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FALL SPORTS PREVIEW '98

Creager Jockeys Cypress Into Position

Girls' volleyball: At 5-11, the senior won't be following in dad's footsteps as a jockey. Instead, she towers over the competition as an outside hitter for the Centurions.

September 15, 1998|MICHAEL ITAGAKI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Cypress senior Dusty Creager is the daughter of Los Alamitos jockey John Creager. So she's the petite setter for the Centurions' girls' volleyball team, right?

"Yeah, my dad comes just about up to my shoulder," laughed Creager, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter. "You would never guess that looking at him, since he's so short, that I might be getting my education paid for with a [volleyball] scholarship."

Fresno State, Boston College, Yale and San Diego are among the schools recruiting Creager, and she's looking forward to a senior season that she hopes will put Cypress on the volleyball map.

Although Creager, a three-time all-league selection, has helped the Centurions win three consecutive league titles, she's hoping Cypress can reach its first section final this season.

"We've gone to the third round of the playoffs the past three seasons," Creager said. "We better get through this season."

Last season, two-time defending section champion Santa Margarita eliminated Cypress in the quarterfinals.

"Yeah, and our bus didn't even show up at our school for that match," Creager said. "It wasn't enough that we had to play one of the best teams around, but then we had to scramble to pile into cars to drive out to Santa Margarita. We barely had time to stretch before the match started."

Creager didn't start playing volleyball until seventh grade, when she was also busy playing softball and soccer.

"I would have three practices in one day sometimes," Creager said. "It was ridiculous."

It became a silly idea for Creager to follow in her father's footsteps when it became apparent that she would be too tall. She said her brother also wanted to become a jockey at one point, but now he is 6 feet.

"I went to the race track all the time with my mom," Creager said. "I hated it."

So Creager turned her attention to other sports and she began to excel in soccer and softball.

John Creager, who has been riding at Los Alamitos since 1974, remembers those days and said he saw the potential in Dusty at a young age.

"She's a pretty tough kid," John Creager said. "You know how in soccer, some kids could get hit in the head and start to cry? I remember Dusty would get hit, then just stand there, bite her teeth and get back in there.

"Even when she was playing T-ball. I remember seeing her hit and she had a little mean look. She was always real competitive."

That's something not lost on Dusty's new coach at Cypress, Heather Dillard.

"Dusty is fearless," said Dillard, a Cypress graduate who also played setter at Utah State and Alabama Birmingham. "She doesn't back down and she just loves to play the game."

Creager also played softball and soccer at Cypress and last spring, she went out for the track team and began high jumping.

Although league MVP Laura Woiemberghe has graduated, Cypress returns five starters, including Creager, the Guess sisters--Becky, a 6-1 junior middle blocker and Cassie, a 6-0 sophomore--and setter Amanda Meixel, a 5-9 senior.

Dillard attributes a lot of the early season optimism to her predecessor, Jerry Gregg, who retired after leading Cypress to five league titles in eight seasons.

"When I played here," said Dillard, a 1990 graduate, "I was one of two club players on the volleyball team. Now, everyone on varsity plays club and most of the kids in our program play club. It's a big change and that's a tribute to Jerry."

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