure," McKinney said. "They'll always be stronger and faster than me, but I can do things to make up for that. I've improved a lot playing with them."

Thanks, but no thanks: Gary McKnight, Mater Dei basketball coach, says he is not interested in taking another high school coaching position and will stay with the Monarchs unless a college opportunity presents itself.

A position at Irvine High School became available a month ago when Al Herring was forced to resign by Principal Gary Norton, but after his team won the state Division I championship Saturday McKnight said he will not pursue it.

"Going to Irvine would be a lateral move," McKnight said. "I'd be interested in a college job, but that's all. If I'm going to coach on the high school level, there's no better place to be than Mater Dei."

Mater Dei is 147-7 under McKnight and has been ranked nationally in each of his five seasons. Starters Kevin Rembert and Mike Hopkins and top reserve Char Ruppel return next season. Also, junior varsity guard Mark Ramstack is expected to be the team's point guard.

"We're going to have a good team next year," McKnight said. "Of course, we won't have a LeRon Ellis at center, but a player like him comes along once in a lifetime."

Norton's son, Matt, played in the Mater Dei program for two seasons before transferring to Irvine, and McKnight had attended several Irvine games. But McKnight said his interest was in his former player, not a switch in coaching jobs.

"I honestly went to the games to watch Matt Norton play," McKnight said. "That was it."

More hoopla: South Coast League basketball coaches have voted to add the three-point shot, bringing to five the number of leagues in Orange County using the bonus shot. The Freeway and Sunset leagues used it this past season, and the Angelus and Garden Grove leagues will begin using it next season.

The Sunset League will also institute a 45-second shot clock next season, and South Coast League coaches are finishing plans to have all six teams play their opening league games in the Bren Center at UC Irvine.

Also, Sunset League coaches last week discussed methods of curtailing violence at games. This past season there were at least four fights in league games, and some led to bench-clearing brawls.

"I don't know if that's any more than we've had before, but it was a problem that needed to be addressed before it got any worse," Marina Coach Steve Popovich said. "We talked about communicating with all the players in our programs, laying down a good foundation as far as disciplinary action and how we could better control things from the bench."

Dim the lights: For the past nine years, Sunset League baseball teams have played night games at Fountain Valley's Mile Square Park, but all of the league's action this season will be completed before the sun sets.

The City of Fountain Valley converted the baseball field at Mile Square into two slow-pitch softball diamonds last fall, leaving the league's baseball teams without a facility to play night games.

According to several league coaches, Fountain Valley recreation officials have said that they plan to build a lighted baseball facility at Mile Square next year, but those plans are not definite.

The coaches were happy with the old facility.

"It's a shame, because for big matchups we'd get close to 500 people lined up all around the park," Edison's Ron LaRuffa said. "It was attractive to the kids to play in front of big crowds."

Ocean View's Bill Gibbons said: "Players from all the other teams would come to the game, and that made it an event, like Monday Night Football.

"There were always better crowds at night, and the kids had a sense that the game meant something. Everyone plays at the same time now, and it isn't the same."

Good hitter: Richard Clifton doesn't get many chances to hit for the Edison baseball team--when he pitches for the Chargers, he's replaced in the offensive lineup by a designated hitter--but the senior still gets his share of swings.

On the golf course, that is.

In addition to being the No. 3 starting pitcher for Edison, Clifton is one of the Chargers' top golfers. He shot a 38 and was medalist Thursday in Edison's 197-199 loss to Millikan on the El Dorado Golf Course at Long Beach.

Golf is Clifton's best sport, and he has an arrangement with Charger baseball Coach Ron LaRuffa that allows him to miss baseball practice on the days of his golf matches.

Chip off the ol' block? Daron Sutton, a senior at Capistrano Valley Christian and son of Angel pitcher Don Sutton, did something Friday that his father hasn't done in 1,331 major league at-bats--hit a home run.

Sutton's grand slam helped the Eagles defeat Brethren, 13-6, in a Serra tournament game at Ocean View.

Perfection personified: Michele Granger's perfect game, a 19-strikeout performance in Valencia's 3-0 nonleague victory over Loara Thursday, was the junior left-hander's third career perfect game and her 19th career no-hitter.

The 19 no-hitters moved her to second place on the Southern Section record list, two behind Monica Messmer, who had 21 no-hitters for South Hills from 1980 to 1983.

Granger also increased her career strikeout total to 677 and is on pace to break Samantha Ford's record of 1,124, achieved from 1982 to 1985 at Hart High. Granger (4-2) has struck out 94 in six games this season, an average of 15 a game.

Prep Notes

Laguna Hills pitcher Dawn Roberts came within one out of a perfect game Thursday, allowing a two-out single in the seventh inning of the Hawks' 2-0 victory over Glendale in the Laguna Hills tournament. . . . Teams will be picked this week for the Orange County North-South All-Star wrestling match, which will be April 4 at Canyon High School. . . . Pat Leborio, who started several games at running back for Mater Dei last fall, has transferred to El Modena and will play his senior season for the Vanguards. . . . Mater Dei center LeRon Ellis will play in the Dapper Dan All-Star basketball game April 3 in the Pittsburgh Civic Arena and the McDonald's Derby Festival Classic April 18 in Louisville. . . . Registration is being accepted for the fourth West Coast Passing School June 29-July 3 at Saddleback College. The camp, under director Bill Cunerty, is open to the first 100 applicants from age 10 to high school seniors. The camp emphasizes the fundamentals of passing and receiving as taught by high school and college coaches. Cost is $125 and further information can be obtained by telephoning Cunerty at 582-4545. . . . The 28th Tustin Relays, the oldest relay event in the county, begin at 8:45 a.m. Saturday on Northrup Field. More than 50 schools have been invited to compete in the meet for boys and girls. . . . Laguna Beach High's baseball field was recently dedicated Skipper Carrillo Field. Skip Carrillo is a volunteer assistant in the Artists' athletic department who has served the past 20 years. . . . The 1988 CIF state wrestling championships will held at the University of the Pacific. . . . About 38 Southern Section schools have added boys' volleyball for the 1987 season, which began March 2. A total of 120 schools will field teams in 17 leagues this season, up from 82 schools and 13 leagues last season. The new 4-A league is the Channel League, while the new San Gabriel Valley, Pioneer and Heritage leagues will compete in the 3-A division.

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