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Lerno named PCC Coach of the Year

April 28, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN

Sports Writer

In the span of 24 hours the Imperial Valley College softball team received some good news and some bad news.

The good news was that first baseman Olga Noris had been selected to the Pacific Coast Conference's all-second team and that head coach Jill Lerno was named conference coach of the year after leading the Arabs to a 20-13 overall mark — the biggest win/loss differential she's posted in her seven years as coach — and sole possession of third place in the PCC, a first for her.

Despite finishing 20-13 and going 8-6 in conference, the bad news was IVC did not qualify for the postseason.

"It's great to be named coach of the year, but it would've meant a lot more had our team made the playoffs. In that sense, I'd probably trade the coach of the year award for a spot on the playoffs," said Lerno, who has never made the postseason as IVC head coach. "We played our butts off and had a better year than people thought we would, so I really think we deserved to make the playoffs. I mean, teams with losing records got in and we didn't. But, oh well, there's not much we can do about that now."

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Lerno said not making the playoffs does not take away from what the team accomplished. In 2001, IVC finished 15-17-1 overall and 7-8 in conference, but turned things around this year, posting its first winning season in four years.

"Of course it doesn't take away from what we did, because like I said, a lot of people didn't expect us to do as well as we did," said Lerno. "But how and where this team finished says a lot about this team and how hard they all worked."

While it was the players who played and were credited with the team's success, Lerno said a big reason the team enjoyed the season it did was assistant coach Denise Mays, a former player of Lerno's.

"Without her I don't know where we'd be. She has meant as much to this team as the players themselves. Having her here to help me makes my job a lot easier," said Lerno.

Lerno will have her work cut out for her in 2003 as she will have to replace four starting sophomores, including No. 2 pitcher Jenny Briseño, shortstop Jenny Burgos, third baseman Adela Green and Noris.

Not only that, but the team's No. 1 pitcher, Maria Hansen-Perez, who finished fourth in conference with a 1.57 ERA and was named to the conference's honorable mention list, has reportedly been in contact with universities about transferring in the fall. Hansen-Perez, a freshman, has yet to make a decision, though, and could return for another season at IVC.

Whatever happens, Lerno is looking forward to the next challenge.

"All that comes with coaching. That's part of it. But despite what happens next year or the year after, it will not take away from what we accomplished this year," said Lerno. "I'd honestly say that this was one of the funnest years I've ever had as a coach. You have those years where you really can't wait for the season to end, but this year wasn't like that. I was actually kind of sad when I found out we wouldn't make the playoffs because I knew that was it for us.

"But this year gives us something to build on and hopefully we'll be able to keep it up and continue this."

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