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Ups and Downs of the Prep Sports Year

Members of The Times Orange County prep sports staff share their memories of the people, events and issues of the past school year. : Losing With Grace

June 17, 1997|MARTIN HENDERSON

Going to talk about grace. Amazing grace. One instance that happened almost yesterday, the other I remember like it was yesterday.

Softball title game. Division I. Jenny Beltran made two fielding errors. Also threw to the wrong base twice. A two-run inning by Upland put away Foothill, 3-1, to win the Southern Section championship.

Game ended. Got quotes from Joe Gonzalez, the losing coach, and Ed Ulloa, the winning coach. Had enough time to interview more people and still make my deadline.

Got quotes from Lauren Bauer. She talked about the disappointment, that her next stop is Arizona, where she'll play for the defending NCAA champion. "I have to move on," she said.

Got quotes from Jenny Beltran.

She was sniffling, trying--unsuccessfully--to hold back tears. She admitted she didn't know if she could go through with it.

She did. She answered the questions.

What happened on the ball that was hit at you? What were you thinking when you tried to throw out the runner at second base? Why?

Every athlete wants to get to the finals. Not everyone gets to have a championship performance.

"I feel I let down the team," she said. "I felt I should've had it. I didn't get the girl at second base. I didn't do my job. I didn't make the plays. They capitalized on my errors."

Her anguish was obvious. Outgoing senior. Last game. Bad game. She was one of the main reasons Foothill was there in the first place, but it didn't matter to her at that moment.

I admire her greatly.

She wasn't very composed, but she showed enormous maturity. While standing near the Bauer interview, Beltran looked away and wept. It couldn't have been easy. I hoped she was listening when Bauer said, "Obviously, we wanted to win a CIF championship. We came up short. I'll have to move on."

Beltran will move on too, to Miami of Ohio. And though winning a title would have been great, and it would have made her feel good, it wouldn't have done anything to show her real mettle as a person.

Kind of like another team I knew well, Brea Olinda girls' basketball.

No team in Orange County has been more successful the last three years or had greater expectations thrust upon them--even if it was self-imposed--than the Ladycats in 1997. Anything short of a state title was an unequivocal disappointment. There was universal agreement about that.

Yet, they lost for the third consecutive year one game short of the state title game. The five starters (four seniors) are probably the best group of players in the county never collectively to play for a state championship.

In the Southern California Regional final, Rochelle Anthony left in the final seconds amid boos from Laguna Hills fans who thought she took a cheap shot at Tamara Inoue.

Afterward, in an almost stone-silent interview room, it prompted third-year Coach Jeff Sink to lament, and praise, his team at the same time.

"I've worked with these four seniors for three years and it's been an honor--they play hard every single day," Sink said.

"In the big picture, it's tough to walk away from the Pond for a third straight year not winning this game, but when I look back on my career as a coach, I will think about these four kids and I will be inspired.

"I'm disappointed and I will go home and probably be devastated, but in the final analysis, when you look at what sports is all about, it's a chance to see people have to measure up in that crucible of victory and defeat. I've seen these kids at their best and they're spectacular."

To which Anthony, the maligned one, chipped in: "They saw us at our worst tonight."

And they all had a good laugh. As it should have been.

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