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CAL STATE FULLERTON NOTEBOOK / LON EUBANKS

Soccer Teams Hope for NCAA Bids

November 07, 1996|LON EUBANKS

It's countdown time for at-large bids to the NCAA men's and women's soccer playoffs, and Cal State Fullerton Coach Al Mistri believes both his teams are deserving.

Whether they'll be chosen, of course, is another matter.

The women's field will be announced Monday, and the men's teams will be selected a week later.

"We're very proud of what both teams have done this season, but it really doesn't matter what I think now," Mistri said. "It's a matter of what the selection committee members think. And that's pretty much a crapshoot."

The women's selection committee normally has favored Pacific 10 teams and long-established programs in the Far West, which won't help the Titans. The Fullerton women's program is in its fourth season.

The Titans are 13-5-2 after Wednesday's 4-2 loss to USC.

"I think that's a remarkable record, and we're the Big West regular-season champions, but we haven't gotten recognition in the coaches' poll," Mistri said. "But a team such as Stanford is ninth one week with a 9-6 record, loses a game and moves up to seventh the next week."

Fullerton could have strengthened its position last week, but the Titans lost to Brigham Young, ranked third in the West region, and then tied Arizona.

Winning the Big West regular-season title, or even the four-team conference postseason tournament scheduled for this weekend, carries no automatic bid into the NCAA field.

"You have to have a conference schedule for two years to be considered for that, and this is only the second season for that for the Big West women," Mistri said. "The Pac-10 and the West Coast Conference have automatic bids."

The men's team has a better chance of a bid because of the national reputation the Titans established when they reached the NCAA semifinals three years ago and the quarterfinals in 1994. But three ties in the last four games haven't helped the cause.

The Titan men, with a 9-4-5 record going into Saturday's regular-season finale against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, should be helped by their seven games against teams ranked in the top 20 at the time they played. Fullerton was 3-2-2 against those teams, and tied Virginia, the nation's top-ranked team.

Washington, UCLA, Fresno State and California are ranked ahead of the Titans in the region and 23rd nationally in the most recent coaches' poll. At least five teams from the West are usually chosen.

"Based on what we've done against top 20 teams, I definitely think we're a playoff team, but I also thought we were last year," Mistri said.

The Titans were passed over last year despite a 12-8 record.

*

The women's volleyball team is assured of its first winning regular season since 1981 after last weekend's victory over UC Irvine.

Coach Mary Ellen Murchison's team improved to 15-10 with four regular-season games remaining. The Titans close their home season with matches against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Friday and against 18th-ranked UC Santa Barbara Saturday.

The Titans are 5-7 in the Big West and need one more victory for their best finish in the conference. The school's best previously was a 5-13 record last year.

Fullerton also remains in contention for one of the eight spots in the conference postseason tournament, and is tied with Cal Poly for fourth in the Western Division.

The Titans won only three games in three seasons (1992-1994) before managing a 12-19 record last year.

Senior Heather Bassett has sparked the Titan turnaround since transferring from San Diego Mesa a year ago. She leads the Big West in kills per game (4.64) and is second in digs per game (3.08).

*

Coach Bob Hawking got his first look at his men's basketball team against outside competition in an exhibition game against High Five America Monday night, and quickly noticed one area where the Titans need to improve.

"We're going to have to learn how to defend against a big guy," Hawking said. Preston McGriff, a 6-11 center who played in college at North Carolina Wilmington, scored 22 points to lead High Five to a 78-68 victory.

"There's room for a lot of improvement, but we've only been practicing for a couple of weeks, and we can use this as a reference point and build on it," Hawking said.

The Titans shot 43% from the field. Junior transfer Craig Whitehead finished with 15 points.

Dane Plock, a freshman guard from Estancia High, also showed scoring promise. Plock made three of four from the field, and sank both his three-point tries. "They [the coaches] got on me a little about not shooting more," Plock said. "The confidence they showed in me was nice. I felt real comfortable."

*

Coach John Elders was surprised by the below-par showing by his women's team in the Big West cross-country meet Saturday at Boise State.

The big surprise was the 29th-place finish and time of 19 minutes 2 seconds by Sarah MacDougall. Elders had expected her to be one of the leaders.

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