College Division / Mitch Polin : Tezak Has Been Net Gain in 2nd Sport at Cal Poly

The scenery has changed a bit, but the results are about the same for Paula Tezak of Cal Poly Pomona.

She still is one of her team's leaders, both on and off the court, and the winning hasn't diminished.

The only difference is that Tezak is starring in volleyball instead of basketball.

In 4 years as a basketball player for the Broncos, there was not much that the 5-foot 8-inch Tezak didn't accomplish at the National Collegiate Athletic Assn.'s Division II level.

That includes three trips to the Division II finals and two national titles, four straight California Collegiate Athletic Assn. championships, two times on the all-conference team and winning the conference's most-valuable-player award last season.

But with her NCAA eligibility in basketball having expired, Tezak said she needed another sport to fill the void.

Considering that the senior was an All-Southern Section volleyball player at La Habra High and still played pick-up games in her spare time, the choice was obvious.

"It was basically that I had played (volleyball) 4 years in high school and I just missed the game a lot and I knew that playing basketball with coach (Darlene) May the last 4 years, she wouldn't let me play volleyball too," Tezak said. "But I had another year of eligibility (in volleyball) and I really missed the sport. So it was just something I wanted to do."

Volleyball Coach Paul Gabriel was more than happy to have her play for his team.

"It was definitely a ready-made situation," Gabriel said. "My first year here, she was a freshman. . . . I said, 'Who is that girl?' And when I found out, I asked Darlene May if I could get her out for volleyball and she said, 'Not for 4 years.' "

Gabriel said he knew she still had the talent to excel at the Division II level.

"There's been no adjustment," he said. "The girl's just a great athlete. She was recruited (for volleyball) by USC, UCLA and Stanford out of high school, and a lot of people don't know that.

"In fact, a lot of people think she's better in volleyball than in basketball, and she was the CCAA most valuable player in basketball last year."

It certainly has not taken Tezak long to leave a lasting impression on her coach, who added: "If she stays healthy, she has the potential to be a volleyball All-American at the Division II level."

Perhaps the biggest impression she has made is as a server.

"She's got an incredible jump serve," Gabriel said. "Until this year, nobody had shown Paula a jump serve, and her first jump serve just exploded with a lot of top spin."

That's one way to make a good impression. But the coach said there are other ways that she has contributed to the early-season success of the Broncos, who are 8-3 and ranked No. 12 in Division II after a 14-23 season last year.

"She's a girl you just can't say enough about," Gabriel said. "You wish you had a whole team of players like her. I think of all the attributes you can say about what it takes to be a winner and Paula certainly has them.

"It's a carry-over from basketball. She just has a great attitude. She's in the right spot most of the time because she uses her head. You can put her in any sport and she's a great athlete."

In fact, the 22-year-old Tezak said, she may even like playing volleyball more than basketball.

"I feel more comfortable playing volleyball," she said. "I guess I don't have as much pressure on me because I wasn't recruited (by Pomona) in the sport. I love basketball, too, but I like volleyball (more)."

Not that Tezak hasn't had to adjust to playing volleyball again.

"There are a lot of adjustments to make but there is time," she said. "It's not like the season is almost over. . . . It was hard to get used to a new program and how (Gabriel) runs his compared to Coach May. But I'm pretty much adjusted to how he works and I'm happy to be playing."

Added Gabriel: "I think before the season she didn't see where she fit in at this level, but now that we're playing some Division II and NAIA teams, I think her confidence level has been building up and I think by the end of the season you'll see a lot more from her."

That is, if she can play through knee problems that have developed over the last two years.

"At the beginning of my senior and junior years I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee, plus I have tendinitis in my left knee," Tezak said. "There's always pain in everything I do. Even if it's just (stepping) up a curb, it hurts."

Tezak said she started to notice the pain in her knees again after the last basketball season.

"I guess the only way to get over it is to rest it, but the volleyball season is not that long," she said, "so I'll just try to tough it out.

"It's real frustrating because I know how I can play and what I can do and it bothers me that I can't give 100%," she said. "I can give 100% but my body can't."

Gabriel said the injuries have hurt Tezak's leaping ability but he still thinks she has more skills than most players at her level.

"I would have liked to have had her before her knees were operated on, but she's still quite a player," he said.

The coach said there is even a possibility that Tezak will be eligible to play volleyball next season, too.

Tezak said her knees will play a big role in that decision, though.

"If things work out right--if my knees and schooling work out--there is a possibility that I could play another year," she said. "But I really feel I'm pushing it this year."

If she doesn't return next season, she may be able to turn to coaching. Tezak will be an assistant on the Bronco basketball team this season.

In the meantime, she is happy to have the opportunity to play volleyball again.

College Division Notes

The Cal Poly Pomona women's volleyball team may have registered its most impressive win of the early season with a 4-game victory over Biola by scores of 10-15, 15-11, 15-12 and 15-10, last Friday. Biola had entered the non-conference game with an 11-0 record.

On the subject of impressive victories, Cal State Northridge's football team ran its record to 4-0--its best start ever--with a 34-23 win over Division I-AA Idaho State last Saturday in Pocatello. Northridge, ranked No. 6 in Division II, will play host to longtime rival Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in its Western Football Conference opener Saturday night.

Occidental (2-1) took a big step in its quest for the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football title with a 29-0 win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps last week.

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