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UC IRVINE NOTEBOOK : Edison Girls’ Soccer Coach Doesn’t Know the Meaning of ‘Off-Season’

The day after Kerry McGrath’s soccer season ended, her soccer practices began. One day she was a junior midfielder for UC Irvine, and the next she was head coach of the Edison High girls’ varsity team.

McGrath, 20, was a standout defensive player for Edison just three seasons ago, but today she stands on the sideline, presiding over the team herself in a green-and-gold jacket embroidered with the words, “Coach Mac.”

It’s a rare double made possible only because the college season is in the fall and the high school season is in the winter and spring. That, and because the folks in charge at Edison had confidence in the maturity and poise of McGrath, who was captain of the team as a senior and chosen the school’s most inspirational athlete that year.

McGrath was the junior varsity coach at Edison the past two seasons, but this year she made the step up, replacing Elia Shahadi, another walk-on. Irvine Coach Ray Smith, 26, who guided the Anteaters to the best record (12-7-1) in school history this season, gave her a pep talk, encouraging her to go for the job.

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“You’re good enough,” he told her.

McGrath got it and became the Chargers’ third coach in four seasons.

One of her players, senior co-captain Jennifer Lachman, played on the same team with McGrath three years ago, when McGrath was a senior and Lachman a freshman.

“It seemed weird at first,” Lachman said. “At the time, we looked up to her (as a player.) Now people on the team do the same thing.”

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The other two co-captains, Jennifer Crispin and Jeanine Martin, agree that McGrath has helped the team become a happier, more settled group after a tumultuous time last season.

“I think it helps that she’s young,” Lachman said. “She plays, she’s still a player, and she was in our position just a few years ago.”

The Chargers are off to a nice start under McGrath, with a 4-1-1 record. McGrath isn’t the only Irvine connection. She recruited Amee Chapman, an Irvine goalkeeper, to coach the Edison goalies, and persuaded Dave Weidner, a player on the Irvine men’s team, to coach the junior varsity girls’ team.

McGrath likes what she sees.

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“This team is strong, very strong,” McGrath said. “We’re contending for everything. I think we can play with anybody.”

With two years to get a feel for her coaching style, McGrath is coming into her own, and she runs the team with a firm hand.

“I realize I have a lot more to learn, but I had the opportunity to play under some really good coaches,” McGrath said. “It was scary. I’m learning to be more confident. I think (the parents) have more confidence in me, too. They see the girls playing better and enjoying soccer.”

All this soccer makes for a busy life.

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During the fall quarter, McGrath took 16 units at Irvine, hurried over to Edison every day to teach a physical education class, then rushed back to Irvine for practice. All that, and she has another job, too, working as a secretary and weekend salesperson.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “If you don’t fool around, you can get a lot done.”

Despite her competence at coaching, McGrath does have an occasional problem--mostly when she tries to convince people she is really the coach.

With a young face and long hair, she could still pass for a teen-ager--and in fact, she turned 20 in November.

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At games, referees sometimes have a hard time separating her from the crowd of players.

“They’ll come over and say, ‘Can I check your cleats?’ ” McGrath said. “And I say, ‘I’m the coach. ‘ “

Once, someone refused to let her board the team bus, telling her she’d have to wait until the coach got there.

Her players find all that amusing, and a great reason to tease.

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“She wears these sunglasses,” Lachman said.

“John Lennon glasses!” Crispin and Martin said, as all three started to laugh.

“She thinks they make her look older,” Lachman said.

David Hollaway has been the surest scorer on the men’s basketball team the past two games, with back-to-back totals of 19 and 23 points off the bench.

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He has been efficient, too, scoring 42 points in 43 minutes. And even though he hasn’t been hesitant to shoot, his percentages are still good: 48% from the field, including a team-leading 55% from three-point range.

“David Hollaway has bailed us out on a couple of occasions,” Coach Rod Baker said.

Hollaway, a senior guard, hasn’t been able to get the Anteaters a victory, but he has gotten them leads and kept them close.

On a team whose biggest struggle is scoring, Hollaway is making a claim for more minutes, and Baker is inclined to get them for him.

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“We need some way to find him more time,” Baker said.

Whether that will mean he’ll start is less certain. Baker isn’t generally inclined to shake up the lineup, and doesn’t put as much stock in who starts as most observers do.

Want to know one reason Baker thinks starting shouldn’t be considered such a big deal? Partly, he says, because he was never a starter--not at Holy Cross, and not even at Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic High School.

Stat of the Week: In three of its four losses, Irvine’s margin of defeat has been less than or equal to its number of missed free throws. Irvine is shooting 64% from the free-throw line. Even shooting 100% wouldn’t have made the difference in a 73-51 loss to Houston, a game in which the Anteaters missed 10 of 26.

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But in a 73-70 double-overtime loss to Colorado, Irvine missed six of 24.

In an 80-71 loss to USC, Irvine missed 11 of 24.

In a 95-84 loss to Loyola Marymount, Irvine missed 11 of 27.

Nobody struggles more from the line than Khari Johnson, who has made six of 21 (29%).

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Irvine is 1-4 going into Thursday’s game at Loyola of Chicago. Keith Stewart, a transfer guard from Marquette, will make his Anteater debut in that game.

Popi Edwards, a 5-9 All-Moore League middle blocker for the Long Beach Poly High School volleyball team that advanced to the Southern Section 4-A semifinals, has made an oral commitment to play at Irvine, Poly Coach Orlando Larracuente said.


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