Fall Report: Saint Mary’sFall Report
Eric Valenzuela’s assignment looked daunting when he accepted the head coaching job at Saint Mary’s in 2013. His job was to jumpstart a program that hadn’t reached the 30-win mark since 1991 and had never been to a regional. The Gaels went 16-39 in his first season at the helm — and then the turnaround kicked into overdrive.
In Valenzuela’s second year, 2015, Saint Mary’s finished with a winning record for the first time since 2009. In Year Three, they tied a school record with 33 wins and made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. And in Year Four they set a new record with 37 victories while going 18-9 in the West Coast Conference — but falling short of another regionals bid.
Now, Valenzuela heads into Year Five with his best team yet. His program has serious momentum.
“When I first got here, we had to get our guys confidence in learning how to win. Slowly but surely we’ve done that,” Valenzuela said. “Now I think we’re at a point where I think we can compete with anybody, especially with this group. Once you get it rolling, it flows into the recruiting aspect. Now we’re competing with anybody up here — Stanford, Cal — we have a legitimate shot of getting (recruits). We just provide something a little different, a different kind of environment, we’ve kind of got a little edge about us. It’s just a different deal, smaller school, good basketball which helps, and it’s just a beautiful campus. And a new stadium on the way.”
The Gaels are excited about the group of freshmen they brought to campus this fall, supplementing a very good, very experienced core of returnees. With eight everyday regulars back in the lineup and several talented veterans returning to anchor the pitching staff, Saint Mary’s has a real shot to be a Top 25-caliber club in 2018.
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