SCOTT CUNNINGHAM, Downey soccer
With the Knights' season at stake, coach Adrian Romero made a move that would cause most coaches to blanch: He moved his sweeper, the heart of the defense, to forward in an attempt to create some offense.
That's why Scott Cunningham, who spent the first 17 matches directing the defense, was running down the field in Downey's final two Modesto Metro Conference battles.
The move paid off, as Cunningham scored late to earn a 1-1 draw with Beyer and then had two goals in a 4-0 upset of first-place Modesto that sent the Knights into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.
"Scott's a smart player and he knows how to create opportunities with the ball," Romero said. "That's one of the reasons I had him at sweeper. He could recognize plays as they were beginning to happen and was always willing to get between the ball and the goal."
CARLEE FELBER, Orestimba volleyball
When John Labno decided to bring sophomore Carlee Felber to the varsity this season, he assumed there would be a gradual learning curve -- considering her jump from the freshman team to the varsity.
"I was worried there would be a lot of learning during games, which would hurt us, and there have been a few instances of her trying to do things her (5-foot-2-inch) size doesn't allow," Labno said. "She moves the ball around well and understands who the hot hitter is, but also realizes when it is time to go to someone else."
Felber's awareness was crucial last week, as she set a school record for season assists (now 580) in a five-
game upset of Hilmar, The Bee's No. 1 small-school team. She had 36 assists and 27 digs against Hilmar, then had 23 assists in a three-game sweep of Gustine.
"My girls didn't want (Hilmar) to go undefeated in league and worked hard to prevent it," Labno said.
NUNO ESPADINHA, Livingston cross country
Putting in the proper amount of road work has never been an issue with Nuno Espadinha. If anything, coach Dean Andreessen said, there are times he has to convince his runner to cut back on the mileage.
"Nuno is very hard-working, sometimes to the point of overdoing it," the coach said. "He wants to continue running at the collegiate level, but has not decided on a place at this time."
Before he heads off to college, Espadinha has a high school career to finish. He defended his Western Athletic Conference title by running the 3.1-mile course in 17:04, the second year in a row he went unbeaten in conference competition. He'll run in Saturday's Sac-Joaquin Section Meet in Angels Camp.
"Nuno's strength is in his endurance, so he is at his best running a strong, steady pace," Andreessen noted. "His times are 20 to 30 seconds faster this year. He is still working hard so hopefully he has not peaked yet."
BELEN HERNANDEZ, Golden Valley golf
Rather than dwell on each swing she takes, Belen Hernandez's goal has been to make them automatic.
"The repetition is important, so she gets to the point where each swing is identical," coach Wayne Hague said. "I've seen the change in her play, in both her accuracy and distance."
The results were evident at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North Tournament at Creekside Golf Course, where the junior shot even-par 72 to win the individual title. It was Hernandez's lowest 18-hole score of the season.
"She's been taking lessons from Laird Small at Pebble Beach each weekend," Hague said. "Her dad tapes her swing during the week and sends the video of it to Laird, who is able to make in-week corrections."
That commitment carries to the classroom, Hague said. Hernendez has three Advanced Placement courses and hopes to parlay her golf into an athletic scholarship.
-- RICHARD T. ESTRADA