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PETTYCORD AND REKULAPELLI: Why we love each Virginia spring sport coach

Love is in the air, and there’s never been a better time to love the Cavalier coaches

<p>The Virginia baseball team is making a great case for success this year with veteran coach Brian O'Connor leading the way.</p>

The Virginia baseball team is making a great case for success this year with veteran coach Brian O'Connor leading the way.

Leading the way behind all of Virginia’s spring sports are some of the most lovable coaches. Let’s take a look at one reason to love each of them — though we all know there’s more than just one.

Brian O’Connor — Baseball

It’s hard to discuss truly elite college baseball coaches without discussing Virginia baseball’s Coach Brian O’Connor — he coached his team to over 700 wins in 18 seasons, won the program’s first national championship and nonchalantly made Disharoon Park one of the top 20 parks in the nation for home attendance on multiple occasions. It would be hard to tell that O’Connor has done all of these amazing things, though, because of his humble attitude. O’Connor is never quick to brag about his personal accolades but is always rather quick to praise his athletes and their skill sets.

“When you have experience coupled with talent, you’re bound to be excited about what you can accomplish,” O’Connor said about his anticipation for the upcoming season.

O’Connor’s modest yet assured confidence is certainly a great reason to love him, and we can just hope that his awesome attitude — paired with an incredibly talented squad — takes the team a long way this season.

Joanna Hardin — Softball

Coach Joanna Hardin is due a lot of credit for her work with the team since her arrival in 2016. Before Hardin began as head coach, the Cavaliers had really been struggling to find a rhythm, but it didn’t take long for her to pull it out of them. In her first season, Hardin led Virginia to the ACC Tournament for the first time in multiple years, and the team’s record has only improved since, thanks to her hard work at the helm. Her dedication to the team is an easily lovable trait, and there’s no doubt in our minds that — with her leading the team in a nearly brand new stadium — softball will be thrilling to watch in the coming seasons.

Bowen Sargent — Men’s golf

Besides having a really cool name, Coach Bowen Sargent really knows what it means to be a great coach. Sargent has been the coach at Virginia for 17 seasons now, and throughout this time, the team has taken tournament titles left and right and been to the postseason more times than not — while still remaining academically strong. Besides racking up these accolades, he seems to genuinely love coaching the Cavaliers. 

“It would be an understatement to say our team and staff are excited for the return of competitive golf after 10 months of being sidelined,” Sargent said before the season began. “The strength of schedule and quality of courses should not only test our team but develop our guys for postseason play.”

Sargent’s love for his team and the game of golf is heartwarming and without a doubt, something to love about him.

Ria Scott — Women’s golf

While golf is sometimes thought to be a soft sport, Coach Ria Scott and her squad are anything but that. At the UCF Challenge, Scott guided her team through rough playing conditions in order to overcome an 11-shot deficit and win the tournament. 

“I truly believe that the conditions that we qualified in back in Charlottesville helped us prepare for a day like this,” Scott said on the win. “When we got out here today, we said there is no team more prepared to play in this cold and wind than we are.”

Scott has prepared her team for the elements, which has served Virginia well as they have slingshotted to No. 5 in the national rankings. Her grittiness is surely something to love — along with the squad’s chance to capture their third ACC title at season’s end. 

Lars Tiffany — Men’s lacrosse

Coach Lars Tiffany is the epitome of graciousness. For example, right after defeating Towson 20-11 Feb. 6 to kick-off Virginia’s title defense, Tiffany was quick to credit the Tigers, praising their coaching staff and unwavering attitude when facing the then-No. 5 Cavaliers. However, his benevolence extends far beyond Virginia’s opponents. In an interview with US Lacrosse Magazine, Tiffany was quick to credit his former coach, predecessor and mentor — storied Virginia coach and four-time national champion Dom Starsia — for helping build the Cavalier team he led to the promised land. 

“The fact is, this was a team [Starsia] recruited for the most part,” Tiffany said in an interview with US Lacrosse Magazine. “How fortunate were we stepping into a program with [attacker] Michael Kraus coming in and starting his first year, with [midfielder] Dox Aitken and [defender] Jared Conners starting in their first years? [Starsia] prepared this chair very well for me.”

There’s a lot to love about Tiffany — but beyond him returning Virginia lacrosse to national prominence and rebuilding one of college lacrosse’s storied programs — he is as gracious as they come. 

Julie Myers — Women’s lacrosse

Coach Julie Myers is as loyal as they come. Myers has been coaching the team for 26 seasons now and has stuck with them through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. While women’s lacrosse has been in the trenches a bit in recent years, what many fans fail to realize is how good they were a decade ago and how close they are to returning to that level of greatness. Myers’ unbridled devotion to the Cavaliers is certainly an easy thing to love about her, and the potential that her team has right now just makes us that much more excited about the future of the women’s lacrosse program.

Andres Pedroso — Men’s tennis

While the men’s tennis team has been recently coming into the spotlight, leading the way behind the scenes has been Coach Andres Pedroso. Pedroso came to Virginia in 2017 with quite a decorated history, which included a previous stint as the team’s associate head coach, some time as a national coach for USTA Player Development, a four-year professional tennis career and a collegiate career at Duke. Since then, he’s brought his team up to a really strong place — only recently losing their first match of the season to North Carolina. Pedroso’s experience is surely responsible for much of Virginia’s success in recent years, and this is undoubtedly a reason to love him.

Sara O’Leary — Women’s tennis

When  Coach Sara O’Leary arrived in Charlottesville, she emphasized her desire to build strong relationships with her team. While tennis is often seen as an individual sport, O’Leary has become close with her players, which has helped her lead Virginia women’s tennis to two straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Her ability to connect with players has also benefited the Cavaliers in the recruiting game, as the squad recently welcomed No. 1 recruit freshman Emma Navarro, who has yet to drop a singles match this season. Overall, look for Virginia to make waves in the women’s tennis world in the coming years, in part due to O’Leary’s ability to form lasting connections with her team. 

Vin Lananna — Track and field

Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Vin Lananna is a proven winner. Lananna — who also serves as the president and board chairman of USA Track and Field — has won 11 NCAA Team Championships across his time at Stanford and Oregon, while also being named NCAA Cross Country Coach of the Year a staggering five times. Furthermore, Lananna was most recently the men’s track and field coach for Team USA at the 2016 Olympics, leading the team to seven gold medals. It’s safe to say that, with Lananna at the helm, Virginia track and field is set for a bounty of success in the years to come. 

The talents of Virginia’s spring student-athletes are undeniable — with men’s tennis, men’s lacrosse and baseball all winning national championships in the past decade. However, the coaches behind their successes are just as remarkable — offering us a multitude of reasons to love them and cheer for them as the Cavaliers take the field this spring.