Above, an overview of the Gavilan College softball facility that
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– Gavilan College is no longer a second choice for local
student-athletes looking to play ball at the next level and the
constant struggle of attracting incoming college freshmen are
becoming a thing of the past.
GILROY – Gavilan College is no longer a second choice for local student-athletes looking to play ball at the next level and the constant struggle of attracting incoming college freshmen are becoming a thing of the past.

“It’s nice to know we’re not somebody’s second choice anymore. We’re their first choice and that encourages us to go even further,” said Gavilan College Athletic Director Ron Hannon, who returned to his almamateur 15 months ago with a goal of rejuvenating the dwindling athletic program.

“Definitely coming in I looked at it as a challenge. This is a program that I’d really like to make an impact in,” he added. “If I can leave the program in a better state than what it was when I first got here, I think I achieved something.”

Hannon, 34, of San Jose, attended and played basketball at Gavilan from 1987-89 before transferring to San Jose State, where he received his bachelors degree in 1993 and his masters in 1995.

While the most glaring change at Gavilan College is the recent upgrades to the softball facility, there have been overall improvements to the athletic program as a whole as well as to each team sport. Academically, the teams’ grade-point-average jumped from an overall 2.44 in the Fall of 2001 to a 2.80 by the Fall of 2002.

Hannon said the reason for the rise in GPA is that the teams have better quality students who are taking their studies seriously and the coaches are going out and recruiting better student-athletes into the program.

“We have improved across the board,” Hannon said. “Even the students that maybe aren’t exceptional in the classroom, they are busting their tails. They’re working hard.”

The number of student-athletes at Gavilan College has also increased from 109 at the end of last year to 143 this year, and 65 percent of them are from the three local communities – Gilroy, Morgan Hill, and Hollister. That is also up from 50 percent of locals last year.

Hannon’s top priority has been to breath some life and energy back into the long struggling athletic program. Prior to his hiring, the three women’s sports – soccer, softball, and basktetball – were all reinstated since nearly becoming extinct three seasons ago. The athletic director also established a new golf team.

“I don’t think we’re at the level we’d all like to be at. I think we still have a lot of room to grow,” Hannon said.

But the differences can already be seen program by program.

The football team – headed up by Coach John Lango – finished its season with a 4-6 record and 47 players on its roster. Last year, the team was 1-9 with only 26 players by year’s end.

Seven gridmen were able to transfer to four-year schools after their sophomore seasons at Gavilan – showing that it can be used as a steppingstone to major college programs.

“John will tell you there’s still a lot more work to be done, but at least a foundation has been laid where you can start building on that foundation,” Hannon said.

The women’s soccer program is now in its second year of existence after falling apart in 2000. But the last two seasons have been rough with a different coach coming in each year, and there will also be another new head coach for the upcoming season.

“We’re now searching for a new coach,” Hannon said. “We’re committed to women’s soccer. There’s absolutely no reason we can’t have a successful, competitive program and that’s what we’re going to continue to work on.”

Last season under first-year head coach Kent Cody, the Lady Rams were 16 players strong.

The men’s basketball program – under first-year head coach Chris Shoemaker and assistant Abrem Estorga – won only three games this season, but that’s three times as many wins than the year before. The opening day roster had 22 players, but that dwindled down to 10 by season’s end.

“We were fortunate to have the young men who participate on that team. I like the corps that’s here,” Hannon said. “We started out the season with 22 guys and we’re down to 10, but it’s the 10 guys we want in this program. The 10 guys we want to build this program and use them as the foundation. Every single one of them knew coming in that this was going to be a tough year.”

Locals filled the men’s basketball roster – including Gilroy High graduate Erik Nelson and Live Oak alums Jody McAlpine, Steve Silacci.

“Between this season and next year with having some of those local players in our program, we’re going to take the next step,” Hannon said.

The women’s basketball program – although undergoing a coaching change after head coach Michelle Mannisto’s two-year term – was one of the most successful teams. After qualifying for the playoffs two seasons ago, the Lady Rams won seven games. But the numbers remained low with only seven players suited up for most of the season. According to Hannon, the state average for a women’s hoops team is eight.

“I think part of the foundation is in place,” Hannon said.

The entire team was made up of local players – including Keisha Webster and Antionette Bowe, of Gilroy, and Andrea Lupina, of Live Oak.

“The local kids again have made the difference in the type of program we’ve had this year,” Hannon said.

The softball program – coached by second-year skipper Tim Kenworthy and assistant Bruce Nicholson – got the biggest upgrade of all with the help of an $8,000 grant from Calpine as well as donations from Graniterock of Gilroy, Johnson Lumber of Morgan Hill , Calstone Corporation of Sunnyvale, Cyclone Fencing and Iron of San Martin, Perma-Green Hydroseeding, Inc. of Gilroy, Rogers Concrete Pumping of Gilroy, Jack’s Overhead Doors of Gilroy and four donors that wish to remain anonymous.

“The driving force behind that softball complex was Title IX and being able to offer a facility of equality with the baseball program,” said Hannon, crediting Kenworthy and Nicholson for all their hard work.

Two years ago there was no softball at Gavilan. Last year, the goal was to just get through the season in Kenworthy’s first year and the team won seven games. Now, the team – which is 14 players strong – has new dugouts, a batting cage, a new infield surface, and a storage unit.

The baseball program – under second-year skipper Mike McCormick – won only five games last year, but already has a 4-3 record this season.

“They’re competitive and again they’re baseball players and that’s a huge difference from one year to the next. You’ve got guys out there who understand the game,” Hannon said. The baseball facility – which is next to the softball field – is expected to get a new coat of paint this year.

Golf – headed up by Eagle Ridge Director of Instruction Scott Krause – is in its 2nd year.

“I really think that’s going to be our surprise program this year,” Hannon said. “One of those quiet kept secrets that we’re really going to be excited about this year.”

Sophomore Chris Ellis returns after qualifying for the state tournament last year. The team of only six players last season now has 12 golfers this year.

“When you compare us to other programs, I think we’ve got some definite advantages,” Hannon said. “We’ve got a quality coach. He’s a PGA professional. We’re at first class facilities day in and day out and that can only help our team improve. It doesn’t hurt that this is a good area for local golf.”

As for the future of athletics at Gavilan College, Hannon said state budget cuts are going to hurt but the program has a healthy reserve.

“We have to stay realistic, but also stay optimistic,” Hannon said. “Obviously, we’d like to have championships and we’d like to pass out championship rings and have trophies in our trophy case. That’s something we’ll continue to work towards. It’s going to take some time.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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