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Soccer Finals Get Short Shrift

March 11, 1997|WENDY WITHERSPOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

One would think a championship athletic event would be staged on a playing field that is appropriate for that sport.

You wouldn't, for instance, try to play a championship basketball game on a volleyball court.

So why does the Southern Section think it's O.K. to stage its championship soccer games on a football field?

The Southern Section soccer finals were played on the Cerritos Gahr High football field, Friday and Saturday. The games featured some excellent players who displayed impressive skills despite atrocious conditions.

A football field is simply too narrow for high-level soccer. The Gahr field fits within the specifications of the National Federation of State High School Associations, which recommends that soccer fields be at least 65 yards wide.

In international soccer matches, however, fields are between 70 and 80 yards wide.

A bigger problem is that the Gahr field is crowned, which means that the ball picks up speed as it rolls toward the sideline. Ideally, soccer fields should be flat.

Coach Chuck Morales, who led the Santa Margarita girls to the Division II title Saturday, said the crowned field forces players to play "Route 101"--straight up the middle.

For fans who paid to see high-level soccer, it was frustrating to watch the players limited by a crowned field, ridiculously chasing down balls as they careened down the slope.

"Championship players deserve to play on a championship field," Morales said. "They didn't even mow the lawn. I couldn't believe it."

Coach Andy Thomas, who led the Laguna Beach boys to the Division IV title, said the condition of the lawn was a bigger problem than the crown.

"The kids have worked so hard all year to get to the finals, they deserve a great facility to play in," Thomas said.

Coach Martin Stringer, who led the Mater Dei boys to the Division II championship, also said the field was poor in quality.

"The length is fine, the width is poor and the surface is worse," Stringer said.

It's curious that the Southern Section would choose to use the Gahr football field because one of the best soccer stadiums in Southern California is right in its own backyard. Cal State Fullerton has an excellent soccer field with stadium seating for 10,000.

"[Southern Section] basketball gets played in the Pond, why can't they give soccer the same kind of prestige and let them play in the best facility around?" Thomas asked.

Southern Section officials could not be reached for comment on Monday.

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Woodbridge basketball player Krissy Duperron has been chosen to play in the first Double Pump Classic all-star game April 26 at Cal State Dominguez. Duperron was among 24 California seniors selected for the game.

In earning Sea View League MVP honors, Duperron averaged 15.3 points and nine rebounds. Woodbridge was the league champion, but was upset by Cerritos Gahr in the Division II-AA quarterfinals.

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When a team wins a section title the players often pile on top of each other once the final buzzer goes off, so Villa Park had no problem watching the unabashed joy Woodbridge showed after winning the Division II-AA title game Saturday at the Pond.

But, before joining his teammates in celebration, Woodbridge guard Peter Martinelli sought out Villa Park guard Isaiah Cavaco. The two said a few words to each other and embraced.

Both came to their respective schools in parallel fashion. Martinelli transferred to Woodbridge from Servite, while Cavaco came to Villa Park from Mater Dei. Both have been friends since before high school. And both are among elite point guards in the county.

Cavaco was obviously touched by Martinelli's gesture, but decided to keep the remarks to himself. "He was being a good friend," Cavaco said.

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Three days after the game Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight still can't quite believe it happened.

Not winning the Division I-A boys' basketball championship 88-70 against Etiwanda; after all the Monarchs have won six in a row. But free-throw performance put on by Mater Dei was astonishing--33 of 35, nearly 95%--was still the main topic of discussion.

"That is an incredible feat in a big game in big arena [like the Pond]," McKnight said. "I can't ever remember us doing something like that. I wish I had an answer on how they did it.

Kevin Augustine--who made 18 consecutive free throws in the game and scored 32 points--said his performance may have been helped by his ailing right shoulder.

"My mind was on the pain in the shoulder, not the crowd or the depth perception," Augustine said. "It was hard to hold the ball up, so I just focused on rim. And everything just went in."

David Castleton, whose only made free throw came after a three-point shot that thwarted Etiwanda's final fourth quarter run, said "because we play in Bren Center, we may have an advantage. When you shoot free throws, you look at the basket differently and it can be hard sometimes in [arena] backgrounds. But for some reason everyone had a shooting streak that night. And we needed them because they were matching us basket for basket."

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