OLLU begins its 15th intercollegiate athletic season this week with alumni games on Saturday (noon for women and 2 p.m. for men; the regular season begins Aug. 21), and Athletic Director Shane Hurley said, “It is amazing to see what the original vision has become today as athletics has impacted all areas of OLLU, not just athletics.”
In June 2006, the university announced it would start the athletics program the following year, beginning with a men’s soccer team and a women’s volleyball team. OLLU, after being accepted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), then began searching for its first head coaches. The first one hired was Hurley himself for men’s soccer and Mark Lee for volleyball. Hurley, now the athletic director, said, “I think we owe a thank you to Jack Hank [then Athletic Director] and Dr. Tessa Martinez Pollock [then OLLU President] for supporting the start of the athletics program.”
In August 2007, with Hurley at the helm for men’s soccer – Arthur Salazar guarding the net as the team’s first goalkeeper – and Lee leading the way for the women on the court, NAIA athletics officially began for OLLU. In 2008, Salazar transitioned to the coaching staff as Hurley’s assistant, and the university added tennis, women’s soccer and golf. A year later, women’s basketball, cross-country, and softball completed the lineup for the time being.
Five years later, in 2014, OLLU began teams in baseball and track and field, and in 2019, the university started a cheer and dance program. Women’s golf, which competed from 2008-2010, was reinstated in 2019, as well as women’s tennis, which competed from 2008-2014.
Hurley said, “For us, facilities have gone through adaptations and will continue to change with the growth of the programs to serve our students better. These same facilities are enjoyed by the entire OLLU community; we are proud of our connection within this community, as the bonds between students, faculty, staff, and coaches have only grown stronger as we support the needs of our dynamic group and diverse community at OLLU. With the support of Dr. Diane Melby [OLLU President] and Dr. Lourdes Alvarez [OLLU Provost], we’ve been able to expand our programs beyond what many may have thought was possible in the past; the present future was so far away for all of us at that time.”
Salazar, who assisted Hurley with both men’s and women’s soccer, became head coach for the women in 2013. This year, he takes on both head-coaching duties.
“It’s been really fun to see the evolution of athletics, in particular, the soccer programs,” Salazar said. He said it’s been great seeing the support from the community, the fans and the administration, as well as the changes in facilities.
“To have been here from the beginning and to see where we are now present-day is something I genuinely cherish. I am excited to see where we can continue to take our athletics program. We are getting the right support from the administration; all the coaches and the department are supporting each other and it’s been a really good community and environment. It just continues to get stronger as the years go on.”
Patty Constantin, who has been the Sports Information Director for the Saints since the beginning, cherishes the relationships that she has been able to nurture throughout her 15 years at OLLU. “We are so blessed as a university to be able to continue relationships with all the student-athletes who have passed through our programs and are now mothers, fathers, professionals in their fields and all-together successful. We enjoy seeing them at alumni events, attending their weddings, seeing their new babies and celebrating their accomplishments.”
Constantin cites the many changes that have transpired throughout the years. “We began with table and chairs taking stats, to being one of the first universities to live-stream games on a regular basis to winning seven conference ‘All Sports Awards.’ I am proud of all of our coaches and what they have accomplished through the years.”
Other head coaches who now make up the department include Sal Castillo (14th year/inaugural tennis coach), Bryan Aughney (5th year/inaugural baseball coach), Scott Mattera (3rd year, volleyball coach), Chris Dial (3rd year/men’s basketball coach), Patrick Torres (2nd year/cross-country and track and field coach), Arnie Martinez (3rd year/golf coach), Bruce Lenington (3rd year/softball coach) and Crystal Brock (2nd year/cheer and dance coach). [A women’s basketball head coach will be hired soon.]
Hurley concluded by saying, “Our community has faced many challenges but it has continued to learn, adapt and overcome them year after year. It is with continued confidence and excitement that I say, ‘we know that with our team, this university and department will continue to improve in all aspects!'”