Whenever she looks at the 5-by-7 photograph taken shortly before the NCAA Division II women's volleyball final last December, Anna Garcia is reminded of a moment she would rather forget.
The candid snapshot shows Coach Walt Ker talking to his Cal State Northridge team. The mood of Garcia and her teammates is distant, devoid of emotion, hardly the way they would be expected to behave before such a pivotal match.
"It looked like we were in deep thought," Garcia said.
Garcia doesn't need the photograph to remember the match, however. It made an indelible impression for two reasons--CSUN lost to UC Riverside and Garcia gave a disappointing performance.
"I don't want to completely let it go because I want to learn from it," said Garcia, a senior. "I had an inconsistent year last year and the final was just one of those matches."
Garcia, 22, is attracting attention this year for her consistent play. The outside hitter helped Northridge, ranked third in Division II, win successive tournaments at Cal State Dominguez Hills and Portland State and compile a 12-4 overall record.
Two weeks into this season Ker said that Garcia was playing her best volleyball ever. He singled her out for helping Northridge jump out to its traditional fast start.
"One of the nicest compliments I can pay to Anna is that she's a tremendous role model," Ker said. "This year, she's developed a responsibility toward leadership.
"She's a quiet person by nature, but she's really coming out of herself now."
On a team that's well-stocked with all-stars, Garcia is the quiet force behind CSUN's success. One of four returning starters, Garcia would prefer the other three--Sue Darcey, Angela Brinton and Franci Bowman--receive the attention.
"When it comes to being in the spotlight, I'm not comfortable with it," Garcia said. "That's not why I play. I would rather just go out there, do my job and maybe surprise some people."
Garcia attracts attention with her chatty style. She's always moving during a game--attacking the ball, cheering on teammates. Garcia is too energized to relax between points. Rest can wait until the match is over.
When she was at Alemany High, she got little rest at all--playing volleyball, softball and basketball. Garcia planned to play softball at CSUN but felt burned out after being active in the sport since the fourth grade.
But Coach Gary Torgeson's loss on the CSUN softball team was Ker's gain.
Garcia joined Ker's squad the season after it won the 1983 national championship. She credits the coach with helping her to fit in with experienced players.
"He's a great teacher, which is what coaching is all about," Garcia said.
Garcia joined the starting lineup as a sophomore and has been there ever since. She's worked hard on her attacking and passing and developed into a complete player.
"I'm not proficient in any one area, but I can do all of them," Garcia said. "With all the work I've done on my attacking, I'm a more insightful player. I can make error detection and correction on my own."
Garcia helped the Lady Matadors win their past three California Collegiate Athletic Assn. titles and compile a 35-1 conference record. Since Garcia, who was an All-CCAA second team selection last year, has been a starter, CSUN is undefeated in 26 CCAA matches.
But Garcia's goal of winning the national championship remains elusive.
"The seniors know it's their last year," she said, "so it's all or bust."