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FALL SPORTS PREVIEW '97

Beschen Stays Dry, but Gets Her Hits in

Girls' volleyball: San Clemente senior comes from family of surfers, but prefers her position of outside hitter.

September 16, 1997|MICHAEL ITAGAKI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN CLEMENTE — Nope, Bridget Beschen doesn't surf.

It's a question everyone seems to ask the 6-foot senior from San Clemente High and it only seems natural, considering her family ties.

Yes, she is the younger sister of Shane Beschen, who surfs on the World Championship tour. Her other older brother, Gavin, also surfs on one of the qualifying tours. And yes, her father, Mike, and mother, Sue, surf too.

But Bridget never took a big liking to that sport.

"Everyone expects me to surf," she said. "I tried it once with my brothers, but I wanted to go on my own path.

"I'm a beach girl. I love the water, I like bodyboarding. I've grown up on the beach and I love it there. But I love volleyball too."

Beschen has found her niche with the San Clemente girls' volleyball team. She is one of five returning starters from a team that rebounded from a sluggish start last season to advance to the Southern Section Division II-AA semifinals.

Now, Beschen and her teammates are aiming for the school's best season yet.

The Tritons have only won one league title previously, in 1995 when Beschen was a sophomore reserve, and they have never advanced past the section semifinals. Beschen is excited about the prospects for the season, but she isn't looking too far ahead.

"Sure we'd like to win league and make it to CIF," Beschen said. "But we've got to take it one practice at a time and one game at a time.

"This team is different. There's a unity. Everyone has come together. We're all encouraging and supporting each other. It's awesome."

It isn't odd that there's such a family feel to this season's team. Beschen, the team captain, is a leader that Coach Rob O'Rear has enjoyed working with for the past three years.

"Bridget is a natural leader," O'Rear said. "She's very vocal but I've never heard her say anything negative to her teammates. She gets along well with everyone.

"We have a saying that if someone doesn't like Bridget, there's something wrong with them."

Beschen never felt out of place in her family, though she's the only non-surfer. She said her family always encouraged her to try different things and she played softball and swam competitively. Beschen said swimming competitively is a rather loose definition.

"I swam at San Clemente as a freshman," Beschen said. "It was a lot of fun, but I was the worst. I was good at coming in last for every race."

That hasn't been a problem in volleyball. Several Division I universities are recruiting Beschen, who said she would like to stay on the West Coast. But there was a time when she didn't even dream of such things.

"I never looked forward to college," Beschen said. "I just kept playing volleyball, then I discovered that this is a lot of fun. I'd love to keep playing."

Beschen played on the varsity as a freshman middle blocker and still struggled for playing time as a sophomore. On that '95 league championship team, Paige Spaulding, who earned a scholarship to Nevada, and Jessica Olivier (Loyola Marymount) were the starting middle blockers.

Beschen got her chance to start last season, moving to her natural spot at outside hitter.

"Bridget's a smart player," O'Rear said. "And she doesn't have a tendency to rely on one particular shot. She's a quick thinker and has good court sense."

And Beschen kept her cool when San Clemente fell behind Riverside North in the Division II-AA quarterfinals last season.

"We took a big lead, then the officials ruled that we had the wrong server and they took away eight points from us," Beschen said. "But we came back and won in three games."

The 16-14, 15-5, 15-9 victory put San Clemente into the semifinals where it lost to Huntington Beach, which went on to win the section Division II-AA and state Division II titles.

Every team has championship hopes, but Beschen and the Tritons aren't just chasing after trophies.

"If that means we might win a league title, or that means we might win CIF, then fine," Beschen said. "I can't say what will happen. We just have to do our best."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

PRESEASON TOP 10

1. Laguna Beach

Defending Div. I-AA champs have depth.

2. Marina

Have talent to play with county's best.

3. Santa Margarita

Won Division II-A title last season.

4. Fountain Valley

Melissa Plass leads Div. I-A champs.

5. Mater Dei

Balanced team with eight returners.

6. Huntington Beach

Won section and state titles last season.

7. Newport Harbor

Jennifer Carey leads this young team.

8. Dana Hills

With Jami Bari, always a threat.

9. Ocean View

Div. III school with Div. I talent.

10. San Clemente

Will challenge South Coast's elite.

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Players to Watch

* Jami Bari, Dana Hills, setter, Sr.

* Jessica Bartter, Valencia, setter, Jr.

* Danielle Bauer, Foothill, middle blocker, Jr.

* Liz Belloni, Laguna Beach, outside hitter, Sr.

* Kirsten Berg, La Habra, outside hitter, Sr.

* Bridget Beschen, San Clemente, outside hitter, Sr.

* Jennifer Carey, Newport Harbor, setter, Jr.

* Michelle Chambers, Santa Margarita, outside hitter, Sr.

* Dana Chuha, Esperanza, setter, Sr.

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