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CAL STATE FULLERTON NOTEBOOK / SCOTT MILLER : Murchison Puts Focus on Future of Program

School has started and, bam , before they even have a chance to blink, the Cal State Fullerton women’s volleyball team is 0-9.

Considering the team’s 1-27 finish last season, one might figure that second-year Coach Mary Ellen Murchison’s mood would be perpetually sour.

That would be wrong.

Players fled the team two years ago after the university announced it was cutting the program. Then came the sex discrimination lawsuit, the program’s subsequent reinstatement and the rebuilding from ground zero.

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When Murchison arrived in time for the 1992 season after 11 years as head coach at Santa Clara and one as an assistant at UC Irvine, she knew patience would be as important as digs and spikes.

As the losses have mounted, she has remembered that.

“I consider this our first season with our own recruits, and I didn’t schedule an easy preseason,” Murchison said. “This is not a team for the faint of heart to follow. We’re going to struggle. If people follow us, they’re going to follow us for the growth of the players.”

And there is a lot of room for that. At times, the Titans have been starting four freshmen--Chelsea Wilhite, Pine Reed, Jennifer Lipski and Heather Humphries--one community college transfer--Lisa Fa’Agata--and one other player--Heidi Robertson--who is just getting her feet wet at the Division I level.

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The youth has shown. Fullerton led UC Santa Barbara, 12-8, in the first game Saturday before the Gauchos roared back to score 37 of the next 40 points and win the match in three games.

And in their match before that, the Titans gave San Diego a good first game before losing, 15-11, then were routed in the next two games--15-1, 15-2.

The Titans embark on a trip to Pacific and Nevada this weekend. Both teams figure to provide a challenge.

Murchison, though, will be looking for the little victories.

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“I think the major thing is that our conference is so difficult, so tough, that if these players can be competitive as freshmen against All-American players and All-American-caliber teams, by the time they are juniors and seniors, it won’t be such a daunting experience.”

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Murchison is starting a new chapter along with her team this season. About a month ago, Murchison finished her last radiation treatment for breast cancer.

She started chemotherapy shortly after the cancer was discovered last February and then had surgery in June. Since then, she has undergone more chemotherapy as well as radiation treatments. During one spell this summer, she underwent radiation treatment every day for five weeks.

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But doctors tell her she is now cancer-free.

“I feel pretty good,” Murchison said. “I think the worst that can be said about me is that my hair should be longer.”

She took no time off during her treatment and is full-speed ahead now that the new season is under way.

“Now that (the treatments) are over, it’s hard to remember (the ordeal),” Murchison said. “You think things are difficult and you say it is a tough job . . . it’s all relative.”

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Add Title IX: Despite the fact that the suit is pending and it created an upheaval within Fullerton athletics, Murchison said she has not felt any kind of resentment from the rest of the department.

“My attitude is that I’m more about what the future is, I’m not about the past,” she said. “When does old news become old news? We need to get on with the task at hand, and it’s a total rebuilding effort. . . .

“We get great support from the administration, the kids are great kids. We just have to stay focused.”

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Fullerton no longer has football, but Titan football still makes the news.

UCLA Coach Terry Donahue kicked the corpse before his team’s 14-13 loss to Nebraska on Saturday:

“I’d rather be playing Cal State Fullerton,” he said.

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Titan Notes

The new rankings are out and the Titan men’s soccer team is third in the coaches’ poll (up from fourth last week) and fourth according to Soccer America (up from seventh). The Titans went 2-0 last week and now are 6-0 overall. They travel to the Bay Area this weekend for the St. Mary’s tournament, where they play Santa Clara on Friday and St. Mary’s on Sunday. . . . Coach Gene Murphy’s return to Titan Stadium with Fullerton College on Saturday brought out some familiar faces. Ed Carroll, former Titan athletic director, was there, as was Ron Smith, a booster who followed the Titans to almost all away games; Ray Peterson, who built the camera platform on the press box roof; Daren Gilbert, a former Titan offensive lineman who played with the New Orleans Saints; and Tony Bushala, a former running back. . . . Denise DeWalt, an All-American Titan infielder who completed her eligibility last spring, has traded in her softball cleats for sneakers. While finishing up work for her teaching credential, she will play basketball for Biola University. . . . The women’s soccer team is at UC San Diego at 3 p.m. today. . . . The men’s and women’s cross-country teams are in a triangular at UC Santa Barbara on Saturday, along with Westmont College.


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