Villanova Takes a Quick Liking to Co-Coaches

The Villanova High boys' volleyball team was not sure what to expect when Athletic Director Ralph Christ told the squad it would have women co-coaches for the spring season. But all it took was one practice with Leeana Merriweather-Clegg and Lisa Rich-Johnson to win the boys over.

Merriweather-Clegg was a high school All-American for Nordhoff's state championship squad in 1986 and a member of Hawaii's 1987 NCAA championship team. She got the Wildcats' attention in a hurry during a recent practice with a series of service aces that Christ clocked at 85 m.p.h. on a radar gun.

Rich-Johnson also has strong credentials. She was a starter with Merriweather-Clegg on Nordhoff teams that won Southern Section 2-A Division titles and went to the state semifinals and finals in 1984 and 1985. She played college volleyball at Montana Tech before returning to coach Nordhoff to a Frontier League frosh-soph title in 1989 and a junior varsity championship last fall.

Villanova is one of eight high schools in the state to have women coaching boys' volleyball teams.

REWARDING SEASON

League champions play at home.

Crespi basketball Coach Chris Nikchevich used that theme as motivation during his team's drive for a Mission League title. Crespi finished as league co-champion and won home-court advantage for the first round, but nobody imagined that the Celts would not have to play at all.

In the Southern Section Division III-AA, Crespi and five other teams received a first-round bye to advance to Tuesday's second round. Crespi will play the winner of tonight's game between host Western and Bellflower.

In terms of preparation: advantage Crespi.

"We'll probably go down and videotape it and everything," Nikchevich said. "I'm definitely going to check it out."

Nikchevich will not be alone. He expects most of Crespi's players to tag along.

"We may not be playing a game, but we're gonna go see one," Nikchevich said.

MANLY OR MANIC?

Lunatic or tough guy? Even Craig Reiter has trouble making that call.

"Probably a little of both," he said, laughing.

Reiter, a Canyon linebacker, this week committed to play next fall at UC Davis. Canyon Coach Harry Welch calls Reiter "one of the toughest guys I've ever coached," and it's easy to see why--although others might believe Reiter is one of the craziest.

Midway through the 1990 season, Reiter suffered a knee injury and was scheduled to undergo exploratory surgery. Reiter told the physician that if the damage was serious and reconstructive surgery was required, he wanted the wound stitched back up. Surgery could wait until after the season, Reiter reasoned.

The doctor determined that Reiter had indeed damaged his anterior cruciate ligament--a serious injury--but did as requested and did not operate.

Heavily bandaged, Reiter played two weeks later. After the season, he underwent surgery.

"I had to do it for the team," Reiter said.

WRESTLING STRONGHOLD

Four Ventura wrestlers will enter the Southern Section 3-A Division individual championships today and Saturday at Edgewood Junior High in West Covina as the tournament's top-seeded competitors.

Senior Scott Adams (27-0), the favorite to repeat as the 3-A 189-pound champion, has a school-record 22 pins. John Jimenez (125 pounds), who is 42-2, Jason Carmody (135) and Matt Jones (140) also are seeded first.

Ventura (20-1) will face Torrance for the inaugural 3-A dual-meet championship Thursday at Edison High in Huntington Beach.

ROAD CONCERNS

Color Jeff Halpern livid.

The Reseda basketball coach has not had many positive remarks regarding the impact of year-round school on City Section basketball. Tuesday morning, he became even angrier.

After taking Monday off as part of the school holiday, Halpern arrived at school to learn that Reseda had been scheduled to play road games Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The Regents had a pair of games rained out last week, but Halpern was under the impression that one of the games might be played Monday and that the second makeup game would be dropped because it likely would have no impact on the league race.

Halpern found out otherwise Tuesday and fumed that nobody from the City athletics office or his administration had told him over the weekend, even though, he said, the decision already had been made.

Not only could the revised schedule hurt Reseda's chances of winning the West Valley League title--the Regents (11-6, 6-2 in league play) trail Chatsworth (15-6, 7-2) by a half-game with two to play--there will be an academic side effect. Reseda players, in the first week of the new semester, will miss their fifth- and sixth-period classes on three consecutive days so that they can be bused to their games on time.

"(City administrator) Lee Joseph says it's no big deal because we play three of four games in a row during tournament season," Halpern said. "Well, school isn't usually in session during the tournaments. I thought academics were supposed to be a priority."

SHOT BLOCKER

Grant's Wayne Carlisle might have led area City Section players in blocked shots last season-- if Coach Howie Levine had kept that statistic.

"Everyone kept asking me how many he had," Levine said.

