Kristi Ahlstedt wanted to be a fighter pilot, just like her father. She earned an appointment to the Air Force Academy only to discover that her eyesight wasn't quite good enough for pilot school.
"I would have had to be a navigator or something," she said, with a noticeable trace of disdain in her voice.
So, since she wasn't going to be at Top Gun, she figured top of the key was the next best thing. Shooting jumpers and stealing passes can be exhilarating, you know, although it probably can't match a barrel roll at Mach 1 for pure thrills.
Ahlstedt, a Sporting News All-American and the Sierra Foothill League most valuable player her senior year at Oakmont High School in Roseville, Calif., had been recruited by UC Irvine and decided to give Coach Dean Andrea a call.
"I like the area," she says of her decision to choose UCI.
Andrea is switching the 5-foot 6-inch freshman from off guard to point guard, and she's finding there is a great deal of difference between getting open for jumpers against high school players and running a Division I offense.
"Kristi's kind of in between (point guard and off guard) right now," Andrea said. "We're trying to convert her to the point and the progress has been a little slow. She's intelligent and she's a very good athlete, but she's still making some really dumb mistakes."
Ahlstedt was averaging only a minute a game as UCI struggled to an 0-5 start, but starting point guard Kippie Brown injured her left foot and Ahlstedt played eight minutes in the Anteaters' 66-64 victory over Northwestern Saturday and 13 minutes in Monday's 84-46 victory over Weber State. She has four points, four assists and two steals on the season.
"It's going to take some time, but I think I'll be able to do what he wants me to," she said. "It's not that difficult, but I keep making mistakes I know I shouldn't. It's just that I'm not a very patient person."
Andrea isn't in as big a hurry. He's thinking in terms of the next few seasons, not the next few days.
"She's a little frustrated right now but she's going through what most players do when they first get to college," Andrea said. "She needs to realize that she's not that good right now, but she's not as bad as she seems to herself, either. It's important for her to understand that it's a tough adjustment."
Don't expect a little change to rattle an Air Force brat. Ahlstedt is the daughter of a retired Air Force fighter pilot who conducts airport safety checks for the Federal Aviation Administration. She was born in Japan and has lived in Germany, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and California, to name a few.
"I always enjoyed it," she said. "I like to move and make new friends. I guess I'm just so used to that kind of life that it seems normal."
Ahlstedt keeps herself too busy to brood about the friends she has left behind. At Oakmont High, she competed in tennis and was the track team's best high jumper and triple jumper. She also was homecoming queen as a senior.
"That was fun," she said, blushing just a little. "I never expected it, that's for sure."
Of course, she expected to be learning dogfight tactics right now, not halfcourt offenses. But she'll adapt. Always has.
Center/forward Wayne Engelstad, who scored 89 points and had 19 rebounds in three games last week, was named Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. player of the week.
Engelstad, a 6-8 senior, shot 63% from the field (32 of 51) and made 22 of 23 free throws. He passed the career 1,000-point mark against Bradley Saturday when he scored 41 points. He is 10th on the UCI all-time scoring list with 1,031 points.
The Irvine single-game scoring record is 47, by Kevin Magee. Engelstad had a shot at breaking that mark, but Mulligan removed him from the game--which UCI lost, 139-119--with 2:05 remaining, but neither Engelstad nor the Anteater coaching staff realized he was that close to the record.
Mulligan has a love-hate relationship with Engelstad--he loves him as a player and person but said he hates the fact that Engelstad lacks stamina and gets in foul trouble too often. But Mulligan said after the game that he would have left Engelstad in if he had known his point status.
"He just thought the game was over," Engelstad said. "And I told him later I didn't want Magee's record, anyway. I have too much respect for Kevin."
Another Anteater basketball player, Natalie Crawford, was named PCAA player of the week after tying her career high with 28 points against Northwestern. Crawford, a 6-6 senior center, also had 14 rebounds against the Wildcats.
Crawford started out this week on a bright note, too, scoring seven of UCI's first nine points and finishing with 21 points and 6 rebounds in only 15 minutes against Weber State.
She's averaging 17 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.
Anteater Notes Just wondering: Has any other college basketball team ever shot 58% from the floor, scored 119 points and lost by 20? Has any team ever averaged 110 in two games and lost both by a total of 36 points? If so, Irvine assistant Andy Andreas, with 30 years of coaching experience, hasn't seen it. "I've never sat through a week like this," said Andreas, after watching UCI beat New Orleans, 93-91, on Monday, then lose to UCLA, 116-100, Thursday, and Bradley, 139-119, on Saturday. "I saw it, but I'm not sure I believe it," said Andreas, who was brought in to help the Anteaters' defense. "Look at it this way, we won two of six halves this week and we got blown away in the four we lost."