(Look for 10th anniversary features on all of our teams throughout the season.)
The following year, in 2007, OLLU's first teams began competing, and this year, the University is celebrating its 10th season.
History of the men's program
Men's soccer – the pioneer of OLLU's athletic program as it was the first team to hire a coach and the first to begin competing – boasts a decade of accomplishments and successes. The team has never had a losing season under the only coach it's ever had – Shane Hurley – with an overall record of 94-57-11 and a conference record of 42-23-3. The Saints have made the Red River Athletic Conference postseason tournament every year since OLLU became a member in 2009.
In 2009, the Saints made it to the finals, and the following two seasons, they were semifinalists. In 2012, the team conquered the regular season and tournament, and qualified for the NAIA National Tournament first round. OLLU faced Concordia University – Irvine, and the only goal of the game – coming in at seven minutes remaining on the clock -- ended the Saints season that year.
|Relive some of the memories from the first season.|
The following three years, the Saints finished as quarterfinalists, semifinalists and quarterfinalists.
Hurley said it's an exciting time for the University right now. "We had humble beginnings with a shoestring budget. Things were really tight, but we had a really good inaugural recruiting class. We have been able to sustain our success and to let people know that athletics can recruit good students who are going to benefit the university." Benefit, indeed. The men's team has consistently earned among the highest team GPA despite being the largest team on campus next to baseball. Many soccer student-athletes have earned scholar athlete recognition from both the conference and from the NAIA. Three have been named to the Academic All-American team, as well.
Reflections from alumni
Inaugural team members Alejandro "Caritas" Almaguer, Jose Luis "Figo" Enriquez, Tomas Flores, Esteban Rocha and Mario Robles reflected on their time at OLLU, and what it was like being the ones who kicked off the historic season.
Almaguer said, "Being a member of the inaugural men's soccer team was great. It felt awesome to know I helped pave the way for the program. The whole experience was fairly new to me. We had players from all different directions and so little time to get to know each other and put in a solid team. You could consider that a challenge but we made it work and I say the program has been a success."
"It was an honor to be part of the inaugural men's team," Enriquez said. "It was the best time of my collegiate career. It was a team full of motivation."
Four-year co-captain Flores commented, "Being a member of the inaugural team meant a great deal of responsibility and gratitude toward the university for giving me the opportunity to continue my education and at the same time play a sport that I love."
Rocha (pictured at left), also a four-year co-captain, said, "Being part of the inaugural team was special. I get to experience a lot of 'firsts' that go down in history. The first tryouts, practice, game, goal, win and of course, defeat; all of which we confronted as a team. Coming together with talented players to compete for a spot was also a great experience. We were all new and no one had a guaranteed spot on the team. The support we received made it a lot more special and convinced me that I was at the right place. Looking back at how I ended up at OLLU was an adventure of its own. I had turned down scholarships to play at other universities and decided to 'hang-up my boots' to focus on my studies. I got a call from Shane to come pay a visit to OLLU to maybe be a part of a new program. The next day, I signed and was working on getting my schedule. I truly believe God placed me in the right spot and surrounded me with great teammates, coaches and most importantly, a place to get a great education."
Robles explained, "Being a member of the inaugural men's team was such a great experience. The majority of the team was freshmen and other college teams did not have many expectations for us, yet we were able to establish a winning mindset from the start."
Arthur Salazar also was part of the inaugural team as the goalkeeper. The following year, he joined Hurley's coaching staff as an assistant for the men and women, and four years ago, Salazar took over as head coach for the women. "It's been great watching the program grow and develop into what we have become; the standards have continued to be set high so we have to make sure we all continue to push forward."
Every year, the men's team hosts an alumni weekend at the beginning of the season. Alumni from throughout the program gather on one day at an off-campus location. Typically the men will bring their wives, girlfriends, fiancés and children, and everyone catches up on what's been going on in their lives. The next day, the alumni and current men's team members face off in a "friendly" competition. So far, the current men's team is undefeated against the alumni team. Last year, the team dedicated the game to Hernan Ramirez, a member of the soccer team from 2008-2011, who underwent a kidney transplant. This year, although the game was cancelled due to rain, the team dedicated the weekend to Nickolas Boyd-Garza, who played on the Saints team in 2011 and 2012. Garza passed away on June 12 at the age of 24. The team also lost inaugural team member Roberto Pedraza, who died in a car accident in February 2012.
