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Men's Soccer Team Makes Others Take Notice

September 11, 1996|LON EUBANKS

The Cal State Fullerton men's soccer team is only four games into the season, but the Titans already have attracted national attention.

A 3-1 victory over Wisconsin, the defending national champion, caused some to take notice, then a 2-2 tie with Virginia last weekend underlined the Titans' potential.

Virginia generally has been regarded as the nation's premier college soccer program in recent years. The Cavaliers have won four of the last six national championships.

This week's Soccer America poll has the Titans (3-0-1) ranked fourth. Duke moved into the No. 1 spot followed by Virginia and UCLA. Soccer News ranks Fullerton ninth.

Titan Coach Al Mistri, however, is not one to put too much stock in success early in the season. "It's not how you start," Mistri said. "It's where you finish."

A year ago, there also were high hopes at the start of the season, but the Titans were inconsistent much of the time and had to win four of their last five games to finish 12-8, 3-4 in the Mountain Pacific Soccer Federation.

Despite that, the Titans were not selected for the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years.

Fullerton reached the final four in 1993 for the first time, but lost to South Carolina, 1-0, in the semifinals. In 1994, the Titans lost, 2-1, to Indiana in the regional final.

A big factor this season has been increased depth.

"We have 24 quality players this year," Mistri said. "That makes us much more solid than a year ago when we only carried 19. The increased financial support for the program from the administration has made a big difference from that standpoint."

Mistri doesn't have to expect so much from newcomers to the program this year, but several have done well.

New striker Sheldon Thomas was chosen the most valuable player in last weekend's tournament in Charlottesville, Va. Thomas played high school soccer in Trinidad, then attended El Camino College. Another El Camino transfer, Ante Bilaver, also has been a key player.

Neither Bilaver nor top returning defender Alfred Partida, however, played in the Virginia game. Bilaver was out with a red card, and Partida is still recovering from an ankle injury.

Two freshmen, Adam Black and Carl Gustafson, also have been impressive as defenders.

Strong play by returning goalkeeper Mike Forensich also has been a big plus. Forensich, who started 17 of 21 games last season as a freshman, has 19 saves in the four games.

Mistri also is keeping his fingers crossed that defender Demian Brown can stay healthy. Brown has been troubled by knee injuries the last two seasons but was one of the top players on the 1993 team as a freshman.

Mistri believes the early showing should be taken for what it is: only a good start. "We think our best soccer is still well ahead of us," he said.


The women's volleyball team also has gotten off to a good start. The 5-0 record going into tonight's match at San Diego marks the first time the Titans have won five consecutive games in a season.

The victories have come against Santa Clara, Cal State Northridge, Georgia State and twice against Nevada Las Vegas.

"Our players really came back dedicated to turn things around, and I think that's been the most important thing," Coach Mary Ellen Murchison said. "Our hitting percentage is much improved and that's been a key factor too."

Senior Heather Bassett leads the team with 88 kills. "She's been very consistent," Murchison said. "As a senior, she's playing with a lot of confidence this season and that's probably been a factor."

Murchison expects the match against San Diego to provide a better indication of Fullerton's strength. The Toreros are 4-3.


Several Titan baseball players had good performances in the summer collegiate baseball leagues.

First baseman C.J. Ankrum, pitcher Scott Hild and outfielder Aaron Rowand played for Brewster, Mass., in the Cape Cod League, and all three made the all-star team.

Ankrum, a two-year regular, was voted the most valuable player in the all-star game. He hit .308 for the season, which ranked seventh in the league. Rowand hit .292, which was 13th. Infielder Jerome Alviso played for the Chatham, Mass., team in the Cape Cod League.

Catcher-infielder Mike Lamb played in the Jayhawk League, and outfielder Scott Seal was in the Alaskan League.

"The reports on all those guys were favorable," assistant coach Rick Vanderhook said.

Hild, who had a 5-2 record and a 1.33 earned-run average, will be the only starter back from last year's pitching staff when the Titans begin fall workouts Oct. 7. Brent Billingsley and Kirk Irvine, the other two weekend starters last season, signed pro contracts.

Titan Notes

Sophomore basketball player Dee Braxton was named to the All-Summer League team at the "Say No Classic" at USC. The league included current and former college players. . . . Assistant trainer Chris Mumaw was head trainer for the U.S. Soccer Federation team that competed in Guatemala last week. . . . Tennis players Jennifer Canfield and Kara Kolb have been honored as members of the Intercollegiate Tennis Assn.'s 1996 All-American Scholar Athlete tennis team. The award is based on grade average and athletic performance.


Coming Attractions

Here's a look at key games this week for Cal State Fullerton:

* Women's volleyball at San Diego, 7 p.m., tonight. The Titans have won their first five matches of the season.

* Soccer doubleheader against San Diego State Friday at Titan Stadium. The women's teams play at 5 p.m. and the men's teams at 7 p.m. The men's team is ranked fourth in the nation by Soccer America.

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