To please the statistics watchers, Levine has been keeping a close eye on the number of shots the 6-foot-6 senior forward has blocked.

Carlisle, who is leading area City players in blocks per game, has 64 in 20 games.

"He's got very long arms," Levine said. "But it's his footwork. His footwork is much improved from last year. I'd rather him work on good footwork (to get in position) than swat a shot out of bounds."

Carlisle had a career-high nine blocks against Birmingham on Wednesday.

CAN'T PLEASE EVERYONE

The Southern Section invites every basketball team to the playoffs, but that does not mean everyone will participate. Nor does it mean everyone will be happy.

St. Francis Coach John Jordan said if his team had not finished third in the San Fernando League, it would not have played in the postseason.

"A couple weeks ago, after a loss to St. Genevieve, we decided that if we were going to do it, we wanted to do it the right way, basically, by qualifying," he said.

The Knights (8-14, 5-5 in league play) won their final three games--and five of their last eight--to finish a game ahead of St. Genevieve.

The Valiants (8-13, 4-6) and first-year Coach Dan Donovan gladly accepted their at-large invitation.

But Donovan has a gripe about the seeding for the playoff brackets. The fourth-place Valiants will visit Mojave tonight while fifth-place La Salle (18-8, 3-7) will play host to Paraclete.

"I guess they went by overall record," Donovan said. "What they're telling me is, 'Don't play any tough games in preseason or play any tough tournaments.' "

BIG SHOT

Brad Imbler's winning shot at the buzzer Saturday sent a ripple through the Alpha League.

Imbler's three-point basket gave L.A. Baptist a 63-62 win over Maranatha and, more important, a second-place league finish. With Montclair Prep teams banned from the playoffs because of violations by the football program, the Knights are the Alpha's top-seeded team.

Had Imbler's shot failed, L.A. Baptist (15-7, 7-3) would have fallen into a three-way tie for second with Village Christian (11-13, 6-4) and Maranatha (10-12, 5-5). A coin toss would have determined seedings for the top three teams.

FORESIGHT

Just 2 1/2 months ago, Canoga Park basketball Coach Jeff Davis was convinced that the Hunters would give Mid-Valley League opponents a run for the league title.

That was then. This is now.

The Hunters (1-9 in league play) have won just two of 21 games and are 8 1/2 games out of first. Although Davis missed the mark where his team was concerned, he was right about sophomore forward Charles Adams.

Since the City Section returned from its two-week break, Adams has been on a tear. The 6-3 transfer from Manual Arts has scored in double figures in the past eight games, averaging 20.1 points and 9.9 rebounds. He has scored more than 20 points the past three games.

"I knew he was going to be good," Davis said. "It just took him some time to get going."

Before the break, Adams was averaging 7.4 points.

SWEET DECISION

Things looked bleak for the Grant girls' basketball team after last season's successful campaign. Grant was 15-6 and won the East Valley League title but also lost five starters to graduation. In addition, Coach Susan Sweet had decided to step down.

But Sweet had second thoughts about retiring before the new season began and is glad she came back. She has guided her team to an 11-3 record and its fourth consecutive East Valley League title (with a 6-0 mark). The only losses have come to North Hollywood and Van Nuys (twice), two of the City's top teams.

"This team is all heart," Sweet said after the Lancers clinched the league championship with a 60-54 win over Sylmar on Tuesday.

The Lancers have overcome much adversity. Two players transferred and two others became academically ineligible, leaving Grant with only six players. But the Lancers have shaken off those losses.

Nicole Baynes, a 5-8 senior transfer from Spokane, Wash., played a big role in coaxing Sweet to return. Baynes had considered enrolling at St. Bernard, but a friend recommended Grant because of Sweet's coaching. "You can't quit now," Baynes told Sweet.

Baynes has rewarded Sweet by averaging 18.5 points, 13.2 rebounds, 4.4 steals and two assists a game.

RUNNING OUT OF LUCK

En route to the Southern Section office in Cerritos to pick up a copy of the Division 1-A pairings, Hueneme basketball Coach Howard Davis was pulled over for speeding on Pacific Coast Highway.

Fortunately for Davis, he was given only a warning.

But Davis' luck ran out Tuesday when Downey (18-7) handed the Vikings (11-15) a 75-64 loss in a qualifying-round game.

"I should have known my luck ran out Sunday," Davis quipped. "That was my good luck for the week."

David Coulson, Vince Kowalick and staff writers Steve Elling, Paige A. Leech, Jeff Riley and T.C. Porter contributed to this notebook.

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