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CAL STATE FULLERTON NOTEBOOK / SCOTT MILLER : Without Titan Football, Spring Is Still Season of Renewal

You’re familiar with spring football?

Well, without a football team, Cal State Fullerton is in the midst of spring soccer. And the Titans just finished quite a weekend, featuring:

--The debut of a new women’s team.

--A men’s team going gangbusters.

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--A wedding.

Let us explain. . . .

The women’s team lost its first match, spring or fall, to Loyola Marymount on Saturday, 5-0. Because one player had a prior commitment, the team played with the minimum 11 players--10 plus a goalkeeper.

Coach Al Mistri was encouraged: The score was 0-0 with about three minutes left in the first half. Mistri also was discouraged: The effort was gallant, the technical skills were not.

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He sees a future that, for now, centers around sweeper April Henderson and striker Jennifer Schulte.

“April definitely figures to be a mainstay for the team,” Mistri said. “And Jennifer was pretty much our lone striker, but she had a couple of pretty good runs at it.

“In all the gloom, those are two rays of significant hope, as far as I’m concerned.”

The men defeated Loyola Marymount, 4-1, and then whipped Cal State Northridge, 4-0, on Saturday after Northridge had defeated UCLA earlier in the day.

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“In the second game, we were well in control,” Mistri said. “Our effort was remarkable.”

Not only did Fullerton beat a solid Northridge club but, like the women earlier in the day, they had to play the game with the minimum number of players. Todd Patrick suffered a strained right knee against Loyola Marymount, and the Titans lost assistant coach Bob Ammann, his goalkeeper brother, Mike, and captain Paul McDonnell to . . .

The wedding.

Bob Ammann was scheduled to get married later Saturday and his brother and McDonnell were in the wedding.

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The trio left about halfway through the Loyola Marymount game and were unable to return for the Northridge contest.

“Bob was actually (at the Loyola Marymount game) but did leave around 11:30 a.m.,” Mistri said. “I kept asking him, ‘Are you sure you want to be here?’ ”

The groom, who is also a goalkeeper for the L.A. Salsa, assured Mistri he did.

But with Ammann leaving early, the question becomes, should Mistri fine him?

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“I probably should, shouldn’t I?” Mistri said, laughing. “You just can’t find volunteers as dedicated as you used to.”

*

So, Michael Grubbs, you were named a wrestling All-American at 118 pounds 10 days ago. Now what are you going to do?

Forget the amusement parks that insist on purchasing NHL expansion teams and sticking them with goofy nicknames. Grubbs is going to the grocery store.

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“It feels good to eat whatever I want,” said Grubbs, a senior, who has had to watch his diet since starting to wrestle in the fifth grade. In just more than a week, grocery receipts are stacking up in front of Grubbs more quickly than phone messages.

“I’ve spent tons of money at the grocery store,” Grubbs said. “All the things I missed out on eating during the season--chips, doughnuts, everything I can get my hands on.

“Candy, anything.”

Grubbs, believe it or not, said he has already gained “13 or 14" pounds since March 20.

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But he is certainly keeping the pizza delivery people happy.

Now, as he turns his attention back to school--he is a finance major and said he should finish up next semester--he wonders if his wrestling career is finished.

“Right now, my career is over,” Grubbs said. “But I don’t know. Winning is kind of hard to get out of your system.”

For now, he plans to be a graduate assistant coach at Fullerton next season.

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“I’m happy it’s over and kind of sad it’s over,” he said. “I still feel like I should be training.

“But it sure feels good to eat.”

*

You’ve heard of controversies regarding juiced baseballs? Here’s a story about juiced softballs--but it’s not controversial.

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The NCAA switched this season to a ball with a harder core (from a Dudley to a Wilson) in hopes of adding offense.

“According to studies, the ball is traveling about 30 to 40 feet further when you hit it,” said Judi Garman, Fullerton softball coach. “So you’re seeing the ball get through the infield a lot faster.”

And it’s getting out of the park quicker, too. Fullerton, which hit only 10 home runs last season, had four in a doubleheader on March 14 against Cal Poly Pomona.

“The pitchers don’t like it,” Garman said. “They don’t like seeing their ERAs go up.

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“But talking to fans, they’re loving it. Games are not over now until the last out. Now, you can get a big inning.

“And you’re not seeing as much bunting. There’s a lot more strategy for the coaches.”

At times, it is difficult to tell if it is softball or pinball. Infielders are getting their fingers dinged and pitchers are wearing knee pads on their shins to deflect line drives.

Garman, though, isn’t complaining.

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“I love it,” she said. “I think it’s opened up the game.”

*

The last word on Nevada bypassing Titan basketball Coach Brad Holland in favor of Pat Foster from the University of Houston:

How bad has the Southwest Conference become when a coach at Houston--once the home of Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, flees in favor of a Big West Conference school that doesn’t exactly have a storied basketball tradition?

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But the money was right--a five-year deal worth approximately $1 million--and Athletic Director Chris Ault convinced Foster that Nevada is firmly committed to giving a coach the tools needed to win.

After years of playing second-fiddle to Nevada Las Vegas, Nevada, which moved into the Big West this year and finished last, has finally had enough of its counterpart to the south. Why, Wolf Pack athletic officials wonder, should UNLV reap all of the sports headlines?

“UNLV, as you analyze their program, surely has had some success,” Ault said. “Our experience this year in going to the Big West is, it’s a terrific basketball conference. Our expectations for the past year were not high. We felt that we could finish somewhere in the middle, from fourth to seventh.

“I will tell you this very strongly: We are not a last-place team in this conference in basketball. . . . We feel we could be in the top echelon in the Big West. The ingredient we are missing is a top coach to be competitive on the recruiting trails. We have all the support you need to be successful.”

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*

Mike Tansley, attempting to become the first Titan to qualify for the NCAA Division I track and field nationals, missed one chance Saturday in a meet at UC Irvine, but Fullerton Coach John Elders is hopeful Tansley can qualify in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Mt. SAC relays April 16.

“I think he has a real good shot there,” Elders said.

Tansley needs to finish in 8 minutes 44 seconds to get the automatic qualification. The provisional qualifying mark is 8:55. Elders said he thought Tansley could run that at Irvine because of the presence of Weber State’s Kurt Black, who finished fourth at last year’s nationals.

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“We were hoping he would carry Mike along,” Elders said. “But Mike just didn’t have it.”

Titan Notes

The women’s gymnastics team leaves Thursday for the NCAA Regionals at Oregon State. Coach Lynn Rogers is hopeful that Brandi Baldasano, who has had a broken bone in her left hand, will get clearance from her doctor Wednesday to vault. . . . The baseball team, after sweeping three from Pacific, has won 11 in a row and is ranked fourth nationally by Collegiate Baseball (up from eighth last week) and sixth by Baseball America (same as last week). . . . Former Titan Phil Nevin was assigned to triple-A Tucson by the Houston Astros after batting .345 with the big club in spring training. The Astros are moving Nevin from third base to left field. . . . Fullerton’s spring soccer continues Saturday with the men at home against NCAA championship runner-up University of San Diego and UCLA playing Nevada Las Vegas, both at 10 a.m. on Titan practice fields. The losers will play in Titan Stadium at 6 p.m. and the winners at 8.


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