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Some Staying on Co-Ed Teams

November 12, 1996|WENDY WITHERSPOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

No sooner had the Southern Section sanctioned girls' water polo than a majority of girls players left their male teammates and flocked to sign up for the girls' teams, which will play their inaugural seasons this winter.

For a select few, however, the decision was more difficult.

Jessica Gatzke, a sophomore at Trabuco Hills, was initially worried when she was informed about the girls' teams.

"I don't have to play [with the girls], do I?" Gatzke asked Mustang Coach Chris Shore.

Shore informed her that, because she had played with the boys last season, she had a choice between the boys' and girls' teams this season.

"OK, good," she said.

Gatzke is one of a handful of players, along with Marina's Robin Beauregard and Fountain Valley's Sunny Yacenda, who chose to remain with boys' teams this fall. They will not be eligible to play with the girls' teams in winter.

Gatzke, Beauregard and Yacenda are the exception among female water polo players.

"There are very few girls who are good enough to play on the boys' team," said John Wright, who has coached girls at the Golden West Water Polo Club since 1983.

Wright, formerly the Marina coach, watched many of the girls from his club drop out of the sport soon after they reached high school because of the difficulty they had competing with the boys.

Beauregard has never had a problem. She will be the first girl, and one of the few athletes, to earn four varsity letters in the sport at Marina.

Beauregard played with the girls during the Sunset League's exhibition season last year and toyed with the idea of playing on the girls' team this year. After considering it, however, she decided she needed a higher level of competition to prepare her for the college game.

"The competition level for the girls is not really up to a high level so I thought I could get more out of playing with the boys," she said.

Beauregard has orally committed to attend UCLA, where she will play on the women's team.

For Gatzke, playing with the girls' team would have meant giving up basketball because the two sports will be played in the same season.

"I wasn't going to give up basketball," she said, "and I couldn't leave [the Mustang boys' water polo team] without a goalie."

Yacenda, a senior, had worked too hard to make the Baron starting lineup to quit just because girls' teams were available.

When Yacenda was in junior high, she received a notice describing the athletic program at Fountain Valley. The sheet listed "boys' water polo."

"Since my brother was already playing and I knew there were girls on the team, I knew I was allowed to," she said.

Being allowed to in theory, however, is sometimes different from reality.

"I got along pretty well with all the guys because I didn't complain," she said.

She said boys on opposing teams have tried to hit her and in her freshman year one guy stuck his arm down her swimsuit.

"I kneed him in the [groin] then I scored off him," she said.

Nonetheless, Yacenda prefers competing against boys over girls, but she won't mind playing on a women's team in college.

"I think I'll still be fine. I'll enjoy whoever I play," she said, "just as long as I play."

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