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George Sisters a Matched Trio : Chatsworth Midfielders Have Much in Common--Especially a Zeal for Soccer

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dennis George had seen the sport but didn’t think much of it. Returning to his family’s Chatsworth home after work, the computer consultant passed a local park where each day he saw hordes of children in happy pursuit of a tumbling object.

“There always seemed to be a thousand of them out there kicking this little ball around,” George recalled. “I’d always thought, ‘What a stupid thing to do.’ But then we got hooked.”

That was seven years ago and there are no signs of George or his family shaking free soon.

George’s three daughters, Melinda, 17, Michelle, 16, and Pamela, 15, start for the Chatsworth High girls’ soccer team, a perennial City Section powerhouse that looks as dominant as ever this winter with a related triple threat in its midst.

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The George sisters describe themselves as best friends and say that having one another close by for guidance and emotional support is key to their performance.

“It’s nice having two older sisters on the team,” Pamela said. “They never knock me and I can always look to them for encouragement. Having your own blood on the team, you can ask them, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ and they’ll be honest with you.”

Occupying three of their squad’s four midfield positions, the siblings have propelled the Chancellors to a 7-1-1 record. They have accounted for 13 of the team’s 40 goals and often employ what verges on mental telepathy to control a contest.

“We all work together well, we know each other’s style of play,” Pamela said. “We can all pretty much read each other’s minds as to where we’re going to put the ball, where to run, when to move to open space.”

The Georges began developing their soccer instincts on their first youth teams and play the sport with a passion that impresses Chatsworth Coach Jack Sidwell.

“Their intensity level is exceedingly high,” Sidwell said. “Some players will be a little goofy during off times in practice. But (the Georges) are there to win at soccer and it’s hard to get anything in between them and that goal.”

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On the field it’s often difficult to get anything between them, period. Playing midfield, the Georges are able to roam from goal to goal, influencing every facet of a match.

Melinda, who has scored eight goals, led last year’s team with 30 and has such endurance that Sidwell says she could easily play back-to-back matches. Michelle has three goals and is impressive with the ball in traffic. Pamela is the fastest of the three and has two goals.

Despite the Georges’ skill at soccer, the game is far from the focus of their lives. The girls are part of a tightly knit family that includes their mother, Georgia, and younger brother, Paul.

All three sisters are good students, play a sport besides soccer and are Girl Scouts. Toss in sleep and an occasional meal and there’s not much time for hanging out, kicking back or fooling around.

“I write schedules all the time,” said Melinda, who after being in Girl Scouts for 13 years will soon receive the organization’s highest citation, the Gold Award. “Often I wake up in the night thinking I have to write down everything that needs to be done or else I’ll forget. I’m a lot more of a lists person than my sisters.”

That’s understandable, given the straight-A student’s commitments throughout the year.

The senior is in three advanced placement courses and one honors class at Chatsworth, runs track and cross-country for the Chancellors, is the leader of a 30-member Girl Scout troop and, when high school soccer is out of season, plays the sport with Michelle on the San Fernando Roses club team.

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“Anything (Melinda) does, she puts everything into it,” said Michelle, who with Pamela chose to be a member of a Girl Scout troop separate from their sister’s.

“I totally admire and envy her dedication and commitment. I wish I had that, and over the years I think I’ve gained more just from watching her and wanting to be more alike.”

While Melinda’s determination and discipline are noteworthy, it sets her somewhat apart from her sisters, who share a room and are more impulsive and outgoing.

“Boys, clothes and dancing, Michelle and Pamela are probably more alike” said Georgia, who attended Chatsworth High when it first opened in 1963 and graduated from the school two years later.

“They like the same kind of music and they like to go out and dance, whereas Melinda’s a little more inhibited. As the oldest child, she’s just not as free, where the other two are much more off-the-wall.”

Last season marked the first time the George sisters had played for the same soccer team. Age-group barriers on lower levels meant Michelle bounced back and forth, playing with Melinda one year, Pamela the next.

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The two older sisters were successful from the beginning, going undefeated in 1987 with their first youth league team.

“It was just going to be Pamela who played at first,” Georgia said. “But I told Dennis if we’re going to get Pamela in, we might as well let all three kids go the one year and get it out of our system.”

So much for that idea. Over the years, George girls appeared on numerous youth league and club teams, including one that featured Michelle and Pamela as players and their father as coach.

But it is at Chatsworth that the George sisters have attained their greatest glory and become closest with their teammates. The Chancellors are two deep at all 11 positions and the Georges are among the team’s brightest stars.

“I love playing with them,” said sophomore forward Denise Paul, the team’s leading goal scorer and a frequent beneficiary of the Georges’ passes.

“They’re almost perfect on the field and they say what needs to be said. It’s not like we look up to them, but we listen to what they say.”

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This winter, much of the talk among the Chatsworth players centers on their desire to recapture the City championship, a title they held from 1988 to 1992.

The Chancellors were ranked No. 1 in the section in 1993 and faced San Pedro, which they had crushed earlier in the season, in the playoff semifinals. Overconfident and uninspired, Chatsworth lost in double overtime, ending its five-year reign.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Michelle said. “We were focused on the finals and thinking we would play Grant (the eventual champion). It was almost a nightmare and it haunts me to this day. You walk in the gym and you see the banners . . . but there’s no ’93.”

Along with offering a chance for redemption, this season is special to the George sisters because it is likely their last as teammates.

Melinda hopes to run track in college and has applied to five of the California State universities for next fall. In the meantime, Michelle and Pamela are doing their best to create positive memories for themselves and their older sister.

“I want to make the most of this year, definitely,” said Michelle, who already has won a City championship this year with the Chatsworth volleyball team.

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“I can’t afford to waste it because it’s our last year together, both on the team and as a family. I want to win (the City championship) for Melinda because I know it means a lot to her. That’s always in my head and makes me try harder.”

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