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Waves' Trakh Enjoying the View From Malibu

January 30, 2002|MIKE TERRY

The Pepperdine Waves are limping through the season.

Forwards Kelli Spencer and Anna Lembke tore anterior cruciate ligaments and are lost for the season. Guard Jennifer Lakin's career ended in October because of concussions. Center Shannon Mayberry may have a stress fracture in her right leg.

Shandrika Lee, the starting point guard, is playing despite a sprained left wrist.

But that hasn't stopped Pepperdine from being the hottest college women's team in Southern California.

The Waves (15-4) take a school-record 12-game winning streak into their home game tonight against Loyola Marymount. Predicted to finish somewhere in the middle of the West Coast Conference, they are the WCC's only unbeaten team.

After guiding the Waves to four consecutive 20-win seasons, Coach Mark Trakh wasn't sure how good this team could be. So far, it's exceeding expectations.

"I knew we had talent," Trakh said. "We've got some kids who were highly recruited: Mayberry was [recruited] at Stanford, Colorado, Texas and Arkansas. Tamara McDonald came down to between us and UCLA. Damaris Hinojosa came down to us and UCLA. Jennifer Lacy was recruited by half the Pac-10.

"It was getting everybody together, getting the chemistry, getting the young kids into the flow of the offense and defense, and giving them experience. I thought it could have been a .500 year and rebuild or we'd start to jell."

In addition to a 6-0 conference record, the Waves won three holiday tournaments, have notable nonconference victories against Alabama and George Washington, and are tied with Louisiana Tech for the fourth-longest active winning streak in Division I play.

Pepperdine's losses--to Arizona, Syracuse, Stanford and Illinois--were respectable. The overtime defeat to Illinois on Dec. 8 is the Waves' last loss.

It would be even better for Pepperdine if more people were watching.

Few universities can match the kind of location Pepperdine enjoys--830 acres stretched atop the Santa Monica Mountains with an endless view of the Pacific Ocean.

There are enough property owners in the film and music businesses to put the Lakers' Hollywood following to shame.

But forget Spagos. It's hard enough for Pepperdine, which averages 505 a home game, to get the McDonald's crowd into Firestone Fieldhouse.

"My assistant Jody [Wynn] recently pointed out, 'You have Loyola Marymount, UCLA, USC and us. [In the past four years] we've won more games, more conference titles, went to more postseasons, and we get the least exposure,'" Trakh said. "People don't hear about us a lot. But if we keep taking care of business we'll get people interested."

Somehow the Waves keep rolling. They are winning without a dominant scorer--Hinojosa averages 13.4 points a game to lead the team. They've won with buzzer beaters, and by 30. Each game, they seem to find a different way to victory.

Now in his ninth season, Trakh, who had 356 victories and four state titles at Brea Olinda High before coming to Pepperdine, has become the Waves' all-time leader in coaching victories with 152.

But victories in March are what his team needs most. Since Trakh has been coach, the Waves have reached the WCC tournament championship game twice without winning it. They've also been to the NCAA and National Invitation Tournament once, but have never advanced past the first round.

This might be the year for a breakthrough.

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