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TMC's Robyn Estrada: The rest and recovery

TMC junior aims to reclaim an NCCAA championship as well as her health

Posted: September 7, 2010 10:42 p.m.
Updated: September 8, 2010 4:55 a.m.

The Master’s College junior forward Robyn Estrada looks to help her team defend its 2009 National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament title this season. But in order to do so, she must continue to overcome the many ailments that could have derailed her career along the way.

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Robyn Estrada’s biggest concern is getting back with teammates on the soccer field.

For The Master’s College’s junior forward, her teammates always come first, even while she tries to recover from a debilitating stomach virus.

“I love my team,” Estrada says. “A lot of them are my sisters and some of my best friends are on that team.”

The infection, which she discovered shortly after returning from a summer mission trip to Haiti, has already cost her valuable playing time this year.

Just four games into the 2010 season, she’s played an average of about 30 minutes per contest, well below normal for the team’s leading scorer two seasons ago.

Estrada was the second-leading scorer for the team last year despite playing half the minutes she did the previous year due to groin problems and pneumonia. Add in the fact that she contracted bronchitis her freshman year and she has yet to stay healthy through an entire season.

“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster for her,” says TMC head coach Curtis Lewis.

During the Mustangs’ most recent match against William Jessup University on Sept. 4, Estrada played part of the game, but didn’t perform like her usual self. She left the game in tears because of a mixture of stomach pain and frustration.

“If you typically do something very well and now you can’t, that’s got to be difficult,” Lewis says. “We’re just trying to keep her encouraged and keep her healthy.”

Regardless of the inconveniences, Estrada remains focused on helping her team defend its 2009 National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament championship. She says this team has developed a strong chemistry in the years she’s been there, especially since TMC lost only one player to graduation last year.

Things began to turn around for the program in 2008, Estrada’s freshman year. The Mustangs went 2-12-2 in 2007, but Lewis recruited top-notch local talents like Estrada, defender Bobbie Roberts and midfielder Andrea Reyes the next year.

“My dream was always to go play (Division) I,” Estrada recalls. “I just saw the way (Lewis) ran his program and I just really wanted to be a part of it.”

Once a standout player at Desert Christian High School in Lancaster and OJSC Barcelona Soccer Club, Estrada received interest from Division I schools like UCLA.

She liked the atmosphere and low-pressure environment offered at The Master’s College. The school made it easy for her to play her own game, continue her religious endeavors and remain close to her family living in nearby Palmdale.

“I don’t know if I would have been playing right now because I would have been burnt out,” she says.

“I didn’t want to get burned out from soccer,” she added.

The team’s new look in 2008 showed results right away, going 13-9-1 and losing in the National Tournament final. Estrada scored 11 goals and recorded 28 points that season, both team highs.

“She’s the type of person that you don’t want to take off the field because you know something special is going to happen,” Lewis says.

In 2009, the Mustangs finished what they started in 2008 and won the championship, finishing with a 15-5-2 record. Lewis said with his coaching style that emphasizes strong Christian values and relationships more than simply winning and losing, it frees up players to use their own techniques, even if they’re a bit unorthodox.

“Half the time when I’m dribbling the ball, I don’t really know where I’m going, but I go.” Estrada says. “And it works.”

It isn’t that the Mustangs aren’t competitive, Lewis explains, they just play how they want to play. For a team that hasn’t traditionally been a powerhouse at the NAIA level, TMC has to show possible recruits it has a unique approach.

“It’s kind of like the story of Boise State because you’re not necessarily a big-time school, but you start getting that recognition,” Lewis says of the changes after winning a championship.

Estrada, who is considering sitting out a few games to fully recover from her ailment, still has visions of playing her way into TMC record books. When her career is all said and done at the school, she wants to be known as a leader and a hard worker for her teammates.

“If I broke some school records, it wouldn’t mean as much to me as some of the stuff off the field,” she says.

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