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Banachowskis are a Family of Champions

Amy Banachowski and Andy Banachowski are certainly not singing the holiday blues, but they’ve prepared themselves for what will likely be an anticlimactic Christmas. That’s because within the past five weeks Andy, the women’s volleyball coach at UCLA, and his daughter Amy, a freshman setter at UC San Diego, already received their ultimate gifts.

The presents didn’t come gift-wrapped, and they won’t be taken for granted. But, as Andy said, “We can walk around all year now with a smile on our faces.”

The gift? National championships for both of them.

Top-ranked UCLA routed Pacific, 15-9, 15-12, 15-7, Saturday to capture the NCAA Division I championship in College Park, Md., giving the elder Banachowski his fifth national crown since he started at UCLA in 1970. Nearly a month earlier, Amy led UCSD to its sixth NCAA Division III title in 10 years, defeating Washington University in five games.

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Afterward, Amy called her father in Washington, where the Bruins were in the midst of a Pac-10 road trip and said, “Dad, I’ve got mine. Now you’ve got to do it, too.”

Amy figured she could give her dad a little needling, knowing he could take it. UCLA (36-1) had spent most of the season at the top of the rankings and Andy, the dean of college coaches, has led the Bruins to a top-four finish or better in 17 of the past 20 seasons. During those times, Andy said, Amy was probably hanging around the gym, going unnoticed.

“She didn’t try to put too much pressure on me,” Andy said. “She didn’t try to lord it over me. But I could tell how happy she was to have won it.”

“I had to give him a little bit of a hard time,” Amy said. “It was fun having the same kind of excitement at the end of the season.”

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Amy’s dad is arguably the best coach in women’s collegiate history, with his 646-140 cumulative record and .821 winning percentage in 24 seasons. UCLA was 23-1 his first season. But the birth of Amy two years later ranks as one of his greatest successes.

A year ago, Amy was unrecruited and apparently unwanted by any big school as she could do no better than third-string setter at state champion Mira Costa High. Amy, who is 5-feet-6, rarely played as she was overshadowed by all-state setter Piper Hahn (now at Stanford) and a second-string player that was much taller.

So she took up Coach Doug Dannevik’s offering to join Division III power UCSD, which entered the 1990 season without a setter and only one returning starter. Amy not only had an opportunity to play, but she won the starting position. And, culminating a most improbable season, it was Amy who led the inexperienced Tritons (37-8) to a 15-4, 13-15, 9-15, 15-8, 15-6 upset of Washington in the Division III final Nov. 17 in St. Louis.

“We could not have won the national championship if Amy had not played as if she was a junior or senior,” said Dannevik, who realized early in the season that he had stolen a player with superior athletic ability and rare court savvy. “I just think she’s a very talented kid with that knack that you can’t coach. Very seldom did she make a mistake in a match.”

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Because of their conflicting schedules, Andy was able to see Amy play just once. But throughout the season he received compliments from other coaches. And the one time he did see his daughter play, he wanted to approach it from a coach’s perspective, not through a father’s eyes.

“There were a couple of situations where she could have made some ball-handling errors or not set to the right person,” Andy said. “But she always made the right play. And she made some great plays. To see that really was a great feeling.”

Meeter Meter Running: Christian Heritage basketball center Rob Meeter is 13 rebounds from becoming the Hawks’ all-time rebounding leader. By the end of the season, he should have a comfortable cushion over record holder Will Cunningham, now a Hawks assistant coach. Cunningham, who played four seasons, finished last year with 678 rebounds. Meeter has 666.

Meeter also entered the week ranked 20th in the NAIA in shooting percentage at .657. He leads Christian Heritage (3-8) in scoring with 12.8 points a game. But the fact that Meeter is leading the Hawks at all comes as a mild surprise. He stands just 6-6 and he is 29.

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Feather In His Cap: Grossmont College men’s Coach Fred Featherstone, who has taught volleyball at every level except Division I, was recently selected as one of four coaches for the Olympic Festival in July. Featherstone will direct the month-long tryout and camp, coaching a Western Region team made up of college freshmen and sophomores at Loyola Marymount College.

Featherstone, 44, who coached a group of San Diego high school boys to a surprising second-place finish in the 1990 Junior Olympics in July, said he didn’t expect to be chosen but speculated that it might have been because of his enduring belief in the future of collegiate men’s volleyball.

Said Featherstone: “Over time, it will be just as competitive as football and basketball.”


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