Category: Sports

Sports games a no go; TAMIU athletics continue

Sports games a no go; TAMIU athletics continue

By David Gomez Jr.
Editor-in-chief
Published Monday, April 27, 2020

Dustdevils athletics ceased games and practices due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that is not stopping the department from continuing to recruit, train and be ready to play at any moment. 

With Texas A&M International University on lock down, spring sports programs such as golf, baseball and softball were cancelled for the remainder of the semester. That speed bump did not completely stop the work the Athletics Department continues to do on a daily basis.

“With the majority of our staff and coaches working from home, our coaches are spending most of their time recruiting over the phone and evaluating video of potential recruits,” Athletics Director Griz Zimmermann said in an email to The Bridge. “In addition, [they are] keeping in touch with their current players.

“Most of our administrative staff has continued their normal day-to-day workload, just working remotely … some are still in our offices on campus as essential staff.”

The pandemic, seemingly, came out of nowhere. What started as a noticeable trend in the news and social media, quickly became a full-blown pandemic in less than five months. This generated concern with the administration, faculty and student athletes.

“We are in constant contact with our student athletes,” Zimmermann said in the email. “We are fortunate that the majority of international students were able to make it home safely. Our university has done a fantastic job in keeping faculty, staff and students updated and informed with all matters pertaining to the pandemic and the University community.”

One student athlete who remained on campus expressed concern, taking all the precautions and ordinances seriously, knows the pandemic should not be taken for granted. TAMIU golfer Natchawan “Faii” Serisamran holds optimism the quarantine will come to an end.

“Everyone’s got a rough day,” Serisamran said regarding being stuck in her University Village apartment. “Today might be the worst day, but it will never be worse than this.”

Though, for how long it will continue is the answer everyone seems to be searching. As the self-quarantine continues, so will the cancellation of sports games.

“It is truly unfortunate that the baseball, softball and golf seasons were cut short,” Zimmermann said in the email. “This was exceptionally heartbreaking for our coaches and student athletes who work so hard to compete and represent our university on the field and course. We always look forward to watching the student athletes compete.”

Adding to Serisamran’s hopeful message, Zimmermann added a few words of his own in what many people keep referring to as “these difficult times.”

“We[, the staff,] would like to take this time to once again say, ‘Thank you to all medical personnel, first responders, caregivers and front-line workers for all the work they are doing during this trying time,’” he said. “[We] look forward to the day when we can all be together and celebrate Dustdevil Athletics.”

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Espinosa reflects on season

Espinosa reflects on season

By Julynne da Silva Sa
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 27, 2020

Coach Jeremy Espinosa took over coaching responsibilities for the men’s basketball team, following the absence of coach Joel Taylor. On the transition from assistant coach to calling the shots, he talks about the challenges he overcame in order to be seen differently by his players.

“The biggest challenge was changing the vibe of the team in a positive way,” Espinosa said. “At the same time not being too soft on the players. Creating that balance took time, but now it’s at a place where I can have fun with the players off the court and be strictly business once it’s time to get to work.” 

Before he started coaching, Espinosa played junior college ball in Oklahoma and finished his career at Newman University, in Wichita, Kansas. He described his coaching career as a “roller coaster,” moving through winning and losing seasons. It also took him places where those experiences helped expand his coaching knowledge.

“I have learned to take losses as opportunities to grow and be better,” he said. “I have also learned how to be a professional in winning.”

Since he took the reins, the team dynamics changed. He thinks the team adapted well and shows it through hard work as they transform efforts into wins. 

“I felt like it took the guys a little bit to get used to a different dominant voice,” Espinosa said. “In games, I see that they really want to play hard for me, which means a lot. Now we have to translate playing hard into winning games and figuring out how to win games together.”

Calvin Fugett, a junior from Denver, says Espinosa’s character helped the team build chemistry and learn how to work together. He thinks this opportunity showed the coach’s passion for the game but also his care for his players.

“Coach E is a very caring and hard-working coach,” Fugett said. “We can see that he wants the best for his players on and off the court. He’s a fun guy, and a very family oriented person.” 

He is not the only teammate with a positive opinion on Espinosa’s work. Freshman Adrian Nosa of Madrid, Spain, also feels confident about his coaching performance.

“Coach Espinosa works really, really hard and really cares about us,” Nosa said. “He always makes sure that we all feel good with whatever situation we are in. He’s definitely made me feel more comfortable playing basketball and he brings confidence to the team.”

The Dustdevils experienced a season of ups and downs. They continued working and making adjustments as the season continued on. Espinosa believes even though they won few of their games, the season was full of learning experiences for the team.

“It’s been a great year even though the scoreboard doesn’t always show [that],” he said prior to the end of the season. “I appreciate the hard work that the guys bring to the table. I plan on finishing this season strong and build some great chemistry leading into next season.”

