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Wildfires impact Southern California programs
by Paul Kennedy, October 26th, 2007 8AM

TAGS:  college men, college women


For almost a week now, fires have been raging across Southern California, affecting the movement of college teams.

Pepperdine's women managed to play at San Diego in WCC action last Sunday but then couldn't get back home.

Classes at San Diego have since been canceled and the campus used as an evacuation site. Unable to practice, the Torero women headed to Portland a day early to prepare for their nationally televised match on Thursday night.

San Diego State teams have been forced move home games outside the area -- to Los Angeles and as far away as Provo, Utah.

Then there's San Diego State men's assistant coach Oscar Rodriguez, a San Diego firefighter who has been battling fires non-stop since last Sunday.

Pepperdine was playing in San Diego last Sunday when a large fire broke out in the Malibu community and near campus. The university was shut down, and the Wave players, unable to return to Malibu, stayed at a hotel the first night and then dispersed to stay with family and friends before returning for practice on Wednesday.

The Aztec men were training indoors due to the poor air quality outside before they left Thursday for more training before their game against Oregon State at UCLA. Friday's game against Washington has been rescheduled for Nov. 18.

A number of the player's families and an assistant coach were forced to evacuate, but everybody was believed to be safe.

Rodriguez and former assistant Kyle Smith, another San Diego firefighter, have been on the frontlines.

"I spoke with both Oscar and Kyle and they are working hard to get our county toward recovery," Aztec coach Lev Kirshner said. "Oscar, Kyle and their co-workers are truly heroes to us all."

The Aztec women's team was forced to move its Thursday home contest against New Mexico to Provo, Utah, on the BYU campus.

The team left at 8 a.m. Wednesday, arrived in Provo and were down to business as usual with a 5 p.m. practice. BYU opened up its athletics dining facilities to the Aztecs where they had breakfast before Thursday's game against New Mexico that ended in a 0-0 tie.

"Its been a very emotional week for a lot of people and traveling up here to Provo has been good for us to try and get back to some sense of normalcy," SDSU women's coach Mike Friesen said. "We've faced adversity all season long and today's game will definitely be the case again. We all have heavy hearts for our family, friends and the people of San Diego that are going through this terrible tragedy. This experience reinforces what we tell our players that soccer is a great game that we are able to enjoy, but it's not life or death."

Originally scheduled for Thursday at San Diego and Sunday at Loyola Marymount, the recent wildfires have forced the sides to change their home-and-home series. LMU will now host San Diego on Friday, with the teams returning to San Diego at 7 p.m. on Monday.

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