As the new coach of the Gavilan College softball team, Bobby Reggiani knows he faces an uphill climb to turn the Rams into a winner on the field. The Rams’ last winning season came in 2014, but since then the team has averaged just below nine victories per season. It’s a task Reggiani said he’s up for.
“I want to get it to the point where the girls around the area say, ‘Yeah, I want to play softball at Gavilan,'” said Reggiani, who was hired as the new Gavilan coach three weeks ago. “A lot of times they (high school players who plan to play community college softball) don’t want to stay in town. So they’ll go to San Jose City or another junior college. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m up to it and just want to see these girls succeed and have them eventually get to the point where they say, ‘Hey, I want to play at Gav.'”
If numbers are any indication, the Rams are on their way to stamping themselves as a major factor in the community college landscape. Reggiani said he already has nine recruits committed to play for the program next season—he’s also working on a couple more—while also having several returning sophomores in the fold. Increased numbers play a critical role in that it creates a dynamic, thriving and competitive atmosphere.
“The last two years we’ve had the bare minimum number of girls (to field a program), and it’s hard to get them motivated sometimes if there is no one to push them,” he said. “The more girls in the program, the more energy you’ll see. I’ve already had a meeting with the returners and they’re already excited about seeing some new girls coming in and the team we can have.”
Some of the top players projected to return next season include Noel Chavarria, Brooke Siaz and Liezl Clark. All three players prepped locally and are an embodiment of the Gavilan program in that the majority of the roster features homegrown, local players. Chavarria, a centerfielder from San Benito High, had a terrific freshman season, especially defensively.
“She was one of the top defensive center fielders in the league this past year,” Reggiani said. “She saved a lot of runs for us covering a lot of range in that outfield.”
Clark, who is from Gilroy and can play multiple positions in the infield including catcher, was a second team all-conference player in 2019 and hit .325 in Coast Conference South Division play while leading the team in home runs. Siaz, who is from Prunedale and prepped at North Salinas High, earned Coast Conference First Team honors this past season as a utility player.
Siaz started most of the team’s games and did a solid job, all the more impressive considering shortstop and the infield are her natural positions. Reggiani hopes he’ll be able to move Siaz to the infield next season, which would make the Rams a more formidable team. Chavarria is stoked that Reggiani has taken over the reins of the program.
“Bobby puts his heart and soul into it and I know that will translate into an amazing season and great things for this program,” she said.
Chavarria likens Reggiani as a coach who knows how to be patient and reflect on certain things rather than voice comments in the heat of the moment that can sometimes prove detrimental.
“He kind of sits back, internalizes things and watches what is going on and gives us feedback afterward,” Chavarria said. “(For example) he’ll look at what an opposing pitcher is doing and watch their sequence, and then when we go up to bat he’ll tell us to lay off the rise ball or make sure to get our hands up high in the box. He helps the players know what adjustments to make.”
Chavarria played three sports in her freshman season: indoor volleyball, beach and softball. The latter two she did in the same season with her older sister Lex, who recently signed a letter of intent to play volleyball at Peru State University in Nebraska. It was a dream come true for the sisters, who played together at San Benito High but never in three sports in the same school year like they did at Gavilan.
“It was awesome playing with my sister,” she said. “It was a bonding experience and we were together 24/7. It was definitely an experience I’ll never forget, and those memories will keep me going whenever I practice or play.”
The Gavilan beach volleyball program advanced to the state championships for the first time in program history, and the Chavarria sisters were the lone pairs squad to win a point in the team’s final match of the season at the No. 3 position.
“It was crazy because we had been playing No. 4 all season and moved up to three for the state tournament,” Noel said.
The community college sports scene can be transient at times, where the only constant is chaos and unexpected change. Often times, it means the players need to learn how to deal with adversity. Chavarria did just that in the softball season.
“Last season wasn’t exactly what we planned, but we kept it together in the middle of the season when some of the girls wanted to give up and call it quits,” she said. “Overcoming all this adversity was a learning experience and will really help us as players going forward.”
Chavarria and the returning volleyball players will have to deal with more change as former longtime coach Kevin Kramer departed to become the dean of health, kinesiology and athletics at Chabot College in Hayward. Kramer established himself as one of the premier volleyball coaches in the state, so his presence will be missed.
“I had Kevin (as my coach) for three seasons of sports, so going forward without him will be really tricky,” Chavarria said. “I’m definitely sad he’s gone, but all I can do is keep on working hard to be the best player I can be.”
Chavarria’s summer schedule is not for the faint of heart, as she will do twice daily practices, one for volleyball and another for softball, spending a combined total of anywhere from three to five hours on a given day.