Originally posted to allsportstucson.com
By Kevin Murphy
Pima Community College head softball coach Rebekah Quiroz is in her third season at the helm and is poised to write the next chapter in an already illustrious softball career.
During legendary softball runs in high school, college, and in the professional ranks, Rebekah has been blessed to play for three legendary coaches: her father Armando Quiroz, Stacy Iveson and Mike Candrea. She also played on teams with the likes of softball greats Nancy Evans and Jenny Finch.
In 2018, after storybook playing and coaching career, Rebekah was hired as Pima’s head softball coach, replacing her father Armando after he retired.
At the outset of the 2021 season, Quiroz reflects on the softball experiences that got her to where she is and her expectations for this year’s team.
Never Look Back
Rebekah started playing softball at an early age. Her father made sure that was the case.
“I just didn’t have a choice. Since I was five, he kind of put me in that competitive mindset, and so the violin, the dresses, those all stopped when I was five,” said Rebekah.
“I hit the dirt and I never looked back.”
She remembers being interested in coaching, even in her early years playing the game.
“I knew that when I started playing that I wanted to coach, so that kind of stayed with me,” she said.
Rebekah played for her father at Flowing Wells High School in 1999 and 2000, where she was a key part of two state championship teams.
Quiroz looks back on her high school days playing shortstop for her father with great pride, but it was by no means an easy task for her.
“I think the best part of everything was that I was able to experience it with my father, and under my father,” Quiroz said.
“He was hard on me, but I was honored to win those titles with him.”
Though Quiroz was named Player of the Year by The Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen in 1999 and 2000, she is quick to give praise to an immensely stacked team at Flowing Wells.
“That 2000 team, his (her dad’s) entire infield, we all signed Division 1,” said Quiroz.
“Our third baseman (Blair Holk) went to ASU, I went to Arizona, the second baseman (Stephanie Nicholson) signed with Washington, our first baseman (Bobbie Bell) signed with Kansas, and then our catcher Candace (Candace Abrams) signed with Arizona, and Ashley Monceaux was younger but she had committed to Arizona,” Rebekah said.
“That entire infield — we put together such a good product at Flowing Wells. It was almost unfair, the product we put together.”
After graduating from Flowing Wells, Quiroz played the 2000-01 season at Pima under Iveson. In that season as an infielder with the Aztecs, Quiroz led the country in hitting with a .500 batting average and was named to the first team all-conference, All-Region, and NJCAA All-American teams.
While Rebekah won many accolades that season, it’s not the awards she focuses on. She is thrilled to have been given the opportunity to play for Iveson.
“One of the biggest accomplishments was just playing under her,” she said.
The next season she signed with the Arizona, where she played two seasons under Candrea. In 2002, the team shared a co-Pac-10 championship with UCLA and was the national championship runner-up.
Rebekah reflects on her time playing at Arizona with elation.
“One, being a freshman and playing for a Pac-10 championship, and two, playing in a national title game as a freshman is something that I can’t explain,” she said.
“It’s something that I wish every girl that I coach could experience great accomplishment I take away from that team was to be a local girl — and being a local Hispanic girl — playing for coach Mike Candrea was huge, and he’s like a father to me,”
Quiroz is humbled to have been in the presence of Iveson and Candrea for major parts of her softball journey, and considers both of them as being great influences in her life.
“If you think of softball in Tucson, Ari.a, then you think of either Coach Candrea, or you think of Stacy Iveson,” Rebekah said.
“I’ve been so lucky to have both of them my entire career.”
All Roads Converged at Pima
Iveson played catcher for Candrea at Arizona from 1985-90. She began coaching in 1991 at Salpointe Catholic High School. In 1993, she coached Salpointe to a 5A State championship. Candrea hired Iveson as Arizona pitching coach from 1995-01,where she helped coach the team to three national titles.
In 2002, Iveson was named head softball coach at Pima. Two years later, she coached Pima softball to a NJCAA national championship.
In 2005, while Iveson was coaching Rebekah as player on the Arizona Heat, she brought her on as assistant coach for Pima. That same year, Iveson was also inducted to the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame.
In 2006, Quiroz coached Pima alongside Iveson to win an NJCAA Division I national championship. The coaching staff included Rebekah’s longtime friend and Pima, Arizona and Arizona Heat teammate Jennifer Martinez-Abbs. The staff was named National Coaching Staff of the Year.
“In our first year first year coaching with her, we won a national title,” Rebekah said. “That was so fun. That was awesome to win it with her (Iveson).”
After the close of the 2006-07 season, Iveson stepped down at Pima to start the softball program at Yavapai College in Prescott. Iveson is currently back with Arizona as the Director of Recruiting Operations.
