Since the merger of Royal Oak High School and cross-town rival Charter Oak of Covina after last season, winning has become a habit for the girls athletic teams at Charter Oak.
In November, the volleyball team reached the Southern Section 1-A Division finals (where it lost to Southern California Christian).
In February it was the basketball team's turn as the Chargers advanced to the 1-A Division quarterfinals before falling to Connelly.
The latest to take the victory tour at Charter Oak is the softball team. Don't be surprised if they turn out to be the most successful of all.
The Chargers, who have a 24-1 record, are seeded No. 1 in 2-A heading into their first-round playoff game against La Sierra at 7 p.m. Saturday at Charter Oak.
Stars in Several Sports
The softball team has won with many of the players who were standouts for the volleyball and basketball teams.
Julie Smith, Gina Karpinski, Tami Delva, Ann Keilty, Karen Keith and Rhonda Schweitzer played volleyball and Smith, Karpinski, Delva and Caryn Askey were members of the basketball squad.
"The girls are used to winning," Coach Len Mussack said. "The softball teams have always won at Royal Oak and Charter Oak."
In the last 10 years, either Royal Oak or Charter Oak has won every Montview League title.
Mussack, coach at Royal Oak for five years before moving to Charter Oak this season, has seen his teams make the Southern Section playoffs six straight years and win four Montview League titles.
He Expected to Win
So when the schools were combined and Mussack was named softball coach, he knew that the winning would follow.
"Out of our 10 starters, we have about five players from Charter Oak and five from Royal Oak," Mussack said. "If the schools had not merged we would have finished one-two in the league. Both would have been strong."
While that does not say a lot for the rest of the Montview League, it does illustrate the strength of softball in the Charter Oak Unified School District.
"This area is very strong for youth softball, and that helps us here," Mussack said. "When you have a strong youth program, it eventually reaches here."
Mussack said it does not hurt to have a team that is willing to practice a lot.
"They're a very hard-working group of kids," he said. "They practice six days a week. Sometimes they complain. But they like to be with each other, so they can complain together."
Prefers Small Squad
Charter Oak has only 12 players, and that suits Mussack: "I don't believe in carrying many players on my teams."
Mussack said the smaller roster may help explain why there is a strong sense of camaraderie on his team.
"Every year in March we play in a tournament in Las Vegas and spend about three days and three nights together," Mussack said. "It's right at the beginning of the season. The team does a lot together and that helps us."
It also helps to have an abundance of talent.
The leaders are seniors Smith and Karpinski, perhaps the top girl athletes at the school.
Smith, a shortstop who has signed a letter of intent with powerhouse Texas A & M next season, was recently named Montview League most valuable player for the third straight year. Karpinski, a pitcher who may play softball for NCAA Division I power Cal Poly Pomona, was an All-CIF selection in volleyball and basketball.
Smith, top hitter for the Chargers, is batting .581 with six home runs and 35 runs batted in. Karpinski has a 7-1 pitching record with a 0.77 earned-run average and is batting .327 with three home runs and 24 RBIs. She hit two home runs in the regular-season finale against Sierra Vista to give her a Southern Section career record of 21 home runs.
So much for the proven commodities on the team.
Two of the surprise performers have been sophomores Delva, a catcher, and Askey, a pitcher. Delva is batting .439 with one home run and 42 RBIs and Askey has a 15-0 pitching record, a 0.86 earned-run average and 93 strikeouts and is batting .326.
"My two sophomores are just starting to blossom," Mussack said. "If they continue to develop, I am looking for big things from them."
Mussack is hoping that the combination of youth and experience will be the difference between this year and last season, when his Royal Oak team finished with a 24-2 record and was seeded No. 1 in 2-A but lost in the second round of the playoffs.
"It's definitely the best team that I've ever had," Mussack said. "We've got two excellent pitchers and our defense is strong. If your pitching and defense are strong, you're in every game."