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A Surer Shot : Revitalized Huschka Comes to CSUN With New Goals

August 21, 1996|TRIS WYKES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NORTHRIDGE — Success in the classroom and on the playing field hasn't come easily for Marilyn Huschka, a Cal State Northridge soccer player who quit the sport three years ago and dropped out of college a year later.

"I've learned everything the hard way," she said. "No doubt."

In an odyssey that sent her from California to Montana and back and to three colleges, Huschka has discovered an overriding truth.

"I learned that in the real world no one really cares," Huschka said. "No one else is going to do things for you."

An erstwhile waitress, snowboarder and college dropout, Huschka hopes to put her life's lessons to good use this fall for the Matadors.

A junior transfer from El Camino College in Torrance, Huschka is expected to be an impact player for Northridge, which will open its second season Aug. 30 at Cal State Los Angeles.

The 5-foot-6, 135-pound forward has two years of eligibility remaining. She will be a sniper for the Matadors, who lost their top three scorers from their inaugural season.

Huschka, among the oldest and most experienced players at age 21, also plans to be a team leader. It is a role she embraces.

"My experiences have taught me a lot and I want the other players to believe in me," she said.

Such a statement is notable, considering that Huschka's first season of college soccer stripped away her considerable confidence and caused her to abandon the sport.

Huschka entered her freshman season at Cal State Dominguez Hills in 1993 upbeat and accustomed to success and attention after playing on consecutive Southern Section championship teams at Torrance High.

But after a strong start, Dominguez Hills' season went south. Huschka was unhappy with her play and her coach, Marine Cano. She quickly lost her love for the sport she had played since the second grade.

"Soccer turned into a job," Huschka said. "It just wasn't fun."

Huschka left Dominguez Hills after one semester and headed to Montana, where she had visited relatives in the past.

At Montana State in Bozeman, Huschka lasted two semesters.

At Dominguez Hills, she had no fun. At Montana State, she had too much.

"I didn't have many friends at Dominguez Hills," Huschka said. "In Montana I was more into making friends and living the college lifestyle you see in the movies than in going to school.

"I was smoking, not eating healthy, going out to the bars every night and trying to keep up with my guy friends. One night I asked why the bar was empty and they had to remind me it was Sunday."

Huschka excelled in one class--snowboarding, in which she took full advantage of the balance and leg strength she had developed in soccer. She bought a season pass to a local ski area and spent entire days on the slopes.

To pay for the pass and other expenses, Huschka worked as a waitress on the graveyard shift at a diner with a 1950s theme. Her uniform included a green poodle skirt and pink bodysuit.

"I heard the same Elvis tapes over and over," Huschka said.

In March of last year, her body and funds exhausted, Huschka headed back to California and began to approach life with some direction.

"I was out of shape, just a real butterball," Huschka said. "But I started working out and started getting serious about soccer again."

Huschka's interest in soccer was renewed during her stay in Bozeman, where she used her final season of youth soccer eligibility as the star of an under-19 club team. With no pressure and a chance to help others learn the game, Huschka felt her confidence on the field begin to resurface.

Huschka enrolled at El Camino last fall and had an immediate impact on what had been a hapless program. She scored four goals in her first game and had 14 goals and 13 assists during the season.

"I had something to prove," said Huschka, who also maintained a 3.0 grade-point average at El Camino. "I wanted to be less emotional. I was just such a baby [at Dominguez Hills] and I realized that whining and complaining isn't worth anything."

El Camino finished 18-3, tied for the South Coast Conference title and advanced to the second round of the state junior college playoffs.

Despite her performance, Huschka was only noticed accidentally by Northridge assistant Allison Lee, who came to an El Camino game to scout a goalkeeper.

On the recommendation of Lee and Wendy Nakashima, a former Northridge player who was a teammate of Huschka's at Torrance and Dominguez Hills, Matador Coach Brian Wiesner signed Huschka to a partial scholarship in March without seeing her play. Huschka's only other offer was from a new coaching staff at Dominguez Hills.

Huschka has learned that she functions best in a supportive atmosphere surrounded by driven, goal-oriented people. It is an environment she hopes to nurture with the Matadors.

"I'm looking forward to being a team, to winning and having some camaraderie," she said. "I like being one of the older girls but I'm also a rookie on this team and that lets me be closer to the younger players.

"I feel I've been through it before and I can help them with their struggles."

Wiesner said he believes Huschka will leave her mark on the team.

"She thinks she's good and she wants to get better," Wiesner said. "Not tomorrow, today. She's learned you can't wait for things to come to you.

"I wanted to recruit somebody mature and independent who could be a potential leader and I think that's exactly what we got in Marilyn."

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