While the majority of her peers chose nine years ago to participate in sports of the non-contact variety, Annabella Stagner looked for anything rough-and-tumble.
Sports such as softball or soccer were simply too prissy for this 12-year-old girl.
A United States junior field hockey team was established in Ventura County, however, giving Stagner, a Moorpark resident, an outlet for her aggressive nature.
Never mind that the team was supposed to be for seventh- and eighth-grade boys.
"There was no one around who could play rough enough," said Stagner's father, Robert. "None of the girls could keep up with her."
Most still can't. In December, Stagner, 20, was selected to the U. S. Junior field hockey team, which is training at Trenton State, N. J., for the first Women's Junior World Cup in Ottawa, Canada, on July 19.
She has come a long way from her days in the Western Field Hockey League, in which she played for two years before a girls' league, the Field Hockey Federation, was established in 1981.
The opportunity to play in the FHH was particularly important to Stagner because Moorpark High, and other area high schools, did not have field hockey teams.
It was through the league that Donna Fong, women's field hockey coach at Cal, first saw Stagner play.
"I saw her in a field hockey tournament when she was about 12, and I thought, 'This kid is going to be a good hockey player,' " Fong said. "It was not the usual age that girls play field hockey."
Stagner played for Fong for two years and last season was named to the Pacific 10 Conference All-Northern Division team.
Stagner will not return to Cal next year because she wants to concentrate on playing for the junior national team. She tried out for the junior team in 1987 but wasn't selected. This year, she said, she was better prepared.
There are three divisions within the U. S. field hockey team: the national team, which competes in the Olympics, the reserve team and the under-21 junior team, which consists of 16 players from college teams throughout the nation. The under-21 team is considered a steppingstone to the national team. Cal has placed two players on the national team, but Stagner is the first to be selected to the junior team.
"Each national team tries to set some kind of competition," Fong said. "They want to build up depth in the team. The under-21s are hopefuls. They hope to make the reserves and then go on to the national team."
The U. S. junior team is relatively inexperienced compared to the majority of teams taking part in the 12-team tournament.
"Teams like Holland, Great Britain and Argentina have excellent junior programs. They start when they are seven years old and we don't start until the first year in high school," said Beth Beglin, coach of the U. S. junior team.
Stagner's goal is to eventually make the national team, but she said if she doesn't she will continue to play field hockey. "I love to play even if I don't make any more teams," Stagner said. "I'll probably play for the next 10 years."