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Coaches Tested by SAT, Dance Around Proms

May 04, 2000|PAIGE A. LEECH

It is the best of times . . . and the most inconvenient of times for a softball tournament.

The Thousand Oaks tournament, arguably the most competitive softball tournament in the region, has been played at this time of the season for 13 years.

In theory, it is the perfect time to sharpen skills against tough competition two weeks before playoffs.

Problem is, most teams are playing with depleted rosters during at least one of the two Saturdays because of proms and college-placement tests.

"No matter how many times you tell these kids to take their SAT early, they never listen," Coach Cathy Giordano of Hart said.

Playing against powerful Cerritos in a semifinal Saturday morning, Hart will be without four starters who will be taking the Scholastic Assessment Test, which is offered six times a year.

Giordano isn't the only coach trying to fill voids.

Shortstop Lauren Johnson of Cerritos will miss the game because of the SAT.

In the other semifinal, Simi Valley will play without two starters who will be taking the SAT.

It's a problem Coach Suzanne Manlet of Simi Valley has to manage every year, no matter how much she works to avoid it.

"I'm to a point now where I've actually made special announcements," Manlet said. "Even at the banquet last year, I told them, 'Do not plan to take your SAT in May. Take them early.' "

As soon as Coach Glenda Potts of Highland learned her three best players would be taking the SAT on Saturday, she rectified the situation. Potts is one of two coaches who requested to be placed in the white bracket, the least competitive of the two in the tournament.

"Those teams [in the green bracket] are really good teams and I didn't want them to have to play this chump team," Potts said. "It wouldn't be fair to them."

Prom commitments are having the same effect on the tournament, and in some cases it's even worse.

Westlake's prom is Friday night and the Warriors have a consolation game at 8:30 a.m. against Camarillo. Coach Darwin Tolzin is planning to play without his battery and starting infield.

"They're not going to even get home until 6 or 6:30 [a.m.]," Tolzin said. "I'm kind of mixed as to what to do. I don't want any kid that hasn't had any sleep in 24 hours to take a ball in the nose."

The prom for Thousand Oaks is Saturday night and at least half of the team plans to attend.

The Lancers will have everybody for its morning semifinal against Simi Valley, but the prom-goers would be hard-pressed to play in a 3 p.m. final or third-place game.

So Coach Gary Walin of Thousand Oaks has been trouble-shooting this week.

If Thousand Oaks beats Simi Valley for the third time this season, the Lancers will play the final at either Hart or Cerritos on Wednesday.

Walin said he would have probably forfeited the final if he hadn't been able to work out the contingency plan with Hart and Cerritos.

Should Thousand Oaks lose to Simi Valley, Walin said he doesn't intend to field a team for the third-place game at 3 p.m.

"Neither Hart, Cerritos or us is even interested in a third-place game [with depleted rosters]," Walin said.

Thousand Oaks is one of the most focused, motivated teams in the region, but once the Lancers finish that semifinal against Simi Valley, don't expect them to sit around and talk about it.

Win or lose, there are nail and hair appointments to be met.

"[Walin] told us that we could go right after the game," said senior first baseman Shawna Lane, who has made only two errors in more than 600 career chances. "He said, 'I won't even talk to you guys.' "

Said Walin: "I think the prom is pretty important."

With so many conflicts, it would seem everybody would be better served if the tournament was earlier in the season.

But that would defeat the purpose of polishing your game just before playoffs.

And most coaches are willing to keep it status quo.

"It's a great tournament," Giordano said. "I wanted to get to some good games in against good teams right now. That's why we're in it [despite] SATs and proms."

Still, solutions are needed to keep the tournament competitive on both days. Some coaches may have the answer.

"We've just got to cancel all proms, that's all," Tolzin joked.

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