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Miller Pushes Saints to New Heights

October 17, 2000|MIKE ITAGAKI

It might be surprising to see Santa Ana in the thick of a Golden West League title chase, considering the Saints haven't won a league title since their Century League championship in 1972.

But their fifth-year coach, Billy Miller, has the Saints (11-3, 3-1 in league) right on the heels of Ocean View, which won Southern Section and state championships only three years ago.

And the Saints are for real.

"They're right there with us," said Ocean View Coach Tim Mennealy, whose team is 5-3, 4-0. "They have the two best hitters in the league and they keep the ball in play."

Those two are senior outside hitter Evelyn Medina and middle blocker Codi Bauer, a 6-foot-1 junior.

"[Bauer] needs more polish," Mennealy said. "But with that athleticism and some hard work, she could be one of the best middle blockers in the county."

Bauer also plays with UC Irvine Coach Charlie Brande's Orange County Volleyball Club, and she is an example of the Saints' shift in attitude toward their sport.

In addition to normal off-season training, Miller took his team to compete at the Los Angeles Watts Summer Games, to workouts on the beach and a camp at Long Beach State.

"Just getting them around the sport, they know the good players now," Miller said. "They know who Misty May is.

"Taking them out of Santa Ana and into the volleyball world has helped. And now that they've enjoyed a little success after losing for so long, they feel like they can compete."

Not that there haven't been distractions--like the bomb threat at school last week, or the fact that setter Roni Bravo's mother is battling brain cancer.

"We're dealing with a lot of stuff," Miller said, "but that's life.

"This is the best team I've had. They have a great attitude and it's the most dedicated group I've coached. I have to kick them out of the gym."


Seventh-ranked Esperanza continued its climb up the county rankings by knocking off Huntington Beach and Los Alamitos, ranked third and eighth in the county last week.

After an inspired four-game victory over Huntington Beach, Esperanza trounced Los Alamitos in three games in a home match Thursday to improve to 4-0 in the Sunset League and take the inside track to the league title.

"Julie Handy stepped it up against Los Al," Esperanza Coach Kurt Kersten said. "After we beat Huntington, it gave us a lot of confidence. Playing those tough matches early in the season is paying off now.

"We had only one starter back and Huntington had five back after we tied for the league title last season. Hopefully, we can build on [last week] and move toward another league championship."


Even without standout Keao Burdine, La Habra's USC-bound senior outside hitter, the Highlanders have been trouncing their Freeway League competition.

In four matches, La Habra has lost only one game while Burdine sat out with an ankle injury.

La Habra Coach Troy Abbey hopes Burdine will return this week to full-time play, although "Keao made a guest appearance in the back row Thursday," Abbey said.


Three county teams are top-ranked in the Southern Section polls this week: Mater Dei (Division I-A), Laguna Beach (IV-A) and St. Margaret's (V-AA).

Second-ranked teams are San Clemente in I-AA, La Habra in II-A and Irvine in I-A.


The Pacific Coast League title should be decided Wednesday when No. 5 Laguna Beach plays at No. 6 Corona del Mar.

Laguna Beach, led by middle blocker Sarah Salem, beat Corona del Mar in three games last weekend at the Del Mar Torrey Pines tournament but lost in five games to the Sea Kings in a league match.

Thursday, the Sea View League title should be at stake when No. 4 Newport Harbor hosts No. 3 Irvine. The Vaqueros, led by Jody Carlson and Olivia Waldowski, won the first meeting in three games. Also Thursday, top-ranked San Clemente hosts No. 10 Capistrano Valley.

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