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COLLEGE DIVISION NOTEBOOK : Christ College Comes Down From Hill, Rises to New Heights

Each time it wins a game this season, the Christ College Irvine women’s basketball team takes another step away from its dismal past. The Eagles, who won only four of 27 games last year, are 6-1 this season, and Tuesday they shocked Biola, 78-59.

Christ College had never defeated Biola in women’s basketball. Last season, Biola beat Christ College by 52 points and advanced to the NAIA District 3 championship game. Tuesday, four starters from that team played for Biola, the only California team to receive mention in the latest national NAIA poll, but Christ College still won handily.

“It felt good to come away with a win,” said Genevieve Graff, a sophomore guard who was a starter last year. “Each game we play builds up our confidence more.”

Said Coach Kent Schlichtemeier: “I don’t think we are going to surprise anyone anymore. The NAIA (District 3) stats came out yesterday and we’re around the top. That’s definitely a total reversal from where we were last year.”

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At the end of last season, the players who would be returning this year met with the coaching staff on top of a hill behind the college’s campus. They talked about self-motivation and commitment and working hard in the summer.

“It was a long year last year and we just didn’t want that to happen again,” Schlichtemeier said. “I’ve never seen a team work harder than this team.

“Our team goal is to make the playoffs this year. It’s never been done in the school’s history.”

History at Christ College, founded in 1976, doesn’t go back too far. In its seventh season of women’s basketball, the school has never had a winning record.

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The Eagles, who have lost only to Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills, are within one victory of the school record of seven, accomplished in 1987-88 and 1988-89.

This year Christ College, which plays Whittier College Friday night, is getting balanced scoring from Gitte Mejer, a freshman from Denmark, who is the district’s fourth-leading scorer (14.7); Stacy Kirch, a sophomore transfer from Wyoming who is leading the district in three-point shooting percentage (56%), and Graff, a sophomore who is averaging 13 points.

“That’s the nice thing. We have a lot of good scorers from every position so they’re difficult to defend,” Schlichtemeier said.

Cross-county traffic: Because a number of Whittier College players have final exams that end at 5:30 p.m. Friday, the Poets’ game at Christ College has been delayed an hour until 8:30. And even with the delay in game time, the team may find it difficult to make the freeway trek from Los Angeles County in time for the scheduled start.

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Going into a trip to Northern California this weekend, the Chapman women’s basketball team is doing well statistically. The team’s top three players--Marvette Williams (17 points a game), Linda Kirby (17) and Jackie Saunders (15)--are the top three scorers in the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. Only UC Riverside, which is averaging more than 85 points, is scoring more than the Panthers (76.4 a game).

However, only one team, Cal State Los Angeles, is allowing more points than the Panthers (67.6).

“We’d like to hold people to less points,” Coach Lindsay Strothers said, “but I guess if we can hold teams to less points than we have we’re all right.”

But Chapman (6-3) has been inconsistent and Strothers said the Panthers aren’t playing as a team.

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“Player-for-player I don’t know if a lot of teams can match up with us,” he said. “But putting it all together on the floor is a different story, and that’s my job.”

The Southern California College men’s basketball team, which has won five consecutive games, including a 67-64 overtime victory over Cal State Dominguez Hills Saturday, will likely have its first tough test in District 3 on Saturday at home against Biola. The game is at 7:30 in SCC’s gym, called “The Pit.” Biola (8-1) was ranked 24th in the latest NAIA poll.

College Division Notes

John McKay, former USC and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach, will be the featured speaker at the 12th Chapman Hall of Fame dinner Jan. 30. The dinner--where Kathy Copelin, an All-American softball player, Don Hurzeler, an All-American track athlete, and John Young, a Chapman baseball player, will be inducted--will be held at the Doubletree Hotel starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are $75 and proceeds will go the the Chapman Athletic Scholarship Fund. For more information, call 997-6691.

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