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UC IRVINE NOTEBOOK / CHRIS FOSTER

Anteaters' Tennis Program Has a Distinct International Flavor

March 12, 1998|CHRIS FOSTER

Brett Lucas, frustrated at tennis practice one day, tossed his racket after failing to return a teammate's serve.

"I asked him what that was all about," UC Irvine men's tennis Coach Steve Clark said. "It was like those beer commercials. He said, 'That's Australian for nice serve.' "

Clark has had to learn a bit about other cultures the last few years. He has taken a couple steps down a road that some top programs have already traveled by gathering foreign players.

Among its top six singles players, Irvine has three: Lucas (Australia), Thomas Bohun (Philippines) and David Matthew (Canada). But Clark said his reasons are different from some of the schools that have taken on foreign players.

"You'll see teams that make huge jumps, those are the ones who get an influx of foreign players," Clark said. "I don't want to name teams, but look at the rankings. There are some teams that have guys with mustaches and chest hair and a whole lot of maturity.

"My first priority is to recruit local kids, but a lot of times they want to go away to school. It turns out, these three guys are real hungry. I want guys who want to be here. That means I may get a guy from across the border."

He already has three who cleared customs.

Bohun, born in Switzerland and reared in the Philippines, has been a pillar for four years. He inquired at several universities and of those that replied, Irvine had the best tennis team. He is 4-6 as the team's No. 1 singles player.

Matthew, a freshman, and Lucas, a sophomore, have begun to make an impact this season.

Clark saw Matthew play in the Arizona tournament last year and was impressed with his backhand. He became interested in Lucas two years ago after Lucas sent him a videotape.

Matthew is 3-6 overall and, as Irvine's No. 4 singles player, is 2-4.

"I went to look at some California kids and ended up talking with David's coach," Clark said. "David looked really smooth and moved real well on the court."

Lucas is 4-4 overall and 3-1 as the team's No. 5 singles player. He injured his left wrist as a freshman and was a redshirt. He has been slowed by a pulled quad muscle this season. The potential is there.

"He was a solid top eight in Australia,"' Clark said. "You can't go wrong with a player like that."

*

Those around Irvine shouldn't be surprised that this basketball season drummed up some interest in Coach Pat Douglass.

San Jose State officials have been granted permission to talk with Douglass, who took the Anteaters from 1-25 to 9-18 in his first season. This is the price of hiring a quality coach.

For example, up the road at Long Beach State, 49er officials could likely keep Wayne Morgan for as long as they like, as Long Beach is 23-33 in his two seasons after five consecutive winning seasons.

Douglass came in and made an immediate impact. There was nowhere to go but up, but up they went, and that was bound to attract some attention.

*

Wendell Robinson, Irvine's senior center, capped the season and his career by sinking a three-pointer at the buzzer in Friday's 81-72 loss to Nevada. It gave him a double-single for the season: one three-pointer, one assist.

*

Robinson's next duty will be painful, but important.

He and other former Santa Monica College teammates have celebrated Davy Fortson's birthday every March for the last two years. Fortson, a Santa Monica teammate of Robinson's, was shot and killed in 1995 while standing at a hamburger stand. Rochelle Wilkerson, Fortson's mother, invites his friends every March for the birthday gathering.

"We go lay flowers on his tomb and come back to her house to celebrate like it was a regular birthday," Robinson said. "We go to let her know we love her and we care."

*

Irvine's track teams had five personal bests in a six-team meet at USC last weekend.

Christy Villa topped her previous efforts in the 3,000 meters (9 minutes 59.83 seconds), as did Mike Murray in 1,500 meters (4:00.35), Shawn Frack in 3,000 meters (8:27.30), Megan Rowe in the triple jump (35 feet 6 inches) and Florence Sterni in the 100 meters (12.11).

"I think it shows that they can rise to the competition," Coach Vince O'Boyle said. "It's an indication that Florence is ready to go. She's going to be under 12 seconds soon."

*

O'Boyle also had a personal best recently, as he turned in a $5,000 check received from Baltimore Oriole outfielder Brady Anderson.

Anderson, who played at Irvine, made the donation specifically for the track and field program. Irvine eliminated its baseball program in 1992.

*

Irvine diver Arika Earley will compete in the NCAA Regional this weekend in Colorado Springs, where she will run into the same problem as she did in the Big West Conference championships: Nevada's Lang Rao.

Rao became eligible at the semester and competed in one meet for the Wolf Pack. She then won the one- and three-meter events at the conference championships, beating the defending champion Earley in both.

Rao, who is from China, finished sixth at the World Championships last year.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Coming Attractions

Key events this week for UC Irvine:

* Men's tennis hosts Pennsylvania on Friday at 1:30. Coach Steve Clark won the 100th match in his coaching career last week.

* Men's volleyball plays at seventh-ranked Stanford today and at Pacific on Friday. Both matches at 7 p.m. The Anteaters had lost five in a row before beating George Mason on Monday.

* Track and field men's and women's teams compete in the Ben Brown Invitational, Saturday, at Cal State Fullerton. Field events begin at 10 a.m. and running events at 11 a.m.

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