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CAL STATE FULLERTON NOTEBOOK / LON EUBANKS

Wait to Play Finally Over for Midfielder Mesrobian

September 10, 1997|LON EUBANKS

Marco Mesrobian is exhilarated about finally being able to play soccer for Cal State Fullerton.

But as far as he and Coach Al Mistri are concerned, it's long overdue.

Mesrobian had to sit out last season because the NCAA's academic clearinghouse refused to certify two English classes he took at Glendale Hoover High as part of 13 core courses required for eligibility.

Mesrobian passed the classes without any problem, but the NCAA ruled that since the classes were for students learning English as a second language, they couldn't be counted.

"I couldn't understand it because I thought they were tougher courses than the regular English courses I took later on," Mesrobian said. "They were listed as being college prep classes, even though they were ESL classes. That's what fooled me. After that, I took the regular English classes and did fine."

Mesrobian was born in Iran and lived there until he and his family, who are Armenian, moved to Denmark when he was 8. They emigrated to Southern California just before Mesrobian started the eighth grade.

The family's main language was Armenian. Mesrobian had learned to speak English, but he was not fluent entering high school, and his academic advisor enrolled him in the ESL classes.

Even midway through his senior year, however, Mesrobian said he had been assured by his advisor there were no problems with his eligibility. But that summer, as he prepared to enroll at Fullerton, the NCAA ruled otherwise.

"By then, it was too late for me to do anything," Mesrobian said. "I didn't have time to take any other classes in summer school."

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Titan athletic department officials appealed the NCAA's decision but lost.

"We definitely thought it was unfair," Mistri said. "And what made it seem even worse was that he had a very good score [560] on the verbal part of the SAT test." Better than some students, Mistri noted, who have grown up speaking English.

Since Mesrobian wasn't eligible to play, he had to give up his athletic scholarship.

"I had to take out a loan of around $2,000 to be able to go to school, but I also was able to get some financial aid from the university because of my family's financial situation," Mesrobian said.

Mesrobian's father died after a heart attack four years ago.

"I especially want to be able to do well in college to make him proud of me," Mesrobian said. "I guess the freshman year is hard for everyone, but I passed all my classes, and I didn't have to go to summer school."

But being away from soccer wasn't easy.

"That first month I was really depressed," Mesrobian said. "I don't think I talked to hardly anyone for a while because I was so disappointed. I've been playing soccer all my life, and I was really excited about playing in college."

Though it has taken a year, Mesrobian has made it, and his presence has been worth the wait for Mistri. Mesrobian already has shown he's the attacking midfielder Mistri believes the Titans need to be successful.

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Mistri got a scare on the first day of practice when Mesrobian pulled a leg muscle. It appeared to be a bad case of tendinitis, and he was forced to miss the season opener against Vanderbilt. But Mesrobian made his college debut two days later against Santa Clara. Fullerton won, 2-1, and Mistri said Mesrobian was a key factor.

"There's no question that he's made a big difference for us," Mistri said. "He may be the best first-year player in the country this season. He's definitely going to be an impact player."

Mistri said he hasn't given up hope of having Mesrobian playing for the Titans three more years. He still believes there are grounds for a future appeal.

Titan Notes

Freshman volleyball player Carolyn Kittell was named to the all-tournament team at last weekend's tournament at Northern Arizona. The Titans lost to the host school and Oregon but defeated Ohio. . . . Volleyball player Melissa Blackler is out indefinitely because of a torn ligament in her right elbow. . . . Junior soccer player Dolores Browning, the Big West player of the year last season, scored her 100th career point with an assist on Fullerton's only goal in a 1-0 victory over California last weekend.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Coming Attractions

Here's a look at key games this week for Cal State Fullerton:

* Men's soccer against Boston University at 5 p.m. Friday, and against Sacramento State at 1 p.m. Sunday, at San Diego tournament.

* Women's soccer against Weber State at 5 p.m. Thursday and against Montana at 4 p.m. Saturday, at Brigham Young tournament.

* Women's volleyball at Fresno State tournament, Thursday through Saturday.

* Men's and women's cross-country at UC Irvine Invitational, 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Central Park in Huntington Beach.

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