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Muddy Fields Play to the Advantage of Weaker Teams

February 27, 2001|DAVE McKIBBEN

The messy weather conditions made a mess of scheduling for today's Southern Section boys' soccer semifinals.

After much discussion between schools and many phone calls to the section office, all seven games involving county schools are still scheduled to be played today.

The Division II semifinals, El Dorado at La Puente Nogales and Mater Dei at Woodbridge, were going to be switched to Wednesday. But after Nogales and Woodbridge officials spoke with section officials, who strongly urged each school to play today, they decided against the change.

El Dorado also hoped to play Wednesday because its girls' team was playing today. Woodbridge preferred to push its game back a day because both of its fields, Alton Park and the on-campus facility, were in poor shape.

So what does the bad weather and muddy fields mean for the quality of soccer?

"It will make it harder on us and it's going to make it easier for weaker teams," said St. Margaret's Coach Martin Lippens, whose second-seeded team travels to unseeded Ontario Christian.

El Dorado Coach Marc Smith said a sloppy field changes his team's approach to the game.

"We try to play a game of possession," said Smith, who didn't like what he saw of Nogales' field on Sunday. "But in the back when the field is a mess, we let go of it as soon as we can. You just don't want to take any chances.

"We've changed our formation and our lineup to adjust to the field conditions. We've added some more forwards and put some different people up front."

Woodbridge Coach Jon Szczuka said he will spend all day with custodians trying to get his on-campus field ready.

"We've got four big puddles on our field and Alton Park is just mud," he said. "It's unfortunate. It leaves a lot of these [semifinal] games 50-50."

Brea Olinda Coach Matt Swindle might be the only coach looking forward to playing today. Swindle's fourth-seeded team is playing at top-seeded La Verne Bonita.

"I saw a video of their game Friday [against Sonora] and that field is absolutely gorgeous," Swindle said. "It rivals Cal State Fullerton's. They have a stadium with lights and the whole field is green."


After one year at Cal State Fullerton, the section is returning its soccer finals to Cerritos Gahr High.

Thom Simmons, section spokesman, said every effort was made to play the finals at Fullerton, considered one of nicest soccer venues in Southern California.

"Fullerton said they couldn't host it because they had baseball and softball going on both days," Simmons said. "They couldn't give it the attention it deserved."

Santa Margarita Coach Curt Bauer, whose team is a game from its fifth consecutive Division III final, was disappointed when he heard Gahr was hosting the finals.

"It's the equivalent of playing the basketball finals on the blacktop," he said. "You fight your whole year to make it the final round, you want to be awed by the facility. And then you walk in and play in the worst facility you've played in all year."

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