(KSEE) – Linda Garza just completed her first season as the head softball coach at Nevada. Garza, a Fresno native, had been Fresno State’s head coach before she stepped down last June following a leave of absence that resulted from an altercation with one of her players.

Sports Central’s Andrew Marden reached out to Coach Garza to ask how the last year has been for her and her family.

Andrew Marden: How was the transition from Fresno to Reno? Did you find Nevada’s athletic leadership welcoming and supportive?

Linda Garza: I’m thankful to former coach Josh Taylor and former AD Doug Knuth. They treated me with class, we worked to make this a seamless transition. Nevada welcomed me and my family from Day One. I was supported by players, parents, coaches and administration. Even a few coaches and administrators I had worked with at other universities early in my coaching career were at Nevada. Those familiar faces are always nice to see going into any new job. I was talking to all parents and players within 24 hours of being hired.

Andrew Marden: Obviously the results weren’t there this season, so what do you take away from a 17-35 record?

Linda Garza: Learned how to coach from a greater place of love. We focused on relationships first and softball second. I prioritized recruiting and directed our efforts directly to fill program gaps. We have a huge hill to climb. We have different resources available. I love the blue collar feel to this profession, I thrive in that style. It’s easy to stay busy here. My program focus remains the same: recruit quality people with talent, hire loyal people and build a championship culture people want to be part of.

Andrew Marden: I know you don’t control the conference schedule, but was it ironic to face Fresno State in your last series of the season?

Linda Garza: I’m a firm believer things happen how they happen for a reason. I hope moving forward we both are playing this series on track toward a conference championship. It makes for a healthy rivalry and who doesn’t enjoy a good rivalry!

Andrew Marden: And what were your emotions before the first game?

Linda Garza: Not to make the series about me. Both programs had been through a lot all season. Many players on both teams I care about. The goal is always for Nevada to win. A few Nevada players asked leading up to the series how I was doing; I appreciated that. They knew it would be a game with emotion and they wanted me to know they cared about me. I stayed positive and focused on the game preparation. I wanted to be sure to give our team and staff my best regardless of what adversity I was going to be faced with!

Andrew Marden: Was it satisfying to take two out of three from the Bulldogs?

Linda Garza: Of course. Any time you can beat Fresno State, it always feels good. Fresno State softball will forever have my respect. I grew up watching so many greats and I coached some amazing players. I know that place top to bottom. But, truthfully, I’ve spent more time outside the fence as an opponent or fan than I ever spent inside of it as a Fresno State head coach.

Andrew Marden: How do you feel about the fact the Bulldogs had a really bad year?

Linda Garza: I feel for everyone involved. I recruited my heart out for that program. Just look at the talent that was there the past two seasons. National-brand players who are stars. I worked hard to hire the right people and lead a program to a championship during a pandemic. There are some amazing people who wear and wore those colors while I was at Fresno. I respect them, the decisions made and thankful I had the chance to coach in my hometown. Not all dreams last forever. We learn that in this profession real quick.

Andrew Marden: How closely have you followed Hailey Dolcini this year?

Linda Garza: Dolcini is so fun to watch. Of course I follow her. I follow all players I recruit. She has earned every opportunity she has been given. Hands down the hardest worker I’ve coached in 20 years.

Andrew Marden: Is she even better than she was last season pitching for you?

Linda Garza: Hailey is fierce, confident and prepared. I saw Hailey first on the back fields early in recruiting back for UC Riverside, but credit goes to Coach Jodie Cox over the last three seasons and this past fall. Much of that success lies in those bullpens and countless hours of training. Hailey now has one of the best pitching coaches in Mike White, who calls an incredible game. She has never lacked good coaching. So I’m pumped to see her continue her career with the game’s best.

Andrew Marden: And do you think Texas has a chance against Arkansas?

Linda Garza: I think Hailey always has a chance. No different than I felt when she had the ball in her hands for me. I think it’s better to watch as a valley fan this series. Clovis High graduate Courtney Scott (Deifel) as head coach for Arkansas vs former Bulldog great Dolcini. All good things stop through or grow up in the valley. That’s the story I like to focus on.