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Rapid Rise : Four Stars Help Woodbridge Reach Into Stratos' Sphere

November 10, 1986|STEVE LOWERY | Times Staff Writer

The last time the Woodbridge High School girls' volleyball team had a losing record, Ronald Reagan was president of the United States and Bruce Springsteen was all the rage with the younger generation.

All those (three) years ago.

As trips down memory lane go, Woodbridge's works out to be a quick jaunt to the market for a carton of milk.

The team came into existence just six years ago, and it was only three years ago that the Warriors were, uh, not so good. Well, really bad. . . . They won a total of four games during the 1983 season.

"We were the kind of team people laughed at," said Steve Stratos, Woodbridge coach. "They'd laugh at us, then destroy us."

Well, what's that they say about he who destroys last?

Because puny Woodbridge, horrible, pitiful, laughably bad little Woodbridge has risen to become Orange County's top team this season.

The Warriors are 15-0, winners of the Pacific Coast League and the Orange County Championships. They are seeded third in the Southern Section 5-A playoffs. Woodbridge defeated Estancia in the first round, 15-5, 15-8, 15-13, and plays Mater Dei in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

The turnaround started when Stratos took the Woodbridge coaching job four years ago. Though the record didn't immediately show it, he started to demand his players play club volleyball where they could fine-tune their skills.

He started to seek out players, looking for the type of kid who could endure one of his three-hour practice sessions that leave, "kids crawling away from the gym afterward," only to return the next day for another three hours with a glint in their eye.

He introduced mental imagery ("I know they thought I was nuts with that one") and pride and intensity and responsibility.

But if you ask Stratos about Woodbridge's success, high on his list are the four seniors--Mindee Adams, Kristi Albert, Allyson Mattox and Loren Newman.

"They're the glue, the rock," he said.

All have been involved with the volleyball program since they were freshmen. They have helped nurture it and have seen their work make it grow.

Although they have worked toward the same goals, their paths and methods have many times differed.

THE STAR AND THE SETTER

You get a glimpse into the character of Mindee Adams and Loren Newman as you observe that when friendship and competitive nature came into conflict . . . friendship lost.

"That first year, we didn't like each other very much," Adams said.

They had played together on club teams since the seventh grade and were starting on the Woodbridge varsity as freshmen. But . . .

"The team was really bad," Adams said. "That was really frustrating for Loren and me. We were the only club players on the team at the time. We knew what was good and what we wanted. But when it didn't happen, we took it out on each other for some reason."

Since then, Adams has emerged as one of the premier high school middle blockers in California. She has been a four-time, first-team all-league selection. She was the most valuable player in the Pacific Coast League this season as well as MVP of the Orange County Championships. She was named to the Prep National All-Star team in August.

She is, as Stratos puts it, "our killer."

Six-feet tall, she jumps well and hits even better.

"She'll knock some balls straight down," Stratos said. "That just takes the life out of other teams."

Then there is Newman. A celebrity around Woodbridge to be sure--student body president, yearbook editor, homecoming princess--but a buck short of Adams in the volleyball-fame department.

Stratos has such confidence in Newman's ability that he has played a 5-1 this season. Translation: Newman is the only setter on the court. Further translation: Newman is involved in one of every three passes made on the Woodbridge side.

"It's a big responsibility," Newman said. "You know the whole team depends on you. You're the quarterback."

But a setter tends to get as much publicity as a defensive tackle.

"Everyone sees Mindee slam the ball and that's what gets noticed," she said. "It's just the way things are. It's hard but you have to accept it."

By the way, their friendship is 15-0 and doing just fine.

THE LONG AND SHORTSHOT The problem with Kristi Albert and Allyson Mattox, as far as volleyball went, was one was too small and the other was really bad.

Meet Allyson Mattox, former really bad player.

It wasn't her fault. While Adams and Newman were playing club and junior high volleyball, Mattox played softball.

She tried out for the Woodbridge freshmen team because, "my brother made me."

She was the last player chosen for a very weak team.

"I never left the bench," she said.

But, by her sophomore year she had somehow made the varsity. As a senior, she is an all-league player.

What happened?

"Allyson is a work-ethic type of kid," Stratos said.

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