Though seasons were short, Juan Diego welcomed six new coaches for spring sportsMay 26, 2020 11:06AM ● By Catherine Garrett
New JDCHS girls lacrosse coach Ashley Tack returns to her alma mater to head up the girls program in its first year as a UHSAA-sanctioned sport. (Photo courtesy Ashley Tack)
By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]
Six new coaches took the reins for spring sports at Juan Diego Catholic High School with longtime JV boys lacrosse coach Mike Burbank staying on to head up the program in its first year as a sanctioned UHSAA sport. JDCHS alum Taylor Berg returned to coach the baseball team while fellow alum Ashley Tack is coaching the girls lacrosse program. Brian Rhay and Joe Alamilla would tag team the head coaching duties for the boys soccer team while Dave Montoya and Rod Horton will lead the softball and boys tennis programs, respectively.
“Juan Diego is thrilled to welcome these outstanding coaches to our athletic program,” JDCHS athletic director Chris Long said.
Berg, an All-State athlete in baseball and football while also wrestling at JDCHS from 2005-09, who went on to play baseball at Treasure Valley Community College in Oregon and Utah Valley University returned to Draper to “give back.”
“It feels great to be back,” Berg said. “This school changed my life in a lot of different ways and this is definitely something I always wanted to do.”
“Coach Berg brings a wealth of baseball knowledge to our program, particularly in pitching and catching, and the value of being a multi-sport athlete,” Long said.
Berg had multiple options in multiple sports to play on but followed his “passion” and smallest offer to the West Coast where he began his collegiate career. During his final two years at UVU, he recorded nine doubles and 19 RBIs, and hit over .250.
Last season, Berg assisted the Soaring Eagle program with pitching and catching a few times a week and he put his hat in the ring when Juan Diego went looking for a coach.
“I have so many memories of my time here with winning, relationships and life lessons,” Berg said. “I think I can help my players learn to set goals, manage their time and balance sports at a high level while teaching them about the game I love.”
Tack was also a multi-sport athlete at JDCHS – playing volleyball and swimming in addition to being a four-year varsity starter in the lacrosse program through 2015. She also played for the Utah Mamaci lacrosse team before going on to compete collegiately at University of New York, College at Brockport.
“I am very excited to be coaching at my alma mater with my best friend and past teammate [Mara Gronseth] by my side,” Tack said. “This program and school gave so much to us and helped us become who we are today. We are excited by the opportunity to give back to the school and the program and most importantly give these players the opportunities that we were lucky enough to have when we were there.”
“Coach Tack and Mara bring a wealth of lacrosse knowledge to our girls program and understand the system and culture that has made Juan Diego girls lacrosse such a successful program,” athletic director Long said. “Ashley has a real love for the game of lacrosse and strives to help girls be able to have the same experiences and opportunities lacrosse provided her on and off the field.”
Tack helped her collegiate team to its first conference title in school history, competing in the NCAA tournament three times – including two Sweet 16 stints. She was also part of squads that broke school records in wins, goals and points scored in a season.
Back home, she is also currently the Utah Program Director of the Tenacity Project club lacrosse program.
Tack said she brings a positive coaching approach to her teams while also challenging her players in perfecting skills and techniques in a competitive, yet fun environment. “I’ve learned that if you catch the girls doing something right instead of doing something wrong they are more likely to keep doing it right,” she said. “We also want to emphasize for them to just be involved in a team and learn those teamwork and communication skills that will help them for the rest of their lives.”
Rhay and Alamilla are both fathers of children within the Skaggs Catholic Center school system and will bring an “understanding and a unique perspective” to the boys soccer program, according to Long.
“Both coach Rhay and coach Alamilla bring years of soccer coaching experience to our boys' program ranging from club, to high school to college soccer programs,” Long said.
Rhay was exposed to soccer in Europe where he grew up as part of an Army family and he continued to play the sport as a teenager returning to America. Now, as a coach, he’s excited to “continue sharing my love” as he teaches attacking and defensive techniques to his players.
“What a blessing and honor to be here at Juan Diego where we can have high standards in a school of faith and define a structure that we can win soccer games under,” Rhay said. “If you pray at another school, you get fired. If you don’t pray here, you get fired.”
Alamilla, who coached Judge Memorial to two consecutive state championships in 2018 and 2019 after not winning a game during the 2017 season, will help Rhay coach this year’s multi-international squad.
“We had a plan and we implemented it our first year,” Alamilla said. “We made the experience more than the wins and losses. Very early on we made it clear that we play for each other. We grew as a team, we got better and when our time came we answered the call. We had great players, but we were also the best team fighting the long odds together, all moving in the same direction. I’m excited to see what we can do at Juan Diego. I feel like I can make a difference down here. I think we will surprise a lot of people in the next couple of years.”
Alamilla played at Judge and has been in coaching ever since he decided he could do better than his daughter’s soccer coach and then signed up to coach. “I look at coaching as interactive teaching with these kids,” he said. “I have loved the experience so far and I plan on continuing to coach as long as I can because I still have a lot to teach and I still have a lot to give.”
In his 12 years of coaching soccer, Alamilla has fine-tuned his approach to the game which is to “play attacking soccer,” by locking down defensively to provide offensive transition opportunities.
“I’m just excited to see what the future brings with this opportunity at Juan Diego,” he said.
Montoya coached wrestling, baseball and football before finding himself on a softball field when his daughter began playing 10 years ago. “I had played baseball and coached before with my son, but never softball or girls,” he said. “I had to learn the game rules and watched a lot of YouTube videos. I had to teach myself to pitch a softball so I could teach the girls.”
As his daughter progressed in the sport – she’s a senior who will be playing for Dawson Community College in Montana this fall – so did his knowledge and love of the game.
“I love to watch the kids absorb what I teach them and develop into an athlete,” Montoya said. “It’s rewarding when I see my athletes use the tools and coaching that I give them and turn it into a success.”
“Coach Dave Montoya bring great experience to Juan Diego's softball program both from the accelerated club level and as the former head coach of Cyprus High School,” Long said.
It was his own bad experience with a baseball coach in high school that has helped shape how Montoya coaches. “Our job is to build character, not only as an athlete, but as a human being,” he said. “There are certain things that cannot be coached like drive, determination, heart and a love of the game. You either have it or you don’t. It is my job, however, to bring it out of my athletes. Most don’t know that they have those attributes and once a coach is able to make an athlete see their potential, that is when that athlete builds the confidence to go places they never imagined.”
Horton brings an extensive tennis background to Juan Diego that dates back nearly 50 years and includes a successful playing career in local and national tournaments as well as on the Weber State tennis team.
“Coach Horton is one of the most highly respected tennis professionals in the state of Utah,” Long said. “He’s a former collegiate tennis player who has coached multiple high school and college tennis players.”
Horton said that despite not initially intending to coach tennis as a profession, he realized that he had a natural way of sharing his knowledge of the fundamentals and techniques involved in the sport and it has become truly rewarding. “There is a personal satisfaction of molding and shaping someone’s life through tennis,” Horton said. “The lessons it teaches you about life and helping people achieve higher levels for themselves has become my purpose and passion. It is a real motivating factor for me to go out day and day.”
The long-time coach said he is excited to be at Juan Diego and bring his philosophy of “energy, emotion and fun” to the Soaring Eagle program. “What a great place to exist and be a part of,” he said. “Their role is to achieve excellence in all that they do and obviously they are one of the top schools scholastically. But, they seem to be training students for life and that is invaluable these days. I am happy to be a part of their team.”