Orange Coast College dug into its past this spring when they hired renowned ex-student athlete and state champion Michelle Esquivel to replace the long-time women’s tennis coach who retired after last season.
Esquivel took over women’s tennis duties from her mentor and former coach Janice Maran, who had been head coach of the women’s program for 36 seasons, and said being named head coach was a dream come true.
Esquivel played for the Pirates in 2005 and had a special season, winning the individual state championship, doubles championship with then partner Jessica Rice and also capturing the state championship as a team.
“After that season, I knew I wanted to become a head coach,” Esquivel said. “My ultimate goal was to head coach here, so it has been a blessing.”
Esquivel returned to Coast after a three-year stint at conference rival Cypress College where she began as an assistant coach to Jeff Bonito and a year later, was given the head coaching job when Bonito left the Chargers head coaching job for McPherson College in Kansas.
Esquivel’s time at Cypress was one for experience. She took the job as assistant to Bonito at 23, and filled the void of head coach a year later at 24. When Bonito left for McPherson, Cypress gave the young assistant coach a chance that Esquivel agreed to take right away.
“My time at Cypress really opened up my coaching perspective from being an athlete for so many years,” Esquivel said. “It really helped me mold my coaching style.”
Expectations for the 27-year-old former OCC athlete will not come in the form of wins and losses, said Athletic Director and Dean of Kinesiology/Athletics Michael Sutliff who, instead, is more interested in how Esquivel can grow in her own coaching.
Sutliff is encouraging in his approach to mold Esquivel. His goal is to have Esquivel install a solid foundation and establish her own reputation over time.
Once Esquivel has created her own environment within the program, the chance at titles will spawn, he said.
As a senior in high school in 2004, Esquivel accomplished a feat no community college women’s tennis player had ever achieved.
While still attending Sunny Hills High School in Buena Park, Esquivel enrolled in classes at Santa Ana College making her eligible to play for the Dons. That spring, Esquivel became the first high school student to win the individual state championship.
Upon high school graduation, Esquivel decided to transfer to Coast once Santa Ana College dropped its women’s tennis program after her incredible season as a Don. And once at OCC and under the monitoring of Maran, Esquivel successfully reached the pinnacle of women’s tennis in the community college level again in 2005.
The next challenge in Esquivel’s life came when she decided to take a full ride scholarship at Concordia University, a school which competed in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, where she was ranked as high as 16 nationally as an individual.
Esquivel’s success as an athlete made her stand out before the hiring committee against the other candidates, Sutliff said.
Esquivel said she wouldn’t have accomplished so much if her mother hadn’t put her in tennis 20 years ago when Esquivel was 7.
Equivel’s mother died last May.
“She was my support. Everything in my life right now I give thanks and love to her,” Esquivel said. “She knew I wanted to be here, it’s so hard, it’s bittersweet because I wanted to share this with her since she experienced everything with me the whole way.”
With new challenges in sight for the former Pirate athlete, Esquivel said the loss of her no. 1 supporter is a big blow, but said she is determined to leave her own stamp in the books of OCC athletics — this time as coach.
“I want to make sure that I get a good experience building a relationship with the athletes and make sure they are succeeding to go on and play for four-year schools,” Esquivel said. “And I will continue to carry on Janice’s [Maran] legacy by becoming successful and winning titles.”