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THE TIMES ORANGE COUNTY ALL-SPORTS AWARD : TWO ON TOP : Mater Dei, Laguna Hills Win Annual Contest

June 13, 1995|BOB ROHWER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

This year, Mater Dei didn't fold its tent.

Last year, the Monarchs were poised at the end of the winter season to overtake Edison and win the inaugural Times Orange County All-Sports Award in the large-school division. But they faltered in the spring and finished eighth.

Edison didn't stay in first, either. That spot went to Los Alamitos.

Heading into this spring season, Mater Dei had a commanding 34.9-point lead on second-place Edison.

The Monarchs held on this time, and their heroes turned out to be an unlikely group. The success of the school's softball team was a key as Mater Dei won the 1994-95 All-Sports Award--the county's only comprehensive competition involving 21 Southern Section-sanctioned boys' and girls' sports--with 338.9 out of a possible 800 points. Sunny Hills finished second with 326 points and Woodbridge (323.6) was third.

Laguna Hills, on the strength of its swimming and track and field teams, scored 186.8 out of a possible 400 points this spring to come from behind to win the small-school title for schools with fewer than 1,200 students.

The Hawks led all county schools with 366.4 points. Brea Olinda finished second with 359.4 points, and Servite/Rosary (294.8) was third.

Gary McKnight, Mater Dei boys' athletic director and basketball coach, was happy to win an award that honors an entire athletic program.

"It's great for the school," McKnight said. "We're sometimes tagged as a football and basketball school, but this shows we're good at other sports, too. Plus our cheerleaders won the national championship. It's been a great senior class and a great year.

"It was great to see some of the spring sports step up from a year ago. Girls' softball had just a phenomenal year, as young a team as they had."

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The softball team, which featured as many as seven freshman starters, proved a big difference for Mater Dei this time around.

Last year, the Monarchs finished a game behind El Toro at the top of the South Coast League standings. They had an impressive 19-5 overall record but didn't make it out of the first round of the playoffs and finished with 14.6 All-Sports points.

This season, the softball team contributed 34.4 points. It went undefeated against South Coast League opponents and was the county's No. 4-ranked team at 23-4 entering the playoffs.

The Monarchs rode the leadoff hitting of freshman Kelsey Kollen, who batted .514 and led the county with 55 hits, and the pitching of junior Colleen Boddy (a county-high 26 victories and only five losses) all the way to the section final, where they fell to Marina, 3-1. Mater Dei started four freshmen and two sophomores in that game; Marina started eight seniors.

Doug Myers, The Times' softball coach of the year, is the man most responsible for the Monarchs' success. Everybody expected them to be good, but nobody expected them to reach the Division I championship game.

"It was a young team, but we knew we had a lot of talent," said Myers, in his second year. "We basically came together through hard work. Good things happen to people who put in that much effort.

"Next year, obviously, expectations will be high, but the only thing I have ever hoped for any of my athletes is that they play to their potential."

Patty Smith, Mater Dei girls' athletic director the last two years, said she was thrilled with the contribution her half of the athletic department made to the All-Sports award.

"People will see that the girls' teams at Mater Dei are as much of a threat as the boys," she said.

But while key performances in the spring ensured victory for the Monarchs, it was success in the fall and winter that made it possible.

Mater Dei received Southern Section championship performances from its boys' and girls' basketball teams and football team, accounting for 119.3 of their 245.2 points at the end of the winter season.

In the spring, only two large schools among the final Top 20--Edison with 67 and Trabuco Hills with 93.1--had lower point productions than the Monarchs' 93.7.

Runner-up Sunny Hills scored an impressive 166 spring points, but that wasn't enough to make up an 84.9-point deficit after the winter.

*

Garden Grove continued to be the most upwardly mobile large-division school in the spring.

Last year, the Argonauts moved up 12 places to No. 18. This year, they moved from No. 17 to No. 5, again on the strength of their Division I champion badminton team and domination of the Garden Grove League's spring sports.

Garden Grove's 191.2 spring points were the most of any county team.

Also making significant moves were Sunny Hills, Woodbridge and Foothill, who finished second, third and fourth after vaulting the Sunset League triumvirate of Los Alamitos, Edison and Esperanza.

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