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TLC Helps SCC Roll in Volleyball

September 26, 1996|MARTIN BECK

Some might not consider the comparison flattering, and John Lee means no offense, but he sees parallels between his two jobs: coaching women's volleyball and teaching kindergarten.

Lee, in his first year as head coach at Southern California College and second as a teacher in Signal Hill, says he notices similarities in human nature.

Leave, for instance, the 5-year-olds in his kindergarten class unsupervised and they would thrash the classroom. Although his SCC players are much more mature, Lee said they also need guidance.

"They need to know that I'm there watching and caring for them and pushing them as well," Lee said. "I think people in general like to be led more than leading themselves. I'm realizing more as the season progresses that I need to be there for them more, pushing them from behind or leading them from the side."

So far Lee apparently is pushing the right buttons with the Vanguards. Although he is SCC's fourth head coach in five seasons, Lee is providing continuity for the program because he had been a Vanguard assistant for four years.

Progress has been rapid. The Vanguards (10-6) already have surpassed last year's 9-19 record and are 2-2 in the Golden State Athletic Conference. SCC was 2-12 in 1995.

"Considering what we've done already," Lee said, "you can't be anything but pleased."

Even so, he is hoping for and expecting more. Saturday, the Vanguards upset Point Loma Nazarene, then ranked third in the nation in NAIA, in five games.

Tuesday, they had a strong shot at beating No. 9 Cal Baptist before losing, 15-9, 13-15, 12-15, 15-7, 15-13. They led the fourth game, 7-5, before giving up 10 consecutive points. In the fifth, they rallied from a 5-1 deficit, eventually leading, 13-12, before losing.

Lee said the team needs to learn to be more consistent. "It seems like in a lot of matches," he said, "we give a team a big lead and then play well catching up."

That might be a sign of youth as the Vanguards have started as many as three freshmen. Lee has juggled the lineup and plays as many as 10 players in matches, but three--senior setter Karajean Stevenson, senior outside hitter Christine Heims and sophomore middle blocker Denise Lungberg--are the stalwarts.

Lee took over in February and got a late start recruiting, but said he is pleased with the team's talent level. Still, the Vanguards are usually underdogs in the GSAC, which had three teams ranked in the top 10 nationally, including No. 1 Biola.

"I enjoy that because it makes victories so much more enjoyable," he said. "Just to know that we've worked for it and nothing has been given to us."

Lee, 28, also relished his underdog's role as a player. A 5-foot-8 setter, he played four years for UC San Diego in the competitive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation after being named first-team All-Orange County as a senior at La Quinta. At San Diego, his team was ranked as high as 16th in the nation.

After college, he signed on as an assistant at SCC and discovered he enjoyed teaching the game. However, he didn't think he wanted the responsibilities of a head coach.

But when the opportunity presented itself, he took the job because "the need to be here was overwhelming," he said. He realized that he had found a home at SCC.

The job offers the chance to put his Christian beliefs--such as being unselfish and doing unto others as you would have them do to you--into practice. He teaches his players that if they do everything they can to prepare, victories will come.

Said Lee: "I really believe that our early success this season can be attributed to following those beliefs."

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