Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown
In honor of the NCAA College Softball World Series, which are unfolding …
Those telephone calls to the sports desk from Pam Martin, softball coach at Redlands East Valley High School when that campus opened in 1997, were quite a ritual. There was often cheer in her voice.
In all cases, she had something newsworthy to report.
One of Martin’s top players, Allyson Von Liechtenstein, probably played in as many big games as any Redlands-based product at the collegiate level during her post-REV years.
It’s simple. Von Liechtenstein, the twin sister of Elizabeth (Lizzie) and younger sister of Sarah, was part of a trio of Highland-based players who were raised under the softball thumb of their dad, Dave.
Ally Von L, a left-handed, slap-hitting, fleet-footed outfielder played four sensational seasons at REV. It was nothing for Martin to report a 3-hit game for Ally Von L. Or maybe a couple of stolen bases to go along with her two singles and, maybe, a triple. At the time, she patrolled center field.
It should’ve been no surprise, then, that she committed to play collegiately at the University of Arizona from 2002-2005. She was a 5-foot-5-inch slash hitter heading off to Tucson.
Arizona’s Lady Wildcats’ softball program should be considered among the finest in the land. Ally Von L found herself playing four straight seasons at the College World Series.
Mike Candrea, coach, might’ve been USA’s best go-getter for UA. He went and “got” Ally Von L.
Ally Von L was a nice catch for her new Wildcats’ team. At that time, anyone caught playing for UA should’ve been considered quite a player.
Candrea, who led Team USA to the 2004 Olympic gold medal, was a fun interview. Make that a professional interview. He knew how to take control. He knew the questions before I’d even launched them at him.
At least when you could get hold of him. Schools this big have Sports Information Directors. Got to get through them to get to guys like Candrea. The man’s got coaching to do.
By the 2018 season, incredibly, Candrea was within a couple hundred wins away from 2,000.
This is the guy who landed Ally Von L. Not to mention Jennie Finch. Not to mention Alicia Hollowell. And Caitlin Lowe. And Autumn Champion. And Kristie Fox. Each of whom were teammates with Ally Von L.
Lowe hit .510 one year, swiping 27 out of 30 bases. Hollowell won 40 games in a single season. Finch went 32-0 in another. Lovie Jung hit .481 one season, stroking 25 bombs. Champion hit .489 with 26 steals one season. That same year, 2004, Lowe hit .437 with 46 steals.
These were the players Candrea landed.
On Ally Von L, he said, “Listen … (pausing for a few seconds to collect some thoughts) this is a kid with speed. She can hit. She’ll run the bases. She can catch anything hit out there. She’ll help us here.”
Remember, he was taking a player right out of the area from UCLA should’ve been grabbing from (USC doesn’t have intercollegiate softball). At Arizona, Ally Von L had a solid career – .321, .381, .384 and .265 as a senior.
She started 105 games, playing in 172. Often used as a pinch-runner. Swiped 28-of-35 bases over four seasons. Ninety-four hits, 283 at-bats. Scored a batch of runs.
Said Candrea: “There was a time when if UCLA wanted a kid, they got the kid. We got a few breaks. We got some key kids.”
ALLY VON L AGAINST THE GREATS
Along the way, there were remarkable games played against the likes of Cat Osterman.
Tennessee’s Monica Abbott.
Michigan’s Jennie Ritter.
UCLA’s Keira Goerl.
Louisiana’s Brooke Mitchell.
Fresno State’s Jamie Southern was named to the ESPN Rise All-Decade team in 2009.
LSU’s Kristin Schmidt.
Georgia Tech’s Jessica Sallinger.
Alabama’s Stephanie VanBrakle.
These were the kids Ally Von L was playing against – the USA’s most decorated pitchers.
Von Liechtenstein hit against most of them. As close to being a starting player without actually starting every game, Ally Von L was part of a team that included All-Americans almost everywhere on the diamond during her four-year stint from 2002-2005.
On Saturday, June 5, 2005: It was a Von Liechtenstein single in the 12th inning at the NCAA Women’s College World Series that knocked home the winning run in a 3-2 win over Cal-Berkeley – a game played in Oklahoma City.
Ally Von L’s heroics were only short-lived.
One day later, the fabulous Texas southpaw, Osterman, knocked off the Lady Wildcats, 1-0, to leave Arizona without a 50-win season for the first time in years. Arizona ended its season with a record of 45-12, having reached its 17th Women’s College World Series over an 18-year span.
Ally Von L and I connected a few times on articles about her collegiate experiences, which were vast. She wasn’t hamming it up, probably preferring to lay low. After all, this kid was one of REV’s finest athletes.
You always got the feeling she was battling. Aggressive. Not in awe of her surroundings, but highly respectful.
In 2005, the Lady Wildcats were co-Pacific-10 Champions. Playing against the likes of UCLA, Stanford, Cal, you name it, UA was a force in NCAA softball.
Wouldn’t you know it: Von Liechtenstein became a group of four Lady Wildcat players to play all four seasons without a national championship since 1987. It was quite a streak, especially when Von Liechtenstein had played behind such stalwart pitchers as Hollowell and the sensational Finch.
Finch was a senior during Von Liechtenstein’s freshman season.
A year after Ally Von L’s departure, Arizona – which had copped five NCAA titles over a seven-year span in the 1990s – won the NCAA World Series title again.
Who knows? Maybe it set the stage for a future NCAA Division 1 softball great. About a decade after Ally Von L, Sahvanna Jaquish, also from Highland, showed up at REV. Off she went to Louisiana State University, where she became an All-American.