Robles (pictured at right) enjoys coming to the weekend events. "Keeping in touch with the team has solidified a family atmosphere between us all. We have the opportunity to connect with each other once a year."
Almaguer (pictured below)– better known as Caritas – agrees. "It has been important to keep in touch with the team because they have become like family. We spent four years together inside and off the field. We endured practices and games together. Being away from home for the first time was kind of hard for me, but my teammates made up for it. I met some great people, and in fact, I still play along with a few of them."
"Because I love the sport," is the reason Enriquez keeps in touch with the team. "Figo" said, "I love the school and the Saints will always be my team. To support the new generations of student athletes is important to me."
Flores considers Hurley and Assistant Coach Arthur Salazar as family. "We are family now. We created a relationship that will last forever. It is important to keep in touch because it allows me to see how the program continues to grow in many ways. I still keep in touch with the majority of the inaugural team members and some of the second-year team. The memories created in practice, games and traveling will last forever."
Rocha said, "I have four sisters, whom have supported me since day one of my soccer career. With that said, my teammates became my brothers. We built a family on and off the field. We interacted every day and our bond grew stronger. We saw each other be successful and sometimes struggle in class or on the field and would help each other out in any way possible. Now that we have moved on with our lives, it is great to see my brothers succeed in their professional careers. When we get together, it is a time filled with joy because of the memories and bonds we have created."
Love for OLLU
Two hundred athletes have received degrees at OLLU since the beginning of athletics in 2007. Men's soccer possesses more student-athlete graduates than any other team with 42.
After finishing out his athletic eligibility, Almaguer worked for Campus Recreation at OLLU, still heavily involved with athletics. "I loved my time at OLLU. It was a close-knit community, where I got to know pretty much everyone, especially since I lived on campus. Classes were small, so it was easy to establish relationships with professors." He continued to study biology and then transferred to the University of Texas Pan American to finish his degree in 2013. He is now enrolled at the University of the Incarnate Word Feik School of Pharmacy.
Flores (pictured at right) and Rocha were OLLU's first men's soccer athletes to graduate. Flores said, "The thing I enjoyed the most was meeting such great people." After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology from OLLU in 2011, Flores attended Texas Tech University Health Science Center, where he earned his Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Last year, he passed his National Physical Therapy Examination (or Board Exam) and he is now an official Doctor of Physical Therapy. Flores, who married Monica Vianey Reyna in January, recently moved back home to Brownsville, where he just started a new rehab company called Texas Valley Home Rehab Services.
Rocha graduated with a degree in Computer Information Systems and Security in 2011. He explained, "OLLU became very special to me. To be honest, I had only heard of its name while in high school, but I never really knew much about it. I quickly found myself surrounded with people who cared. My first encounter was with Coach Shane Hurley. He was so positive and his vision for the men's soccer team allowed me to make the decision to sign. Today, one can see how the vision and ambition have become fruitful. In the classroom, my professors didn't see me as a number. They knew me by name and were accessible if I had further questions. They worked with me to ensure I was receiving the best education they could provide. The classes were small, which allowed more interaction with the professors. OLLU holds a very special place in my heart because there is where I was formed; as a student, athlete and ultimately, a professional." Rocha is a network engineer for Labatt Food Service.
Enriquez (pictured at left) and Robles earned accounting degrees in May 2012.
Robles cited the small classes at OLLU that he liked the most. "I really enjoyed attending OLLU because of the small classroom setting. I wasn't just a number like I would have been in a big university, especially during my basic courses. I also enjoyed living on campus and taking advantage of all the amenities." Robles became engaged to Emmy Castillo during the summer.
Enriquez keeps busy as an accountant with Monte R Barnes FTC. "OLLU made me feel as a member of one big family, where everyone knows each other. In the classes, the professors know you by name. It's not like a big school, where students are just a number."
These are just a handful of Saints' alumni who have contributed to the success of OLLU, men's soccer and athletics in general. The University is proud of everyone's accomplishments and is forever grateful for their continued support and dedication to their University.
10th Anniversary celebration
Our Lady of the Lake University will celebrate the 10th anniversary throughout the 2016-2017 season and will officially kick off the celebration on Monday, Sept. 19, beginning at 12:30 p.m. in the Mall Area. Free hot dogs and commemorative t-shirts will be given away, while supplies last.
Throughout the season, all student-athletes who played at OLLU and who graduated will receive free admission to home volleyball and home basketball games – all other home games (soccer, softball and tennis) are free. Alumni attending may bring up to two family members for free admission.