Ask Julie Chellevold which sport she enjoys most and the answer won't come as a surprise. Chellevold, a senior on the Thousand Oaks High girls volleyball team, hammered a team-high 176 kills into the hardwood to lead the Lancers through an undefeated Marmonte League season.
"I think I lean toward volleyball," said Chellevold, a senior outside hitter. "I don't think anyone ever introduces me as 'Julie the softball player.' "
If anyone did, they wouldn't be mistaken. Chellevold also plays catcher for Thousand Oaks' Marmonte League champion softball team.
Chellevold led the softball team to the Southern Section 4-A championship game in June before the Lancers lost to Cypress, 5-0.
"It was our first CIF championship game," Chellevold said. "We weren't really ready for it."
Correction. It was the second Southern Section championship game for Chellevold and five of her teammates. They captured the 2-A Division volleyball title last season under first-year Coach Ron Beick.
Thousand Oaks (15-1, 12-0 in league play) begins defense of its title today at home against Morro Bay in a first-round match. The Lancers have been ranked No. 1 in the 2-A Division all season.
Small wonder Chellevold prefers volleyball to softball.
And she isn't the only one. The five other volleyball-playing Lancers--Phronsie Franco, Jamie Haggen, Erin Swink, Shireen Campbell and Julie's sister, Amy Chellevold--who were members of the near-champion softball team prefer volleyball, too.
"Volleyball is more fun and more exciting," Haggen said.
Said Franco: "We're a better volleyball team than we are a softball team."
Few would argue. The only blemish on the Lancers' record is a nonleague loss to Nordhoff. But Beick is quick to point out that the Lancers' No. 1 ranking and 18-match winning streak don't mean the team will have an easy time capturing another championship.
"It doesn't mean a thing," Beick said. "When you're in the playoffs, whoever wins it, wins it. We haven't talked about our ranking all year. It never comes up."
Beick's players also realize that they are not invincible.
"It hasn't been a total cake walk," Julie Chellevold said. "We've had to work really hard."
Thousand Oaks has made a remarkable turnaround in only two years. After posting a 1-11 record in 1985, the Lancers welcomed Beick as coach. Beick, who coached University High for four years, losing to Palisades in the City Section finals each year, pointed the Lancers in the right direction.
After a winning a league title with a 9-3 record in 1986, the Lancers entered the playoffs ranked sixth. Thousand Oaks reached championship match, however, and overcame a two-game deficit to win the title. The Lancers won the final three games, 15-10, 15-11 and 15-3.
"It was an incredible feeling," Beick said. "It capped a Cinderella year when you think about what they did. When I came in last year, our goal was just to make the playoffs.
"This year our goal is to make the finals."
But Beick knows how fast an underdog can rise to the top.
"We've upset some people," Beick said. "We've been on both sides, so we're aware of that."
Said Franco: "But we have a lot more confidence this year. We expect to win. I don't think there will be any pressure. Playing softball gave us the experience of playing in front of big crowds."
The Lancers don't know why they're so successful at both sports. They just are.
"Everybody just does their thing," Julie Chellevold said.
It's obvious to Beick why this particular group of girls is so successful at two sports.
"I would say it's because they're all good athletes and they're all cooperative," he said. "They put in the time at practice and they develop a confidence. If they can accomplish one, they can accomplish the other."
Some of the players see it differently.
"I don't really relate the two sports at all," Franco said. "They're two different sports. When I'm in volleyball season, I concentrate on volleyball and when I'm in softball season, I concentrate on softball."
Said Haggen: "It's hard to relate softball to volleyball. Except we know what to expect. We have to take them both one game at a time."