Date Debate Sets Tone for Titans, Dons

Soccer mania: So the Cal State Fullerton men's soccer team is in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals this weekend for the first time in school history.

Big deal.

The most impressive thing is that Fullerton and San Francisco were able to agree on a time and a day: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

The debate raged back and forth all day Monday: Kickoff at 1 p.m. Sunday, 3 p.m. or 7 p.m.? Or Saturday night?

San Francisco lobbied for Sunday at 7. The 49ers play the Rams in Anaheim at 1 that day and the Dons were worried that, with Steve Young and Jerry Rice on television and the fact that many students will be home this weekend, any attempt to play Saturday or early Sunday would result in empty bleachers.

Fullerton countered with the earlier times, using that old-fashioned university argument: classes. Titan Coach Al Mistri was concerned that if the game was played late Sunday, his players would have to stay overnight and miss classes Monday.

And if Fullerton wins, the Titans will probably have to leave for the Final Four in North Carolina on Wednesday.

That means Tuesday would be the only day the Titans would attend classes.

Anyway, the arguments went back and forth all day Monday until, with both sides stalemate, the matter was turned over to the NCAA men's soccer committee. The committee ruled on Tuesday morning: Saturday night, it said.

"I don't know why it took so long (to agree)," Mistri said. "It seems like a very simple thing."

As for the Dons' backing out of Sunday afternoon because of the 49er game, Mistri just shook his head.

"That's just an incredible statement," he said. "I'm not even going to get into it."

*

Throwing together last-minute plans is never easy, but throw in the Thanksgiving weekend and the American Airlines flight attendants' strike--which was settled Monday--and you have a major-league headache with travel plans. Fullerton officials scrambled all day Monday to make 26 flight reservations.

So, this is the best they could do through the friendly skies: Even though the Titans play on Saturday night, they couldn't get a return flight until Sunday night. And they are winging home to . . . Palm Springs, where they will catch a bus and ride the rest of the way to campus.

Turns out Fullerton officials couldn't book that many tickets together for a return trip Sunday to any of the Los Angeles-area airports.

*

Same field, two views: San Diego's soccer field is narrower and shorter than most. After Fullerton won, 3-2, Sunday, the coaches had a little different take on the afternoon.

"I thought the field played to them," San Diego Coach Seamus McFadden said. "They were complaining that the field was not wide enough, but their style of play is conducive to a smaller field."

Said Mistri: "I positively disagree. No way. We would have given anything to play at our home. We are significantly better when the field is wider."

*

Long and winding road: In the last two weeks, Fullerton has defeated Fresno State and San Diego on the road in NCAA tournament games.

The Titans had never won in Fresno since Mistri took over the program in 1981, and they hadn't won in San Diego since 1982.

Not that the odds are getting any easier. The Titans are 0-10-1 against San Francisco.

*

The longer and winding road: Faced with their third consecutive NCAA tournament game away from home, the Titans don't seem to mind.

"I like playing away," said Ken Hesse, who scored the game-winning goal against San Diego Sunday. "It gives me more emotion to play."

*

Little-known fact No. 1: The Titans are 7-1 on the road this year, 7-3 at home.

Little-known fact No. 2: The last time the Titans advanced past the first round in the NCAA tournament was in 1975. That year, they made it to the second round, where they were eliminated by . . . San Francisco, 3-2, in overtime.

*

Mistri is excited to play San Francisco again.

"I think it's great," he said. "We played them in 1991 at the San Jose tournament and lost, 2-1, in regulation time. Their main players were sophomores then. We're looking forward to playing them again."

Titan Notes

The Fullerton baseball team has signed three community college players: infielder Joe Fraser and outfielder Matt Kastelic from Rancho Santiago and right-handed pitcher Mark Chavez from Harbor. "That was kind of the theory behind signing them--get some immediate help," associate head coach George Horton said. . . . The Titan women's gymnastics team has signed two players: Michele Lotta, from Los Angeles Marymount High, and Christy Lutz, from Oceanside El Camino High.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
59°