Blowing past milestones has been nothing new for the Austin College volleyball program under head coach Ed Garza. In his 19 years leading the program, he’s won conference championships, earned national rankings, and been honored with numerous coaching accolades. As a collegiate coach with a strong Hispanic background, he’s looking to close out Hispanic Heritage Month by getting even more milestones under his belt.
Raised in Falfurrias, Texas, a town with a population of about 5,000 in southern Texas, Garza has been involved in athletics throughout his life. He comes from an athletically inclined family, with all three of his siblings having also grown up playing multiple sports. The oldest of the four, Garza has one brother and two sisters, and was joined by one of those sisters at Ouachita Baptist University, where they both excelled athletically. Garza was a track and field star, while his sister was acing opponents on the tennis court.
But for Garza’s family, academics were always stressed first and foremost. Garza’s parents entered the work force when they were young, and made a concerted effort to give their kids more of an opportunity than they were afforded. Their hard work was rewarded when all four of the Garza children earned college degrees.
Academics were important to Garza’s parents, and they remain important to Garza as well. Each year he stresses to his student-athletes how crucial it is to focus on maintaining a standard of excellence in the classroom, as well as on the volleyball court. Each year his team boasts numerous Academic All-Conference honorees, and just last year one of his players earned Academic All-America accolades.
Of course, it was during his time at Ouachita that Garza began to really develop his love for coaching, and coaching volleyball in particular. Anyone attending one of Garza’s home games will see students calling the lines, and over the years if you stop and watch one of his practices in Hughey Gym you’ll often see student workers helping Garza in a number of capacities. As it happens, each of those things contributed to Garza ultimately becoming a volleyball coach.
While a student-athlete at Ouachita, Garza both called lines during matches and helped run practices, and ultimately his work with the team led to a role as an assistant coach. By the time he was finished at Ouachita, he was already running the practices during the team’s spring non-traditional season.
It’s been 28 years since Garza took on that role, and he’s been piling up victories in the volleyball world ever since. His tenure at Austin College has been stellar, to say the least. This year’s team is sitting on 19 victories with the home stretch of the regular season still to come, and just one more victory will mark the 17th consecutive year in which the team has topped 20 wins in a season, a remarkable feat considering the tremendous competition the ‘Roos have faced as a member of both the American Southwest Conference and Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference during his tenure.
And while Garza has already surpassed 500 career coaching victories, he’s rapidly approaching hitting 500 wins at Austin College alone. As things stand right now, Garza has 496 victories at Austin College alone, and throughout his career with the ‘Roos has boasted one of the top 25 winning percentages in NCAA Division III volleyball history.
Throughout it all, Garza’s Hispanic heritage has remained important to him. His maternal grandmother came from Mexico City, and when he and his sister went away to school in Arkansas, they received a unique and amazing cultural experience of living in an area with such a small Hispanic population.
Along with head women’s soccer coach Kristina Corona, Garza is one of two Austin College coaches with Hispanic heritage, and this season Garza’s roster features three players – Dani DeWitt, Alyssa Pruett, and Tatiana Ferrari – who also have Hispanic backgrounds.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in recognition of the historical and cultural contributions of Hispanic Americans whose ancestors came from Spane, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The national observance was first established in 1968 when Congress authorized the president to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week each year. In 1988, Congress extended the observance from a week to a month. The annual observance is now a 31-day period beginning September 15 and ending October 15.
Garza’s team takes to the court looking for its 20th win of the season tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. against Arlington Baptist in Hughey Gym.