UVA coaches visit Suffolk

Published 9:39 pm Thursday, September 13, 2012

Suffolk’s Billy Chorey Sr., center, stands with University of Virginia baseball coach Brian O’Connor, right, and tennis coach Brian Boland after the fall social of the Virginia Athletic Foundation in Suffolk on Wednesday.

University of Virginia baseball and tennis coaches spoke to Wahoo fans and alumni during the Virginia Athletics Foundation’s eastern Virginia fall social held at the Hilton Garden Inn on Wednesday in Suffolk.

UVA alum Billy Chorey Sr. puts on the event each year, and this time close to 100 people were in attendance to hear baseball coach Brian O’Connor and tennis coach Brian Boland.

Dirk Katstra, the executive director of the Virginia Athletics Foundation, led off with an update on the strides that the VAF has made in the past 10 years and plans for the next 10, thanking the donors represented in the crowd.

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“For you all each and every year to contribute what you contribute to the tune of over $300 million over the last 10 years is truly remarkable,” he said.

He described the most successful period in UVA athletics as having coincided with the coming of O’Connor and Boland.

Boland is entering his 12th year as coach at UVA, and Katstra described the profound effect he has had on the tennis program.

“If you think back, and those of you who follow tennis, we didn’t have much in the way of a tennis program 12 years ago,” he said. “This guy built it all.”

To date, Boland has overseen eight ACC championships, two NCAA singles championships, two NCAA doubles championships, and in the last five years, four indoor tennis championships.

His coaching has produced 28 All-Americans, 36 All-ACC selections, two national players of the year, and two national freshmen of the year.

Boland assured that while he and the program cannot guarantee national championships, there are important things they can guarantee.

“We can guarantee we’ll do things the right way,” he said. “We’ll run a clean program. We can guarantee that we will be at the plate every single year, having an opportunity to win championships. We will guarantee that we will retain our student-athletes, which we’ve been able to do at 100-percent level. In my 12 years, only two student-athletes have left the university, and they were for excellent reasons.”

Boland highlighted the consistency of the tennis program.

“I’m proud of the fact that we haven’t dropped below (a number) three (ranking) in the country in seven years, which I think is something that’s never been done. We’re also proud of the fact that this will be our seventh year without losing an ACC match.”

They appear poised to continue their dominance after signing the No.-1 recruiting class in the country led by Mac Styslinger from Birmingham, Ala.

Brian O’Connor is entering his 10th year as UVA baseball coach. Katstra introduced him as three-time ACC and two-time national coach of the year, and the second-fastest coach in the ACC to get to 400 wins. He has led UVA to two ACC titles and two appearances in the college world series.

He has guided seven players to the major leagues and 48 players to the draft.

“I don’t even think we were talking about the major leagues 20 years ago,” Katstra said. “And this is really a tribute to what he’s built: in the last three seasons, we’ve been ranked in the top 20 nationally in attendance with over 110,000 fans coming through Davenport Field each season.”

O’Connor spoke on how he got to this point of success as a coach, emphasizing recruitment of the right kind of student-athletes, those who are at UVA to get a degree.

“Every one of our players that has exhausted their eligibility in our uniform has graduated,” he said. “Last year, over 50 percent of our players in our program were on the academic honor roll.”

Building a connection between the baseball program and university donors, alumni and former players was another important step to success that O’Connor cited.

He indicated that in 2002, the baseball program had 27 donors that produced $13,000. In 2011, those numbers had swelled to 656 donors giving more than $500,000.