Rebekah continued to coach at Pima while playing with the Arizona Heat from 2005-2008, where she gained a different perspective on softball.
“The pro level is definitely different; at that point, it becomes more of a business, and your pay depends on your performance,” she said.
“Playing on the same field as Nancy Evans and Jenny Finch, and those caliber-type players was such an honor. I also got to play side-by-side with my best friend Jen Martinez.”
Rebekah’s father Armando took over as Pima’s head coach in 2007, reuniting father and daughter in the dugout.
With Armando as head coach and his daughter Rebekah as an assistant, Pima won two NJCAA Region I titles, making the region tournament 10 out of 11 seasons. In 2012, the team finished fourth in the NJCAA Division I National Tournament, followed by a third place finish in the tournament the next season.
Rebekah was elevated to associate head coach from 2013-2018.
At the close of the 2017- 18 season, Armando retired after amassing 501 wins in 11 seasons at Pima. He has been inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame and the Flowing Wells High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Armando tallied a total of 606 wins at Pima during 13 seasons as an assistant coach with her idol Iveson and her father.
In 2018, Rebekah was named head softball coach at Pima.
When asked if she gets her competitive demeanor on the diamond from her father, Rebekah agrees but names Iveson as a major influence as well.
“Absolutely, 100 percent, him and Stacy Iveson, because Stacy brought a fire into me where it’s like there is no other option except to compete,” Rebekah said.
In her first season as head coach, the Aztecs finished third in the NJCAA Region I, Division II tournament. Her biggest takeaway from that season is that the team beat a higher-seeded Yavapai College in the regional playoffs.
“We took them down at their home which was a huge win for us,” she said.
“We try to take those kinds of wins and use them as learning experiences with what we have now. Especially because with Covid, all these girls are freshmen again.”
New Season, Fresh Ingredients
Following a 2020 campaign where the team went 11-8 in a shortened season due to COVID-19 safety protocols, Rebekah remains optimistic about the future of the program with this season’s team.
“I think the last time we had a team this talented was back when my dad was head coach in 2012 when we went to nationals and took third place,” she said.
“The reason I say that is because our strength is our pitching staff, and we have a very balanced offensive team as well, one through nine.”
The team has started the 2021 season winning a pair of games against Paradise Valley Community College, and is coming off a strong performance from pitcher Anishe Triste, who threw a no-hitter.
Two other standout players are freshmen — C/OF Kelli Samorano (Tucson High) OF Kayla Gonzales (Salpointe).
Samorano has set her goals high for the season, and is learning a great deal about the game from Rebekah.
“I’m pushing myself to better than I was yesterday, outworking myself, and not being satisfied,” Samorano said.
“Knowing that she (Rebekah) has already been in our shoes as a former college athlete, she’s constantly providing us with knowledge that she knows will benefit us, and help us be the best team that we can, and to be the best teammates for each other.”
Gonzales started learning the game of softball under the tutelage of Rebekah when she was a child.
“Coach Quiroz was actually one of the first people to teach me how to slap when I was around 8 years old,” Gonzales said.
“My favorite thing about playing under her is how much she strives for our environment to be family-like, she treats us like her own daughters.”
Gonzales is eager to contribute to the team early in her college career.
“We honestly just want to play, with COVID-19 being against us, we value all the time we get on the field with each other.”
“As one of the only slappers on the team, I need to do my part of getting on base, and utilize my speed on the base paths so that the power hitters behind me can score me in.”
While Rebekah treats her players like family, she also coaches them with a fierce passion.
“My intensity never changes, so if I’m losing 20-0 or winning 20-0, my energy and my tempo is always through the roof,” she said.
“What’s really good at Pima is that we have a really good balance on the staff, a few of the coaches are really balanced, which helps my girls go to a coach that fits in with their playing style.”
With a fresh season underway, Rebekah is excited to be with her coaching staff getting this season’s players ready.
“We’ve put together a team that has all the ingredients, we’re just learning to cook with them right now,” she said.
The Aztecs (2-0) play next on Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. at Phoenix College.
Rebekah would also like to acknowledge the many Tucson-area softball coaches and instructors who have contributed to her softball success at Pima over the years.
“I would like to thank Bruno Gonzales/Mikey Gonzales (Desert View High School), Manny Gomez (Tucson Velocity), Todd Judge (Oro Valley Suncats), Shannon Woolridge (Empire High School/Desert Thunder), Pete Palomarez (Sunnyside High School), Bert Otero (Tucson High School), George Corona (Marana High School), Ramon De La Ossa (Mountain View High School), George Arias (former Arizona baseball standout now director of the Tucson Champs Academy), Laura Espinoza-Watson (a former Wildcat softball standout and coach with the Thundercats) and many many more. Thank you for your continued support and loyalty. Pima softball appreciates you.”