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Vanguard Hoping for Longer Stay at NAIA Tournament

Vanguard will attempt to take school history a step further Thursday when it makes its third consecutive appearance at the NAIA Division I women’s basketball national championship tournament in Jackson, Tenn.

The Lions (28-6) open against Western Montana (21-7) and a victory pits them against the winner of the Oklahoma Southern Nazarene-Central Ohio State game.

Last season Vanguard advanced to the second round of the tournament for the first time.

“We’re very pleased that we’ve been there three years,” Athletic Director Bob Wilson said. “We don’t have a senior on the team and we’ll be going back there to get some experience. But for us to win a game or two, if we do that, then I think we are really going to make some noise in the next few years.”

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Youth has played a large role in the team’s successes--and failures--this season. In January, their 46-game home winning streak was snapped by Biola. Wilson said that in retrospect, the loss may have been a good thing.

“All those young players started to show up to play against that streak rather than against the opponent,” he said.

The Lions closed out the season with eight consecutive home victories. Now they hope to string together a few road wins.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

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Power forward James Williams has been one of the key players for the Long Beach State men’s basketball team this season.

He’s one of the reasons the 49ers went from 13-15 last season to first place in the Big West Conference Western Division. The 49ers are 24-5 after losing in the semifinals of the conference tournament, and will face California in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on Wednesday.

College recruiting always has some strange twists, and one of them is that Williams just as easily might have been playing at Cal State Fullerton this season.

Ronnie Dean, the Long Beach assistant who recruited Williams, is the same coach who left Fullerton two years ago for an assistant’s job at New Orleans, primarily because Bob Hawking’s status at Fullerton was uncertain at the time.

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“If I had stayed at Fullerton, Williams probably would have been at Fullerton,” Dean said at the Big West Conference tournament in Reno last weekend. “That’s one of the reasons I feel so badly about Coach Hawking resigning this season.”

Williams played at Vashon High School in St. Louis, where Dean has strong recruiting ties. Dean played a key role in recruiting Brandon Campbell to Fullerton from Cardinal Ritter High in St. Louis.

Dean had developed a recruiting relationship with Williams before Williams played two seasons at Dixie Community College in St. George, Utah.

Dean has said he would have stayed at Fullerton had he known that Hawking would receive a two-year contract extension in 1998.

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“I liked it at Fullerton,” Dean said. “Coach Hawking probably affected me more in the one year I was there than anyone in coaching because of the things he stood for and the way he approached everything so positively.”

The pace of the search for Hawking’s successor should be picking up soon.

“We’re putting together a search committee, and I hope I’ll be able to meet with them in the coming week,” university President Milton Gordon said at the Big West tournament.

Utah assistant coach Donny Daniels remains the center of speculation about a successor to Hawking.

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FUND ESTABLISHED

Cal State Fullerton has established a fund to help with medical expenses for Titan basketball player Rodney Anderson, who was shot March 2 by an unknown gunman near his family’s home in Los Angeles.

Donations can be made to the Rodney Anderson Assistance Fund, c/o University Advancement Foundation, 2600 E. Nutwood Ave., Suite 850, Fullerton, CA, 92831.

Anderson, a freshman guard, remains hospitalized in Los Angeles in serious condition, according to Fullerton spokesman Mel Franks.

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SIGNINGS

Concordia announced the signing of five women’s volleyball players.

Three of them are high school players: Halina Stanaland, a 5-foot-8 middle outside hitter from Calvary Chapel; Sara Whitehouse, a 6-1 middle blocker from San Diego Santana, and Carrie Merritt, a 5-10 outside hitter from Phoenix Valley Lutheran.

The Eagles, who lost six seniors to graduation this year, also signed community college players Erin Shevlin and Liauna Tolmasoff. Shevlin is a 5-10 outside hitter from Grossmont and Tolmasoff is a 5-11 middle blocker from Cerritos.

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“These were our top choices and this is the best recruiting class I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Coach Jody Wise said.

Wise has coached on the collegiate level 22 years. Last year she recorded her 600th career victory, while leading Concordia to a 17-15 record.

GIVE IT A TRY

UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton gave it a try on the pitch, so to speak, when their club rugby teams collided last Saturday in the first Orange Cup.

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The event was conceived as a way to pay tribute to the late Kevin Higgins, a former Mater Dei football tailback who later played rugby at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and went on to captain the United States national team. Higgins, who committed suicide two years ago, played in 19 consecutive international matches.

The game’s founder, Fullerton Coach Ray Schwartz, called Higgins “One of the greatest rugby players to have ever played in America.”

“Kevin rose to greatness far higher and faster than any other American who attempted to play this compelling, yet ‘foreign’ sport,” Schwartz said. “At all times Kevin remained grateful for the opportunities the game of rugby had brought to his life.”

Staff writer Lon Eubanks contributed to this story.

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