LeBaron to play at UC Riverside

June 04, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

BRAWLEY — For four years, most would agree, there has been no high school athlete in the Imperial Valley as dominant as Brawley Union High School's Lisa LeBaron.

Whether it was on the volleyball court, basketball court or even early in her career on the track and field scene, LeBaron's exploits have earned her a spot as one of the best athletes to ever compete in the Valley.

But when the final buzzer sounded in the Coachella Valley/Imperial Valley all-star girls basketball game Wednesday, it was not only the end of the contest but the end of LeBaron's high school sports career.

After terrorizing competition in the Imperial Valley League for four years, LeBaron's sights are set on the Big West Conference as she prepares to join the University of California, Riverside volleyball team as an outside hitter.


She said making the choice of UC Riverside was difficult. She said it took about two months to finally make a decision as she contemplated signing with either UC Riverside or Dixie College, a junior college in St. George, Utah. But after careful deliberation she decided on UC Riverside, which began Division I play this year.

"It was a tough decision to make and it really took some time to make it," said the 18-year-old, 5-foot-11-inch LeBaron, who received a full-ride scholarship from UC Riverside. "Looking back I think it seemed like the right decision at the time. I mean, you're always going to second guess the decision you make. But I'm pretty confident with the one I made."

Said Riverside coach Sue Gozansky: "Lisa is a great athlete with outstanding jumping ability. Although she hasn't played a lot of club ball, we are excited because her potential as an outside hitter is unlimited."

After winning consecutive league championships in 1998, '99 and 2000, LeBaron will walk into a situation at UC Riverside that saw the Highlanders finish 5-24 against Division I opponents in 2000. With a fairly young squad returning and four freshman coming in, LeBaron knows UC Riverside will again have its work cut out for it and will more than likely struggle. LeBaron will get her first taste of Division I competition in mid-August as the team travels to New York for a tournament.

While she has been given the opportunity to play Division I volleyball, LeBaron, a three-time team volleyball MVP for Brawley High, knows she is still far from being a true D-I player.

"It's a very big step going from high school to Division I volleyball. I really don't expect to play a whole lot, at least not my first two years," said LeBaron. "I still think I have a lot to improve. I may have been pretty good for high school level, but I still have a long way to go. I need to work on reading blocks better and just being smarter on the court."

Still, LeBaron thinks just getting the opportunity to compete on a collegiate level is more than enough.

"It's been my goal since I was in eighth grade to get a full-ride scholarship to play volleyball somewhere. For awhile I didn't think I would reach that goal. I don't know what it was, but things just didn't seem reassuring," LeBaron said. "It took some time, but things finally worked out. And I'm just really thankful and happy that I finally reached that goal."

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