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Women's athletics: Garcia blazed trail, daughter following

Ahead of girls sports curve

Pam Garcia (right) poses with her daughter, Taylor, after the Junior Olympics National Volleyball Tournament in Dallas. Pam, a 1974 Sterling graduate, helped open doors for this generation of female athletes.
Pam Garcia (right) poses with her daughter, Taylor, after the Junior Olympics National Volleyball Tournament in Dallas. Pam, a 1974 Sterling graduate, helped open doors for this generation of female athletes.

In the early 1970s, Pam Garcia was ahead of her time. Nearly 40 years later, the Sterling graduate is trying to help her daughter, Taylor, stay ahead of the curve.

Garcia, who graduated in 1974 and is a member of Sterling High's athletic hall of fame, lives in Delray Beach, Fla.

Her daughter is about to enter her freshman year at Boca Raton High School. At 6-foot-1, Taylor Garcia is a dominating middle hitter for the Tribe 14-under club volleyball team based out of South Florida that recently competed in the Junior Olympics national tournament in Dallas. They placed fifth in the 14-under open division.

"She's always been the tallest girl in her class," Pam said in a phone interview. "I think she's about done growing. Volleyball has always been her sport. I tried to gear her toward basketball because that was my love, but I don't think she was ever as comfortable with the aggressive aspects of basketball."

Pam, on the other hand, never flinched from contact on the court in her years at Sterling and then later at George Williams College.

"Thinking back, I always think I should have pushed my dad harder to get after people so that I could have played with the boys," Pam said. "I loved basketball. I was going to do anything to play."

Not that basketball was her only sport. She played volleyball, softball and ran track at SHS. Upon graduation, she was named Outstanding Senior Athlete.

In basketball, her team was undefeated her final 2 years of high school. She graduated before the IHSA conducted the first girls state basketball tournament, which Sterling won in 1977.

"We were so far ahead of the times," Garcia said. "I think we beat LaSalle-Peru 82-5 in one game, and I think we beat Morrison 108-18. We were so far advanced for a girls team at that point."

After graduating, she attended Sauk Valley Community College for a year. She scored 47 points in one game against Carl Sandburg.

Compelled to find better competition, she transferred to George Williams College in Downers Grove. Her team won the state championship honors twice, including in 1977, the same year her high school earned a state title.

"I always thought that was a neat coincidence," Garcia said. "I played with a lot of the girls on that state team for Sterling including Pat McKinzie."

For 2 1/2 years after graduating college, she worked as an emergency medical technician before joining the Delray Beach Fire Department as a paramedic, firefighter and lifeguard. She held that position for the next 30 years before retiring.

"It's worked out great," Garcia said. "Since I am retired, I can travel with my daughter's team all over the country. I can be there to watch her play.

"They've called us trailblazers from that era for girls sports. I feel like we were able to open doors for girls. Back then, there were hardly any scholarships out there for girls. Now, it's completely different."

Athletics isn't the only interest mother and daughter share. Taylor is planning on becoming a medical examiner.

"She has always been interested in stuff like that," Garcia said. "I think with her knowing I was around stuff like that got her interested in it. She's made it her own. She wants to find out why someone died. She's really into shows like CSI."

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