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Starlites Enjoy a Familiar Result in Their New Home

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Starlites, who have won all the championships Major League Volleyball has awarded (two) only to meet with mass indifference at home, began their third season seemingly bent on making some sort of wave.

And so, Friday, there on the Bren Center floor, were couples dancing to Rolling Stone riffs from a quintet called the Junk Band (“The Starlites’ official music machine”), professional football cheerleaders signing autographs and, in the seats, a lot of people who got to the place with free tickets.

“We gave them out wherever we could,” said George Corey, one of the team’s four owners.

The announced crowd of 1,528--which included those with free tickets--was a big difference for a team that played in front of home crowds as sparse as 25 last season.

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“I actually heard people cheering,” said Starlites outside hitter Dale Hall.

“This is easily twice as large as any home crowd we played in front of last year,” said Al Gasparian, Starlites coach.

What hasn’t changed is the Starlites’ habit for winning in this league. The Starlites, who have compiled a 36-8 record their previous two seasons, easily handled the Portland Spikers, 15-2, 15-11, 15-9.

The Starlites jumped to a 9-0 lead in the first game and cruised to a victory. The Spikers--who were the Arizona Blaze last season and the Dallas Belles the season before--held leads of 2-0 in the second game and 5-0 in the third only to have the Starlites overtake them in each.

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Hall’s all-around game--eight kills, eight blocks, 12 digs--seemed to spark the Starlites all night. She is one of three players presently on the team who played on last season’s championship team. Among those who left was former U.S. Olympic team standout Rita Crockett, who is now playing in Italy.

Though his personnel has taken a change for the drastic, Gasparian said he felt “fortunate that things on the court didn’t look as different from last season as I thought they might.”

Of course, Portland also only had three players from last season’s team. And unlike the Starlites, Portland didn’t have a lot to build on to begin with. The then-Blaze had the league’s worst record last season at 5-16.

“We were in the same position they were in before this season,” said Terry McLaughlin, Portland coach. “But obviously they’ve progressed a lot farther then we have.”

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Among the Starlites’ new players making an immediate impact was Detra Brown, who led the team with 10 kills. Margaret Grant (17) and Sherri Brinkman-Reilly (16) provided solid blocking.

The Starlites play the San Jose Golddigggers, whom they have beaten in each of their league championship finals, Sunday in San Jose.


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