Santa Paula High School sophomore Summer Laurin has been playing soccer in the fields near her home for years.
But she and 34 others were turned away last year when 53 girls turned out for the school's only girls' soccer team.
And when a group of parents asked the school board to start a second girls' team--pointing out that the boys' soccer program had two teams for the same number of athletes--school officials said they couldn't afford it.
The decision has prompted some athletes and parents to say there is a tendency at the school to place boys' athletic concerns above girls' concerns.
"They're being cheap," said sophomore Jovina Lira, who made the team. "I think it's so unfair and very sexist of them."
A reduction in state funding this year spurred a $631,000 cut in the school district's budget. Five coaches were not rehired, but no sports programs were cut, district business manager Tahir Ahad said.
Ahad estimated a junior varsity team would cost $2,700, including a small stipend for a coach and transportation costs.
Several parents, however, said they would pay the team's costs out of their own pockets, and said soccer players have raised money through carwashes and student sales.
Ford Laurin, Summer's father, wondered why the district would block the formation of a second team if it would endure no extra costs.
Contrasted with the money spent on boys' sports, especially football, the soccer team represents "nickels and dimes," Ford Laurin said.
"They are being biased," said senior Kimberly Brice, who also made the team. "With the money not an issue, what other reason is there?"
But district Supt. Carol Erie said hidden costs stem from field lighting and overtime for bus drivers and supervisors.
Also, she said, all coaching positions eventually become paid, even if they begin on a volunteer basis. And that is an expense the district cannot afford in tough economic times, Erie said.
Officials said the school has two boys' soccer teams because the interest in those teams is usually greater.
In September, the board turned down a request from the school's athletic department to start a boys' freshman football team after 80 boys tried out for the junior varsity squad.
"Nobody is opposed to girls' sports or junior varsity soccer," Erie said.
Boys' football, by far the most well-attended sport at Santa Paula High, cost the district about $16,000 in 1991. The program is also supported by about $10,000 from private donations and Associated Student Body funds, Ahad said.
"Doggone it, you're spending all kinds of money on boys' sports," varsity soccer Coach Juliet Dike told the board. "That's outrageous."
The school has nine sports teams for boys and three teams for girls in the winter season, Dike said.
The boys-to-girls ratio for sports varies at other similarly sized schools in the county.
At Nordhoff High School in Ojai, there are an even number of girls' and boys' teams, while at Fillmore High School there are two boys' teams for every girls' team, school officials said.
Ralph Crist, the athletic director at Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai, said $2,700 would be a small price to pay to keep teen-agers involved in sports. He said some girls who don't engage in school-related activities wind up in trouble.
"It's a pittance of a price to pay," said Crist, who oversees a department with an equal number of boys' and girls' teams. "I wish I had that many girls interested in sports."