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Athletics Overview – Winter 2024

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Baron Athletics

Athletics Overview – Winter 2024

The latest in Baron sports.

Winter 2024

In This Article

Maria Herrera’s Prayerful Path to Tennis Excellence

As a little girl living in Mexico City, Maria Herrera considered following in the footsteps of her mother, a professional ballerina. Since her mother also taught ballet, it was easy for Herrera to attend a class and give it a shot.

She smiles as she recalls the experience.

“Well,” she says, searching for the right words. “Let’s just say it wasn’t fun.”

Happily, her father had a better idea. A former Division I tennis player at the University of Tennessee at Martin and a full-time tennis coach, he invited her to join him at his tennis practices. Herrera loved it. Soon after she started playing, she and her family moved from Mexico City to Houston, Texas, where she grew up.

“I started playing when I was 6 years old,” she says, “but I didn’t start taking it seriously until after I turned 9.”

Herrera’s father became her coach and instilled in her a passion for the game. Like him, she has always been driven to achieve excellence and be the best at her sport. But her father’s impact on her life goes beyond tennis.

“He taught me that tennis isn’t just a sport; it’s a way of life,” she recalls. “Like when you’re playing this great match and then in the second set, you start losing and you have to deal with it. When life throws you a curveball, it’s all about how you react.”

Herrera’s winning attitude and resilience was also the fruit of daily prayer and the vibrant Catholic faith she shared with her family.

“My dad has a shirt my mom made him for fun that summed up our life,” she says. “It says, ‘Pray. Eat. Tennis.’ Prayer is a big part of our family.”

Herrera brought her passion, talent, and faith to Franciscan University in 2020 and took women’s tennis by storm. Now a senior, she is the all-time leader in total wins for women’s tennis and was named PAC Player of the Year for the third time in a row. She has earned First Team All-PAC Singles and Doubles every year since her freshman year.

“Maria Herrera is an amazing tennis player and woman of faith!” says Thomas J. Costello Sr., head women’s tennis coach. “She is a leader, captain of the team, and a tenacious player. She is an inspiration to her teammates with her dedication, work ethic, and commitment to the team.”

Herrera says she thanks God every day for meeting her best friends at Franciscan. But she is also enthusiastic about the life-changing lessons she’s learned. “Franciscan has taught me that it’s not just tennis, or school, or friendships that are important,” she explains. “It is that God is in every single one of them. Whether we see it or not, he works beautifully in everything.”


High Fives

• For the fourth time in five years, men’s rugby made it all the way to the National Sweet 16 in St. Louis, Missouri.

• Lucas Cross burst on the scene in 2023, leading the men’s soccer team with 33 points, including 15 goals, and being named PAC Offensive Player of the Year.

• Lauren Dosch had a stellar start to her collegiate career in women’s cross country. She was named PAC Newcomer of the Year after placing sixth at the PAC Championship.

• Franciscan women’s soccer continued their recent success, making it to their second straight PAC Championship.

• With their 3-2 victory against Thiel on Senior Day, Franciscan women’s volleyball secured their first winning season in program history with a record of 13-12.


Student Athlete Spotlight

Name: Joseph Ciola

Hometown: Burke, Virginia

Major: Computer Science

Sport: Basketball

Team Position: Guard

Honors:: Dean’s List; 2023 PAC Academic Honor Roll

Quote: “Trust that consistently doing the little things you don’t want to do will have an incredible effect on your life over time.”

Career Goal: A job in national security to help the military defend our nation.

Favorite Saint: Our Blessed Mother

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