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Gifford Taking Care of Business at OCC

Polly Gifford figured it couldn’t hurt to take a business course this fall at Orange Coast.

Early in the course, the instructor asked if any students would like to own a business someday. Gifford, a sophomore midfielder on the women’s soccer team, raised her hand along with a few classmates.

Next, the teacher asked who already owned a business. Gifford’s was the only hand that remained in the air.

Gifford, along with her sister Keeley and a family friend, are the owners of Northwood Pizza in Lake Forest. It opened about two months ago.

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“I’m kind of doing it backward,” she said about taking the class now. “We did all the construction and cleaning ourselves. That’s why we get on the employees about keeping the place so clean.”

It certainly wasn’t a blind leap for the three who learned the pizza game while working as managers of a Northwood Pizza in Irvine. The financial backing is from “the bank of mom and dad,” as Gifford, 20, put it.

Gifford works six days a week at the restaurant, is a full-time student and is also a starter for first-place Orange Coast, which has a one-game lead with two left in the Orange Empire Conference race.

The Pirates are at Fullerton today and play host to second-place Cypress in a game Friday.

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But Gifford isn’t thinking about relaxing when the season ends the first weekend in December. She has applied to coach a lower-level soccer team at Irvine High this winter and when she can also helps out in the kindergarten class her mother teaches in Fountain Valley.

Her father is an aeronautics instructor at Cypress College and Gifford likes to fly, but said she has more of a calling to be an elementary school teacher.

That and playing soccer at a four-year college right out of high school were her plans two years ago.

But things changed quickly for Gifford one December afternoon in 1993. Gifford, who played for Woodbridge High, went up for a ball and collided with an Irvine player. Both fell. The Irvine player had a broken tailbone, and Gifford said she felt a great pain in her left knee when she landed.

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After a series of tests, the news from the doctor was devastating. She’d torn her anterior cruciate ligament, as well as two other ligaments and needed surgery.

She said the day she found out her season was over was the hardest she has ever faced.

Early on, rehabilitation was a struggle, but whenever she started to lose her drive, she was pushed hard by her family, especially her father.

“He kept telling me that he wasn’t going to let me give up,” she said. “He won’t let me quit.”

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Gifford required another operation in the spring of 1994 to clear up an infection but slowly started to improve with therapy.

One day, she decided to have her physical therapist push her knee until Gifford couldn’t stand the pain.

“You could hear the scar tissue popping,” she said. “But after that I was OK. I got my full flexibility back. . . . I was fine once I got over the selfishness and the ‘poor me’ attitude. I was sure that no one knew what I was going through. But after that, it was like I could do anything.”

Still, Gifford came to Orange Coast with a large, awkward brace on her knee, which limited her ability to move quickly and her playing time. But this season, she is playing without the brace and seldom leaves the field.

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“It’s made a lot of difference,” OCC Coach Barbara Bond said. “You can feel her energy. She is a really an important player for us.”

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Football poll: Long Beach (10-0) moved past Los Angeles Valley (9-0) to take over the top spot in the Southland poll. LA Valley, which had a bye, fell to second.

San Bernardino Valley (9-0) is third, Bakersfield (8-1) fourth, Santa Monica (7-1-1) fifth, Citrus (8-1) sixth, Hancock (7-2) seventh, Mt. San Antonio (7-2) eighth, Saddleback (6-3) ninth and Moorpark (7-3) 10th.

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Rancho Santiago (6-3), which fell out of the top 10 with a loss Saturday to Fullerton, travels to Saddleback in a game at 7 p.m. Saturday to decide the Central Division title. The teams each have 4-1 records in the division and the winner will get an invitation to the Dec. 2 Simple Green Orange County Bowl.

Notes

Mike Cosgrove, a sophomore right-hander for the Cypress baseball team, has signed with Tennessee. Cosgrove, from Cerritos High, was 9-1 with 62 strikeouts as a freshman. He will pitch for Cypress this spring, then transfer to Tennessee in the fall of 1996.


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