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Bassett Optimistic About Volleyball

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In three seasons, from 1992 through ‘94, Cal State Fullerton won only three volleyball games.

But that didn’t bother Heather Bassett when it came time to decide where she would play after two years at San Diego Mesa College.

“I wanted to be part of helping to turn a program around, and I think we’ve done that,” Bassett said.

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The Titans went from those depths to 12-19 last season. And after winning only one Big West game in two seasons, the Titans were 5-13 in the conference. It was the best showing by Fullerton since 1981.

Bassett had a team-leading 482 kills, including 36 in a match against San Jose State. Her 326 digs also ranked first on the team.

Bassett is optimistic the Titans are on their way to even more respectability this season. Fullerton won its first five games before losing to San Diego last week. No other Titan team in 20 seasons won five games in a row.

Bassett is again leading the way with 106 kills and 58 digs, both team highs, and her .297 hitting percentage is better than a year ago.

Her 5.18 kill average is the best in the Big West and ranks 15th nationally.

“I think it all started toward the end of last season,” Bassett said. “We won four of our last five games, and that really helped our confidence. I think it made us all feel that we’d definitely turned it around.”

Bassett says several newcomers have helped to strengthen the team this season. Bassett points to Jennifer Erickson, a transfer from Gonzaga. “She’s come in and done an unbelievable job for us so far,” Bassett said. “She has that winning attitude.”

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Erickson is tied for second on the team in kills with 43, and her 51 digs rank third behind Bassett and another senior, Shelly Smith.

“I don’t feel like I have to do as much on my own this season,” Bassett said. “Having other good players around gets me fired up.”

Fullerton might have been even stronger if one of its top recruits, Rochelle Esparza, wasn’t ineligible this season. Esparza, the Southern Section Division I player of the year at Manhattan Beach Mira Costa, failed to qualify academically.

The Titans were rated 10th out of 12 teams in the preseason Big West coaches’ poll, but Bassett is optimistic the Titans will do better.

“My goal is 20 wins this season, and I think we can do it if we continue playing the way we have been,” Bassett said.

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The men’s soccer team (4-0-1) is ranked second in the nation this week by Soccer America and third by Soccer News. Duke remains No. 1 in both polls. Creighton is second in Soccer News.

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The two teams the Titans play in the Fresno State tournament this weekend also are nationally ranked. Fresno State is rated sixth by Soccer News and seventh by Soccer America. Southern Methodist is No. 9 in Soccer America, No. 12 in Soccer News.

Fullerton striker Sheldon Thomas leads the region in scoring with 11 points (five goals, one assist).

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Coach John Elders was encouraged by the performance of his women’s cross-country team in last weekend’s UC Irvine Invitational.

The Titans were fifth overall in the meet won by Northern Arizona. Big West Conference rival Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was second, but UCI was two points ahead of the Titans in fourth.

“I was very pleased with that showing,” Elders said. “Irvine is the defending conference champion, and I still think they’ll be the team to beat even though Cal Poly finished ahead of them in this meet. And we beat UC Santa Barbara for the first time in several years. The women have exceeded our expectations so far, and they should continue to improve.”

Sarah MacDougall was the top Fullerton finisher at 14th. Teresa Santana was 17th and Sonia Perez was 20th.

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The men’s team was seventh, and its best finish was 32nd by Stuart Gonzalez. Two runners, Josh Slater and Luis Baca, missed the event because of illness.

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Fullerton’s baseball schedule for next season is set with nonconference series at Arizona, Florida State and Fresno State, and at home against Stanford, Pepperdine and San Diego. The Titans also will play midweek games against Cal State Northridge, UCLA and USC, home and away.

Unfortunately, Fullerton had to drop a three-game series at Texas against former coach Augie Garrido’s team in order to balance home and road dates on their schedule.

“We still could have played there, but we would have had to drop one of the other series on the road, and we felt an obligation to the other teams since those games had been scheduled earlier,” Coach George Horton said.

The Big West Conference will go to North and South divisions next season, creating a 30-game conference schedule.

Fullerton will be in the South Division with Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara and new member Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The North Division will have Nevada, New Mexico State and Pacific, plus Cal State Sacramento as an affiliate member for baseball only.

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Liza Brown, who pitched all four NCAA regional tournament games for the Titan softball team last spring, has transferred to DePaul.

Coach Judi Garman had expected Brown to transfer after her parents moved to Chicago last year. Brown had an 18-13 record as a freshman.

The Titans will rebuild around three new pitchers: Donna Coombes, a junior transfer from Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College who played at Arcadia High and is the sister of former Titan standout Missy Coombes; sophomore Jana Oetgen of San Diego, a transfer from Oklahoma State; and Danielle Ferreira, a freshman from La Crescenta High.

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Coming Attractions

Here’s a look at key games this week for Cal State Fullerton:

* Women’s volleyball at Kansas tournament, Friday against Oklahoma and DePaul, Saturday against Texas Pan American and Kansas. The Titans are 5-1 this season.

* Women’s soccer, against Cal Poly Pomona at 7 p.m. Saturday at Titan Stadium. Fullerton is 3-2.

* Men’s soccer, at Fresno State tournament, Friday at 5:30 p.m. against Southern Methodist, Sunday at 3 p.m. against Fresno State. The Titans are 4-0-1.

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