Nancy Fortner, who led the Loyola Marymount University women's volleyball team to its first conference title and NCAA Tournament appearance last fall, won't be back to defend her crown.
After seven seasons, Fortner has resigned. Despite her program's success, the university was never able to come up with the money to give her a full-time coaching position.
Fortner's place will be taken by her assistant, George Yamashita, who was considered an integral part of the Lions' success last year. Yamashita, 33, has been head coach of the San Gabriel Volleyball Club the last seven years as well as Fortner's assistant last season. He played for UC San Diego in 1973 and 1974.
The Lions will return 10 players from last year's team but will be missing setter Andrea Fort, the West Coast Athletic Conference player of the year, and outside hitter Maryann Dunn. Both graduated.
Fortner became coach in 1980, taking the team from the Division II level of the Assn. for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women to the Division I NCAA status. Fortner's team finished second in the WCAC in 1985, the first time the conference offered a championship in volleyball, and won the title last year with a 10-2 conference record and a 24-8 season mark. The Lions then scored the biggest victory in their history, winning a five-game, come-from-behind match over UCLA in the NCAA regionals.
She said she was disappointed that full-time funding never came through. "I was hoping that after the great year--and I thought we had a great year given the circumstances at Loyola--that if I didn't get a full-time position then, I was never going to, at least not in the near future," Fortner said.
When Fortner was hired she said she was given the impression that the job would become full time in a few years. Now, she says, Athletic Director Brian Quinn would like to increase the volleyball funding but that most of the school's administrators "just don't care" about women's athletics.
"I don't want to say anything bad about the athletic department, but somewhere along the line something's got to change or they'll keep having (coaching) turnover."
Fortner's husband, Ron, is the women's basketball coach at Pepperdine, which complicated the matter, she said. She's now working at a retirement home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and said she is not pursuing another coaching position "unless something comes along that's too good to turn down."
"It was difficult to have two coaches in the family," Fortner said, "and it was difficult financially on what they were paying me. It just got to be a matter of pride--and finances."
Ring up another triumph for Bill Bell and his cohorts, the Iron Gents.
Bell and fellow exercise enthusiasts Norton Davey, Keith Albright and Bob Mason--all of them 62 or older--bicycled across the country to carry the message that age doesn't have to be an impediment to fitness.
Their starting point was Santa Monica. Riding 24 hours a day in shifts and accompanied by a van, they got a police escort last week across the George Washington Bridge in New York City, 9 days and 17 hours later.
Bell, 64, the Redondo Beach businessman who has run in every Ironman Triathlon since 1982, competed in scores of marathons and untramarathons and swum the Catalina channel, said the toughest part of the trip was cycling through Pennsylvania on the eighth day--tougher than crossing the Continental Divide.
"There's nothing worse than Pennsylvania," he said. "Up and down, up and down. It just seemed like we were always doing three- or four-mile hills. It was worse than the divide. Of course it was the eighth day and we were tired.
"But we made it and now we're back in reality again."
What's next? "My wife asked me the same thing," Bell said with a laugh. "I don't know. I'm afraid to say."
Around the Horn: Darwin Freeman of Inglewood was named an honorable mention academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America. Freeman, who graduated from Cal State Los Angeles, had a 3.53 grade-point average in health science. He was a 1986 Division II track All-American. Freeman went to Birmingham High School and El Camino College before attending Cal State . . . Running back Alvin Goree of Carson High was dropped from the South roster for the annual Shrine All-Star Football Classic. South Bay players who will compete in the Aug. 1 game at the Rose Bowl are Morningside linebacker Corey Brown, South Torrance lineman Brian Kelly, Carson center Tommy Luapo and Banning linemen Terrance Powe and Tyrone Rogers.
Paddle Tennis-The U.S. Paddle Tennis Assn. will hold its third pro-celebrity tournament starting at 9 a.m. July 26 at the California Yacht Club in Marina del Rey.
Proceeds will benefit the Gilbert W. Lindsay Children's Center at California Medical Center in Los Angeles.
General admission is $5. Dinner tickets ae $50 before July 4 and $100 afterward. Call (213) 742-5866.