Mesa Vista team come together to deal with the death of beloved coaches | Sports

Roses and an array of McCurdy images of Mesa Vista’s two dearly departed coaches. Questa flowers. Two Escalante-signed basketballs to go with crosses for each player.

These are the gifts given to the Lady Trojans of Mesa Vista by District 5-2A opponents as they mourned the sudden and tragic loss of Leonard Torrez Sr. and Jr., the father-son duo who coached the basketball program women’s ball over the past two years. seasons before succumbing to complications from COVID-19 infections earlier this month.

Then there were the moments of silence that have accompanied each of the final three games over the past 10 days since father and son died on January 14 and 15, respectively.

Players said the gestures they and the Mesa Vista community have received from their adversaries as they progress through the season amid the tragedy of losing two beloved characters, who played in the basketball and graduated from Mesa Vista, gave them some much-needed excitement. to strenghten.

“We feel like we have a lot of support [from the Northern New Mexico community]Mesa Vista second-year guard Isabella Boies said.

For all the love, support, and gifts surrounding communities have given Mesa Vista, perhaps the greatest treasure the Trojans have received has come from within. A tight-knit team of mostly underclassmen and eighth-graders who have played together for the past few years has grown even tighter in the past two and a half weeks.

Where one Lady Trojans goes, the others seem to follow, whether to the concession stand, their seats in the bleachers, or the team bus. This one-for-all theme has never been more present than over the past three days, as the team mourned with the Torrez family – which includes teammates Kylie and Jaslene Torrez – through public viewings, rosaries and finally the funeral on Saturday.

Current head coach Jesse Boies, who was a longtime friend of Leonard Jr. and the father of Isabella Boies, gathered the team next to the two caskets during Thursday’s visit for a talk and a final small group next to their former coaches.

“I told them to be strong like the coaches,” Boies said. “Right now they are resting, but they want us to continue. We have to be strong for each other. We are a family right now. Then we showed the coaches’ love with a final “Torrez Strong” huddle.

“I think seeing their coffins there, it finally hit them. It was like, ‘Whoa, this is real.’ But we have to keep the vibes positive and hold our heads up high.

On the contrary, the Mesa Vista community has done its part to help players deal with the passing of their coaches. Mesa Vista Consolidated Schools Superintendent Albert Martinez and Mesa Vista Principal Richard Apodaca coordinated in-person and online counseling sessions for players.

The online session became necessary when several Lady Trojans contracted COVID-19 just after finishing second in the Northern Rio Grande Tournament, the first regular-season tournament for small schools in northern New Mexico.

Sophomore Shanae Silva, whom Leonard Jr. nicknamed “Chance,” said she gave the girls several outlets to help them express their grief.

“We did posters and stuff for the family,” Silva said. “Then they gave us newspapers to use. It’s like a diary, it helps us clear our minds.

The Lady Trojans found ways to show their support for the Torrezes as they battled the coronavirus for three harrowing weeks, bringing them the carved wooden nameplates they kept in the office they shared with players each match and leaving them in the first two seats on the bench where the head coach (Leonard Jr.) and college assistant (Leonard Sr.) sit.

It’s a tradition they intend to continue throughout the season and possibly beyond, as the two were such a staple in Lady Trojans’ lives. Leonard Jr. had coached several of the players since elementary school, and his father was always around, especially once they hit college. Silva and Boies said Leonard Jr. had a booming voice that usually scared players off at first, but they learned it was kind of an act, as he showed a caring side that went beyond the court. of basket ball.

Coach Boies said he was a father figure to many of the players and opened his office to all Lady Trojans. The Torrezes stocked the office with water bottles and a variety of snacks for the girls to eat after a hard workout.

Renee Torrez, wife of Leonard Jr., said it was important to her husband that he give the girls ownership of the program as much as he wanted to put his own stamp on it. And it revealed the motherly side that endeared the players to him and Leonard Sr.

“He knew after hard training he didn’t want to send them home hungry,” Renee said. “He always made sure he had plenty of food and drink.”

Renee said she had attended every game since her husband’s death, although she admitted the January 22 home game against Escalante was particularly difficult as it was her first time in in the gym since the duo passed away.

“That gym was their home,” Renee said. “They were there to do athletics lessons which started at 2:45 a.m. [p.m.] every day and they were there until sometimes 7:30 in the evening. Sure, they would practice or teach the class, but afterwards they would set up equipment or order new things or bring their own personal equipment just to help improve the girls.

However, Renee said the Escalante coaches bringing the team basketballs signed by Lady Lobos and Lobos, as well as crosses made by a family in Dulce, was a particularly touching moment.

“I mean, they were even shedding tears,” Renee said. “You know we felt so loved and so honored that they felt the emotions that we felt.”

Escalante boys’ basketball head coach Isaac Royston says he worked with girls’ head coach Stanford Salazar, a parent couple and the president of the Chama Independent School Valley, Margaret Martinez, to determine how their community would honor the Torrezes and the Mesa Vista community.

“Knowing full well the tragedy that these kids went through, I can’t even imagine how the girl’s program worked,” Royston said.

Escalante Ira Harge has an idea. When he was the head coach of the boys’ basketball at Pecos from 2013-2020, the school was hit by a series of shocking deaths of current and recent graduates that deeply shook the community. He said the most important lesson he learned from these tragedies was patience.

“You have to be patient and understanding and work with this player and your other players,” Harge said. “You work with your whole team because it affects your whole team.”

Isabella and Silva said the games have been cathartic for the team as it’s a two-hour window in which they can block out the rest of the world and just focus on the sport they love. But there are times when they look down at the bench during a game and see a reminder of who they’re missing – but also who they’re playing for.

“When you see these [nameplate] plaques on the bench, you remember that,” Boies said.

The Lady Trojans remember, and they don’t forget.

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