The toast of the Coast

That was the boast as the powerful women's teams of UCLA and Cal State Fullerton (host) met to decide which was the most. UCLA loast—er, lost
March 15, 1976

UCLA's campus, hemmed in by the expensive homes of Bel Air and the smart stores of Westwood Village, is not exactly a slum itself. Modern dormitory towers stand sentinel on a hill overlooking the track and field stadium, and there are broad brick walkways and plazas and a magnificent sculpture garden. So it is a bit surprising to discover that the headquarters for women's intercollegiate athletics is a temporary building made out of two green trailers stuck together with nails and dreams and hidden behind the women's gym.

But then most of women's sport in California is in the trailer stage—new and a bit sloppy, yet with bright promise and a firm foundation—and basketball is a good example. UCLA and California State at Fullerton, its strongest area rival, are good—they pass and press and shoot with commendable skill—but 10 years from now, maybe even five, films of today's teams in action will elicit chuckles. It will be like Muhammad Ali seeing a film of Jess Willard. The UCLA and Cal State Fullerton players, who battled each other last Thursday night at Fullerton, are pioneers, path-finding for their younger sisters, some of whom may someday be traveling with men's teams to faraway big arena doubleheaders. And not necessarily for preliminary games, either.

The best in the West are UCLA's Ann Meyers, a 5'9" sophomore who made All-America as a freshman, and Fullerton's 6'2" All-America center, Nancy Dunkle, a junior who is unusually quick and nimble for her size. They played together two years in high school and more recently on the U.S. women's national team, which lost close games to Czechoslovakia and Japan at the World Championships in Colombia and then won the Pan-Am gold medal in Mexico.

Meyers is the younger sister of ex-UCLA star Dave, now a rookie with the Milwaukee Bucks. One of 11 children, she was the first woman to get a full basketball grant-in-aid to UCLA. She immediately proved herself worthy, leading the Bruins in virtually every statistic. This season she is third in scoring behind junior Karen (Mama) Nash and freshman Anita Ortega, but leads the team in rebounds, steals and assists. Perhaps realizing there is no market for women pro basketball players, Meyers is thinking of going out for the Bruins' championship volleyball team.

Dunkle, according to Fullerton Coach Billie Moore, is "the best all-round center in women's basketball. She can pass, rebound, shoot." Dunkle is majoring in criminal justice and is in her second year of coaching the girls' varsity at Valencia High School near the college.

With Dunkle plus five other women at 5'11", Fullerton had a decisive height advantage in the UCLA game, but the Bruins' full-court press, abetted by the quickness of Meyers and Guard Judy Lewinter, had helped UCLA win an earlier game at Pauley Pavilion, 73-68. And UCLA had already clinched the championship of the cumbersomely named Southern California Women's Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

"We are a quick team," says UCLA Coach Ellen Mosher, who was a prolific scorer in Iowa high school basketball. "I really like the running game. I like the aggressiveness of it. Still, we could use better size."

Moore, the U.S. Olympic coach and once a star basketball player in Kansas and a Softball player good enough to join the champion Raybestos Brakettes in Connecticut, planned to rely primarily on Dunkle—if only Fullerton could smuggle the ball upcourt through the Bruins' blue-and-gold thicket. In the first half it could not, and with little more than two minutes to go UCLA led 36-26. A press that would have made John Wooden proud had forced maybe 600 turnovers, and a Bruin sub, 6'1" Heidi Nestor, had scored eight points.

Suddenly, in one stretch that tickled most of the 2,546 fans, UCLA itself could not pass straight or dribble anywhere but off its own sneakers. Fullerton, with no buckets from Dunkle, ran off six straight baskets and had a two-point lead at half-time.

The game stayed close in the second half, although Fullerton once led by eight. Meyers, who had suffered a broken nose in a defeat of Cal Poly Pomona earlier in the week and was playing with a protective mask, got in foul trouble and had to be taken out. She was sorely missed. She returned with 3:35 to go, scored four clutch points and was all over the court, but it was not enough as Fullerton won 74-69.

Height was the difference. Fullerton freshman Brenda Martin, 5'11", took down 17 rebounds, Dunkle had 12 (plus a game-high 23 points) and Fullerton outrebounded UCLA 56-40. Fullerton's defense was not bad, either, forcing leading Bruin scorers Nash and Ortega into missing 27 of 37 shots.

So each team had won on its home court by five points. The next stop, March 11-13, is the Region Eight tournament of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, where UCLA and Fullerton undoubtedly will be the two top seeds and will probably meet in the finals. Two teams from that regional will go on to the nationals March 24-27 at Penn State.

After that, the two old high school teammates. Meyers and Dunkle, join the U.S. team again for a tournament in Korea, the Olympic Trials in Warrensburg, Mo., an Olympic qualifying tournament in Ontario and finally, they hope, the Olympics in Montreal.

PHOTOWhen Fullerton's Dunkle went to work, it was time for UCLA to give up the ghost.