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Preparation Moves Serrins Closer to Goal

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It would be difficult to find many others in the nation with better grooming to be a top college goalkeeper than Santa Margarita’s Riki-Ann Serrins. Consider:

--She has trained with Tony Meola, goalkeeper for the 1994 U.S. World Cup team and with Mary Harvey, goalkeeper for the 1991 world champion U.S. women’s team.

--She led the Mission Viejo Shamrocks soccer club to the 1995 national under-16 championship final.

--And she has reached the highest levels of the Olympic Development Program.

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Serrins has helped Santa Margarita to four Sea View League titles. The Eagles (15-1-3) are top-seeded in the Southern Section Division II tournament.

Serrins, who is heading to Maryland in the fall, not only has the credentials for big-time college soccer, she also has the drive.

“Riki-Ann is a leader. I don’t think there’s another way to describe her,” Santa Margarita Coach Chuck Morales said. “She is [like a] Marine. She goes in there and just absolutely gets totally tuned into the game.”

Serrins’ athletic focus was evident early. As a child, she lost her patience with the other 8-year-olds in Bobby Sox.

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“Some of the parents just made them do it and they were more into just sitting there watching the flowers grow,” Serrins said.

So Serrins switched to Little League. Every summer for the next four years, Serrins spent her time as the only girl on her team.

“Some of the guys I was playing with were better than me but I was better than a lot of them, too,” she said.

At Newhart Elementary School in Mission Viejo, Serrins spent her recesses on the basketball courts with mostly boys, including Santa Margarita’s leading scorer, Brad Gloger.

“I taught Bradford how to play basketball,” she said.

When there were no good recess basketball games, Serrins could be found practically glued to the fence overlooking the World Cup training center, where the U.S. team spent about two years practicing for the 1994 World Cup.

She would yell a greeting to Meola, for whom Serrins’ family served as a host family when he trained in the area.

In the summer of 1994, Serrins was invited to the Olympic Development Program’s national camp in San Diego with many of the nation’s top players. Every day, players trained and scrimmaged under the watchful eyes of the country’s most influential coaches.

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One night, Serrins called Meola for some advice.

“I just wanted to talk to him and ask him things I should do. I just needed to hear a voice,” Serrins said. “I just remember him asking me, ‘Are you nervous?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘That’s good because that means you care.’ ”

Serrins father, Philip, had been active in bringing Meola and the World Cup team to Mission Viejo to train, and his connections also brought him to Harvey.

Harvey stayed with the Serrins for several months recently, when she was in Mission Viejo undergoing physical therapy.

“From a female standpoint, her advice as far as soccer stuff really helped me out,” Serrins said.

Serrins’ experience with the Shamrocks probably has been the most influential part of her soccer career. Since 1991, the Shamrocks have won five state titles and three Far West Regional titles.

“We’re so close,” Serrins said. “Anything that I can do to help them out I will.”

In the summer of 1995, when the Shamrocks played in the national final in Florida, an opposing forward slid, cleats-up, into Serrins’ leg. Serrins knew she was injured but she grimaced and stayed in goal.

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“We didn’t have another keeper on the team. I wasn’t going out of the game in the national final,” she said.

She could barely walk for the next week and had to cancel a trip to Meola’s goalkeepers’ camp that summer.

Serrins’ worst injury happened her sophomore year at Santa Margarita, when she and former Eagle defender Meagan Lingo collided heads. Lingo landed with a gaping wound on her forehead and Serrins was missing four teeth.

“I didn’t know how bad I was so when [Morales] rushed out there, I still wanted to play,” she said. “That’s when I opened my mouth and all the blood came out. He looked at me and laughed.”

Serrins collected the remnants of her teeth from the ground and a dentist glued her teeth back together and fitted her with a plastic bridge.

Serrins seems unfazed by the danger of her position.

“I guess it’s an instinct you kind of learn when you are little because when you are little you don’t have too many fears,” she said. “When you get older you don’t really think about it because it’s what you know.”

Serrins’ courage should serve her well in college.

“I couldn’t have thrown myself in a harder position,” she said. “If I’m going to go anywhere with soccer, Maryland is going to be the school that is going to allow me to go.”

Maryland has advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals the past two seasons and has an opening at the goalkeeper position this season.

Serrins is expected to compete with another recruit, Alli Wolff of Richmond, Va.

“I would not be surprised if she rips that starter’s spot right out of that other girl’s hands,” Morales said. “She’s not afraid of anybody. She’s not afraid to go in tough, she’s not afraid of hard work.”

Serrins has never stopped being the 8-year-old who grew impatient with the other girls’ lack of focus at softball practice. Serrins’ intensity has been a blessing and a curse for some of her teammates and coaches, but Morales said he has the highest admiration for her.

“I admire her intestinal fortitude--her absolute, unwavering dedication to whatever goal she sets,” Morales said. “She is not a fickle person. It’s all or nothing with her.”


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