Fernandez, staff win 700th career victory in 2018 championship runs

Fernandez, staff win 700th career victory in 2018 championship runs

Maryville College's Pepe Fernandez eclipsed the 700-win plateau this season, as the 29-year head coach saw both his men's and women's squad claim USA South Regular Season Western Division Titles.

Fernandez has eclipsed the 300-win mark in both men's and women's soccer at the Division III level in his storied Maryville College career, as he is ranked in the Top 15 for wins in both sports.

However, for Fernandez, this milestone is not his alone. He said Associate Head Coach Jon Baker and assistant coaches John LaCava and Hemant Sharma deserve the recognition, as well.

"Anytime you get milestones, it's nice," the head coach said. "I always talk about, and one thing to really note in that, is that in almost all of those wins, we've been together as a group. We haven't really looked it up, but we think that LaCava, Baker and myself have probably been together longer than any other Division III coaches in the country. We do it as a team, and with Hemant, it's like four separate head coaches. Our goal is to be a team within a team as the coaching staff. The number is always fun when you hit something like that, but to individually take any credit for that would be wrong. There's so much credit that need to go around."

Fernandez and his counterparts have a combined record – across both men's and women's squads – of 725-300-74. That marks a .693 career winning percentage across the two teams, as they amassed a total of 14 NCAA Appearances.

In all, Fernandez has won 13 Coach of the Year awards between the Great South Athletic Conference and the USA South Athletic Conference. He was named the 2018 USA South Coach of the Year on the women's side of competition this year.

"You've got to have great players, and we've had great players for 30 years here," Fernandez said.

One of those players – a current junior midfielder – is Chris Fernandez, Coach Fernandez's son.

The younger said growing up, seeing his dad reach those milestones was a fond memory. Now, he's a part of one of the squads that helped his father to his next mark.

"I love it, honestly," Chris Fernandez said of being a part of that history. "One of my favorite memories was when he actually got his 500th win before I was [a player] here. We got to go out to the center of the field and watch him get an award for it and everything. That was a lot of fun, so getting to be here for one of his milestones is pretty awesome."

The coach said it's been an excitement to coach his son at the collegiate level.

He added that he's been fortunate, as he's had nieces and nephews play both soccer and other sports while wearing the Orange and Garnet.

According to Coach Fernandez, that family bond seeps over into his program – a family on its own.

"The relationships have always been a premium here at Maryville College," Pepe Fernandez said. "That's actually how we define winning – great relationships and giving it our all. It's not 600 wins, 700 wins, a thousand wins or anything like that. It's those two factors that we define in our core values that define winning. When you add the special part of it of having a family member or your son here, it always makes it a lot of fun."

Chris Fernandez came to Maryville College from Maryville High School, and the junior standout was tabbed a USA South First Team All-Conference midfielder this season.

However, playing for his dad wasn't the reason he came to Maryville College.

"Actually, that's almost what kept me from coming here," Chris Fernandez said. "We are able to keep a pretty strict, player-coach relationship during the season, except for after games. He'll give me an extra hug over talking to my mom, but for the most part, we're able to keep it player-coach. Out of season, of course, we'll be together."

This season, Chris Fernandez was a key part to the men's squad capturing their third-straight regular season title within the USA South. They went on to win their second USA South Tournament title in the past three seasons to advance to the NCAA Tournament – also for the second time in two years.

Ryan Jorgensen was named the USA South Goalkeeper of the Year, as Chris Fernandez and Nate Long earned First Team accolades. In all, six Scots were tabbed All-Conference on the list.

Over the past 29 seasons, Coach Fernandez has compiled a 376-155-37 record, as he ranked 14th among Division III men's coaches in victories coming into the 2018 season. His record with the women's program is equally impressive, standing at 349-145-37. He's 12th in the ranks of Division III women's coaches prior to this season.

"Being able to get that 700 milestone for my dad, it's awesome anytime that we're able to help him accomplish something," Chris Fernandez said. "He's one of the reasons we're able to accomplish so much as a team."

The women's squad went a perfect 8-0 in USA South league play to claim back-to-back USA South Western Division titles. They advanced to the conference semifinals in the tournament this season, as Bailey Sipos was named the USA South Player of the Year.

Miranda Lukas and Jenna Clothier each earned First Team Overall and First Team Western Division, as Shannon Reagan was tabbed a First Team Western Division forward. In all, eight Scots were awarded All-Conference on the women's squad, as a combined 10 players across both Maryville teams were named All-Tournament honorees. Kyle Bennett was the USA South MVP on the men's side.

"It makes it a lot of fun," Coach Fernandez said. "The run with both teams – the girls going undefeated in the regular season conference play, and the men going undefeated all the way through October and doing what they did on the road – it was a very, very special year. With the impact of all the things that happened to us earlier in the year, I think it made us stronger. We did have to play uphill, and there was very little margin for error. We rose to those standards all season long. It was just pretty impressive what these kids did."

In all, Maryville College has claimed a regular season championship five times in the past three seasons across men's and women's soccer.

Coach Fernandez said soccer is a lot like baseball, as far as win-loss records go.

"What surprised me is how much we've won," Coach Fernandez said. "It's a credit to our kids. You have a great baseball team, and if you are a little above .500, you're doing very well. In soccer, there's so many factors. A weak team can come in and nick a game to win, 1-0. When you look back at it, and you look at how successful these kids have been, it's impressive. When I looked at the senior records for the boys and the girls, it just knocked my socks off. I didn't realize it was that good, and it just shows how good the kids that we have here are."