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Los Alamitos' Sievers Gets Help, Cheers From No. 1 Fan

February 26, 1996|WENDY WITHERSPOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LOS ALAMITOS — With a baseball cap atop his head and a keen eye for talent, Ernie Norris, 78, surveys girls' soccer practice at Los Alamitos High.

After slight prompting, Norris begins naming his unofficial picks for the best five prep soccer players in the county, including comments about each one's particular skill.

Getting carried away, Norris is giving details on players Nos. 6-10--counting them off on the fingers of his other hand--before he pauses to look up.

Asked if he is a fan of any particular team, Norris laughs and nods toward his granddaughter, Andrea Sievers, who is busy practicing shots on goal.

"I'm for whichever team she is playing for," he says.

In the course of being Sievers' No. 1 fan, Norris also occupies a unique place in the county's girls' soccer community--he is surrogate grandfather to dozens of players who are accustomed to his presence at their games. Even when Norris is scouting Sievers' opponents, many players and coaches wave and call him by name.

Sievers, a senior midfielder who scored the only goal to lead Los Alamitos to a 1-0 victory over Santa Margarita in the Southern Section Division I quarterfinals on Thursday, is grateful to be with her grandfather so often.

"He has always kind of been there for me, and I never really stopped to think about it. It is awesome to have such supportive grandparents. Not a lot of kids have that," she said.

Norris, Sievers' maternal grandfather, has followed and funded Sievers' soccer career since she began playing at 6. He became more involved, however, when her club team, the Fountain Valley Sting, folded in 1994.

Sievers wanted to follow former Sting Coach Bobby Bruch, also the former Marina High coach, to the Mission Viejo Shamrocks club team. The commute from Sievers' home in Los Alamitos, however, made it an impossible proposition for her mother, Cheryl Metheny, who works at Paramount High and had three other children at home to watch.

Enter Norris, who volunteered as chauffeur.

Twice a week for several months, Norris drove from his Long Beach home to Los Alamitos to pick up Sievers, then drove her about 35 miles south to practice in Mission Viejo. After practice he drove her home.

Drive time and practice totaled about five hours. On weekends, Norris drove Sievers to soccer tournaments all over Southern California.

"If it weren't for him I wouldn't be on that team," Sievers said.

Sievers, 17, got her driver's license midway through her first season with the Shamrocks, in the fall of 1994, and began driving herself. But Norris didn't stop attending games.

Last year, the Shamrocks won the state under-16 title in San Diego, earning a trip to Boise, Idaho, for the Western Regional tournament. The team flew to Boise and Norris, who had never flown, drove with his wife, Bette.

When the Shamrocks won the Western Regional title, earning a trip to West Palm Beach, Fla., for the national tournament, Norris decided it was as good a time as any for his first plane ride.

"It was nice," he said with a grin.

The Shamrocks advanced to the national final before losing, 2-0, to the Dallas Sting. In October, the Shamrocks exacted revenge by defeating the Dallas Sting, 2-0, at a tournament in Virginia, which Norris also attended.

For Norris, watching Sievers play is a way to fill the hours since his retirement in 1979, after he worked 33 years for the Ford Motor Co.

"It gives me something to do," he said.

Sievers, likewise, keeps busy. In addition to playing soccer year-round, she maintains a 3.5 grade-point average and works Saturday and Sunday nights at a local restaurant.

"I was so sick of asking for money, so I figured I might as well get a job. And it's not that bad," she said.

Sievers plays defender for the Shamrocks but enjoys switching to midfielder for the Griffins' brief, high school season.

"It's a nice change. I've never [been able] to score before, so it's nice to get some of the goals," she said. "I love defense. I think our defense won the game for us [against Santa Margarita]. They might not get a lot of credit, but it is so important and people just don't realize it. If the other team can't score then you can't lose."

Sievers, who has signed a letter of intent to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the fall, was a first-team All-Sunset League selection last season when she led the Griffins to the section quarterfinals. Los Alamitos won the league title this season and will play at Torrance (24-5-3) at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the semifinals.

Norris already has the competition scouted--and is predicting a title.

"I hope they can get by the next two games," he said. "I think they will."

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