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the Valley and Ventura County | TODAY'S FOCUS / High
School Volleyball

Gately's Game Is 20-20 Following Eye Surgery

October 09, 1998|MIKE BRESNAHAN

Alone in the back row, Megan Gately was usually the last line of defense.

She could dive, she could dig, she could fulfill her responsibilities as a back-row specialist, except for one thing.

She couldn't see.

Because of cataracts, Gately struggled with her vision as a junior at Thousand Oaks High and had trouble picking up signals from Coach Lura Bleiberg.

She also had trouble seeing the ball at times.

When the season ended, she underwent two surgeries to remove the cataracts, which led to improved vision and better back-row play this season.

"It was like a foggy window [before the surgeries], but now all the colors seem so bright," she said. "It's what it's like after you [replace] windshield wipers."

The cataracts were caused by diabetes, a disease involving insulin deficiency that was diagnosed when Gately was in seventh grade.

Three times a day, she gives herself insulin injections. She's not embarrassed or ashamed by it, especially around her teammates.

"I'm really open about it with my team," Gately said. "They're really interested and intrigued by the fact that I give myself shots. I'm definitely not ashamed or trying to keep it a secret."

Gately, Bleiberg and three teammates took part in the Tour de Cure in May, a 25-kilometer bicycle race that raised money for diabetes research.

The Thousand Oaks contingent raised almost $1,000.

Said Bleiberg: "[Gately] wants people to know about diabetes and what the possible effects are. She wants to get the word out about it. She's got a lot of fire."

*

It's fine with Errin Benesh if she never sees another airport.

On the way to Purdue for a recruiting trip last Saturday, Benesh was marooned at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas until 2:45 a.m. while waiting for a connecting flight to Indianapolis.

Benesh, a middle blocker at Village Christian, arrived at Purdue at 9:30 a.m.

Her return home was almost as untimely.

Her flight from Indianapolis to Phoenix was late, forcing Benesh to sprint through Sky Harbor International Airport in order to make a connecting flight to L.A.

She made it. Barely.

"At the time it wasn't so funny, but now it is," Benesh said.

Benesh, who is visiting Cal Poly San Luis Obispo this weekend on a recruiting trip, will be taking a different mode of transportation.

"We're driving," she said.

*

Junior Trisha Bratford of Taft is 5 feet 10, has a great vertical leap and can block with the best of the middle blockers.

Thus her nickname: "Tree."

Bratford finished third in the high jump in the City Section track and field championships last season, a talent that has crossed over nicely to the volleyball court.

"She's going to be a big-time player," said Taft Coach Doug Magorien, who would know a thing or two about the subject.

Former Taft boys' volleyball player Joe Nargi was the Times' player of the year in the region last season.

"I think she has the potential to be as good and maybe even better than Joe was," Magorien said. "It's a lot to put on her, but she is such an awesome blocker."

*

Dispatches:

* Calabasas outside hitter Brooke Niles, who committed to UC Santa Barbara, will see plenty of familiar faces with the Gauchos next year.

Niles played club volleyball with Brooke Rundle and Heather Hutichson, both from Westlake, who play at UC Santa Barbara.

"Brooke [Rundle] has been my setter [in club volleyball] the past five years, so I'm kind of comfortable with her," Niles said.

* Rio Mesa was winless in Channel League play the last two years, but the Pacific

View League has been better for the

Spartans.

In the first year of the newly formed league, setter Lonna Moeller and outside hitter Erin McCarty have helped Rio Mesa to a 3-2 start in league play under first-year Coach David Haiby.

"I think in the past, a lot of girls were playing just because it was something to do," said assistant coach Samantha Drake. "Now, a lot of girls played club [during the off-season] and aren't out there just to pass the time."

Seven of the eight players on the Rio Mesa squad have club volleyball experience.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Top 10

Rankings of regional girls' volleyball teams

*--*

RK LW School (League) 1 1 Harvard-Westlake (Mission) 2 2 Royal (Marmonte) 3 3 Calabasas (Frontier) 4 4 Flintridge Sacrd Hrt (Mission) 5 5 La Reina (Tri-Valley) 6 6 Westlake (Marmonte) 7 8 Buena (Channel) 8 9 Notre Dame (Mission) 9 7 Village Christian (Alpha) 10 10 Sylmar (Valley Pac-8)

*--*

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