One couldn't call it unexpected if Cal Poly Pomona's women's tennis team wins its third national title in four years.
"We have essentially the same team returning, but it's always luck and timing," Pomona Coach Ann Lebedeff said. "After winning back-to-back titles, I think the expectation last year was like: 'We've done it before and it might come easy.'
"Well, it didn't. We finished third--which a lot of teams would have been happy with. But the team was disappointed. So I think that pushed them this year."
All teams should get such a push: Pomona heads into this weekend's NCAA Division II national championships as the top-ranked team with a 19-1-1 record.
Last year's squad might have been a little immature. The roster had five juniors, a sophomore and two freshmen. A season of seasoning seems to have made a difference.
Pomona swept through the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. season with a 6-0 record and all six of Pomona's singles' players made the All-CCAA team.
"I think we're in the best position we've been in here for a while," Lebedeff said. "This is really a team and not a collection of individuals. People like to say tennis is not a team sport, but the team wins or loses by the play of all the kids. If someone is a prima donna, it affects tennis teams just like any other team sport."
But they have had no such problems--possibly because of finishing third last last year and losing to UC Davis earlier this year.
"I couldn't care less about records, so I think it was good to lose," Lebedeff said. "I think you learn more by losing. In winning, you're on this cloud where you think you can do anything--it's unrealistic. Sometimes I think (losing) is the best thing that can happen to a team."
In that case, a lot of good things have been happening to Pomona's opponents.
The team tournament will be held May 6-8 at the Industry Hill Sheraton Resort in the City of Industry. The singles and doubles tournament is set for May 9-12.
Cal State San Bernardino hired a men's basketball coach, Denny Aye, ending a tumultuous year under former coach Reggie Morris.
Aye coached the last nine seasons at Columbia College, a junior college in Northern California, where he had a 247-65 record--an average of nearly 29 victories a year.
At Columbia, he coached two of the best Division II players of the last two seasons: Tyrone Davis and Roheen Oats. Davis and Oats led Cal State Bakersfield to consecutive national championships the last two seasons. Davis was the California Collegiate Athletic Assn. player of the year in 1993 and the NCAA Division II tournament MVP that year.
Aye said Cal State San Bernardino has great potential, in part because of a 5,000-seat arena that is under construction and a growing community that can support the school.
"It's a great area that is untapped," he said. "It will be nice to be at a four-year school with scholarships, so I can recruit based on athletics and academics. At Columbia, the second question we asked was, 'Do you qualify for financial aid?' because there are no scholarships at that level."
Aye also has the advantage of coming into a program with relatively no expectations.
"Can you imagine what it's going to be like for the next guy going into Bakersfield? How can you follow that? I don't have that situation here."
Morris leaves the program with a 37-41 record.
More than likely, the impetus for a change came from an incident before the season started. Develle Walker, a former CCAA player of the year, and current player Wayne Williams were playing in a pick-up basketball game at the school gym in September and the two fought. Williams allegedly pulled a gun out of his gym bag and threatened Walker with it.
The San Bernardino County district attorney declined to pursue the case, but the program was under scrutiny by the San Bernardino media. There were charges of a cover-up because Williams was San Bernardino's best player and that the case was mishandled by the school police.
True or not, the school was getting publicity it did not want.
"I think the incident that happened this fall was a deciding factor for the administration," Morris said shortly after being informed that the job would be opened to other applicants.
"What's next? I'm wide open," Morris said. "Sometimes you have to go through these experiences. I always wanted to be thought of more as a mentor than as a basketball coach. I don't want it to be all about wins and losses."
College Division Notes
UC Riverside pitcher Scott Tebbetts set a school season-record by getting 11 saves this season. The old record was nine by John Vigrass in 1991. . . . Cal Poly Pomona's senior catcher, Brian Dennis, was hit by two more pitches last weekend. That's 15 for the season and he is only three away from from the career mark of 38 set by Jason Shapiro of UC Davis in 1991-93. Dennis set the NCAA season record by getting hit by 20 pitches last season. . . . A pivotal three-game series between UC Riverside (34-15, 16-9 in CCAA) and Cal State Dominguez Hills (33-15, 15-9) will start Thursday. Dominguez Hills will be without outfielder and leading hitter (.384) Ray Judy, who suffered a broken finger and will sit out the rest of the season.
Last week, Pomona-Pitzer's baseball team swept a series from cross-campus rival Claremont-Mudd for the first time. Pomona-Pitzer (20-12 overall, 13-7 in conference) will finish with a winning record for the first time since 1969, and a winning record in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for the first time since 1957. Cal Lutheran won the SCIAC title with a 21-1 record (28-5-1 overall).