“For years, what I witnessed before is that they were beaten down, they had a defeated attitude against some of the teams they were going up against,” Gutierrez said. “We stayed in games and fought really hard.”
Several players are members of other Irish teams that have had success recently, including the soccer and basketball teams, he said. They were able to stay in games against the better teams in the Ohio Heritage Conference this season.
“They’re in it to win now, not to be a part of a team,” Gutierrez said. “They’re playing hard and it’s shown a lot.”
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Gutierrez was a youth coach at Central for nine years before taking the job after longtime coach Doug Skinner retired after 30 years in 2018. He’s coached the current group of five seniors since they were in fourth grade and was also a coach at the middle school program, he said.
“We were competitive against everyone we went up against, we’d just always have a bad inning,” Gutierrez said. “There are some things we’ve gotta work out. The girls will have to work out in the offseason.”
The future is bright for the Irish, Gutierrez said. Several top players will be back next season, including Serenity Castle, Becca Samosky, Iiyannah Stapleton, Evelyn Dunn and Escamilla. The program will also see an influx of talented freshman next season, he said.
The Irish are hoping to have enough players for a full-time junior varsity squad next season. This year, they played four JV games with their 16 players.
It wasn’t that long ago the Irish were winning the OHC championship (2002) and advancing to back-to-back regional finals (‘02 and ‘03). During an indoor practice earlier this season, Gutierrez walked the halls with his players and taught them about the school’s tradition.
“I told them, ‘You guys can do this’,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have a lot of athletes and some coming around this year.”