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Riverside Women Basketball Players Scuffle

March 11, 1994|ARA NAJARIAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two former UC Riverside women's basketball players were allegedly attacked by current team members Tuesday afternoon at a restaurant near the school. Monica Vargas, the team's defensive player of the year during the 1992-93 season, sustained a concussion as a result of the altercation.

The former players, Jennifer Newsome, 22, and Vargas, 21, left the Riverside basketball program in the past year after disputes with the coach and teammates.

The women reported the incident to Riverside Police. No charges have been filed pending an investigation, which is expected to be completed in a week. The police report will then be reviewed by the District Attorney's office.

Athletic Director John Masi said the matter had been referred to Vice Chancellor Louis Leo. School officials would not identify the players and have instructed team members not to go to the restaurant until the matter is resolved.

Newsome and Vargas were treated at the university's health center on Wednesday, saying they had been kicked and beaten, causing bruises on their bodies and welts on their heads. Vargas complained of headaches and on Thursday was referred to Riverside General Hospital, where she was said to have a concussion.

According to various accounts, Newsome and Vargas went to the restaurant to eat and visit waitress Rachel Rosario, a former UC Riverside All-American basketball player. While they were eating, two members of the Riverside team came into the restaurant and were joined later by five more players.

The restaurant's assistant manager said neither the players nor Newsome and Vargas acknowledged each other. According to witnesses, Newsome went outside and the seven players also left. Vargas left moments later.

Outside, words were exchanged between Vargas and a player. Vargas said she was hit and knocked to the ground by one of the players. Newsome said she was restrained from coming to Vargas' aid.

Newsome said she broke free and attempted to intercede but was also attacked. A restaurant employee said he observed Newsome on the ground being struck by two players. The fight broke up when a police officer arrived.

The Riverside program was the subject of a Times story in October in which players were critical of Coach Debbie Woelke and the program. Newsome and Vargas were among the most vocal in their criticism. Masi investigated the complaints and took no action.

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