The 2019-2020 season ended for both men’s and women’s basketball teams during the annual Senior Night event. With Taylor’s resignation from coaching at TAMIU, the spot opened up for applicants.

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Intramural all-star team faces defeat

Intramural all-star team faces defeat

By Cesar Neira
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 20, 2020

Short-handedness contributed to a two-game loss for TAMIU’s recreational men’s basketball team during the intramural all-star tournament. The annual National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association Region IV tournament took place from March 7 to 10.

The Recreational Sports Intramural Open Basketball League All-Star team from Texas A&M International University is composed of the best players from the league’s open tournament. TAMIU suffered defeats against Stephen F. Austin and Trinity universities at the all-star event.

The team already faced an uphill challenge due to its shorthanded roster of six players.

This, along with the team being composed primarily of point and shooting guards, the men did not have the highest hopes in regards to making a deep Cinderella run in the tournament.

“We were the shortest team there,” guard Javy Carranza said, following their initial blowout loss to Stephen F. Austin. “We only had one player we could substitute. Despite these challenges, we were gonna do our best to make ourselves proud.”

While the first game ended in a blowout, TAMIU fared better in its second game, against Trinity, which ended in a 54-47 loss.

“We just wanted to represent TAMIU in the best way possible,” starting point guard Nick Martinez said. “Yeah, we know it’s just a rec league, but we just wanted to let the rest of the teams know that they shouldn’t sleep on us.”

The second loss to Trinity ended the weekend for the TAMIU men. The eventual champions of the tournament were the University of Missouri.

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Division II football team debate

Division II football team debate

By Karla Juarez
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 20, 2020

Despite its identity as a popular Texan sport, TAMIU is devoid of a football program. After all, Texas is the only state with an NFL team named after the people who live in it: the Texans.

Texas A&M International University’s Athletic Department offers most of the major sports one can think of. There’s men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, there’s even a golf team and a cross country team. Nearly every semester, students wonder why TAMIU lacks a football team even though it’s often considered “America’s sport.”

While baseball continues to be called “America’s pastime,” football continues to rise in popularity for the past couple decades. According to a Wall Street Journal article, “From 2000 to 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, the number of kids aged 7 to 17 playing baseball fell 24 percent, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, an industry trade group. Despite growing concerns about the long-term effects of concussions, participation in youth tackle football has soared 21 percent over the same time span, while ice hockey jumped 38 percent. The Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association, another industry trade group, said baseball participation fell 12.7 percent for the overall population.”

“I don’t know why we don’t have a football team in this University, actually,” TAMIU history major Alan Perez said. “Can you imagine how much more publicity and students we would have if we did?

“A couple of friends of mine didn’t come to TAMIU because they didn’t have a football program here and the university they’re at right now does. A football team has, easily, 30 members. That’s 30 more tuitions coming in.”

In actuality, NCAA football teams include up to 125 players but most do not have that many. Of those 125 players, only a maximum of 85 can receive a scholarship.

Some might believe part of this is due to NCAA Div. II regulations: “Division II institutions have to sponsor at least five sports for men and five for women (or four for men and six for women).” TAMIU offers six sports for women, though: basketball, soccer, volleyball, softball, cross country and golf. Men have one less sport than women at TAMIU.

Even one member of the men’s soccer team agrees a football program could bring in more students.

“I think it’ll make Laredo and the University look more attractive and interesting,” business major Luis Diaz said, as translated from Spanish. “Which means more people will want to visit the city and attend the school.”

Another concern opponents hold in regards to adding a football program is the possible rise in tuition costs. There are precedents where tuition spikes occurred in universities and colleges after adding football to the sports roster.

“The Big Game: College Football Stealing Your Education” is a two-minute video citing that “82 percent of college football programs lose an average of $11 million per year.”

This potential tuition increase creates a reluctance to support such a program, like sophomore biology major Yadixa Teran said.

“No, I wouldn’t be OK with it,” Teran said. “We don’t need a football team at TAMIU and when you actually think about it, most of the students here are from a medium- to low-income household. So most of the students won’t be able to afford a rise in tuition.”

Diaz, however, was adamant that the program is needed for future University growth.

“Because in the end, in my opinion, it’s going to bring in more money,” he said, as translated from Spanish. “I’m OK with paying more tuition for the implementation of a football program because it’s going to improve our university by a lot.”

According to the short “The Big Game: College Football Stealing Your Education” the cause of increasing student debt is attributed to college athletic departments, more specifically, their football programs.

“Schools with strong football programs have increased tuition by as much as 65 percent,” according to Scholorships.com.

“In my honest opinion, the team would just be a waste of money,” Yadixa said. “It’s going to cost millions of dollars to just start the program, and it’ll cost much more to keep it going. They should be more focused on keeping students safe by placing cameras on campus, creating new degree programs and hiring more professors than building a new football team from scratch.”

TAMIU junior criminal justice major Alexa Mendoza said the expenses to build a football program are a lot more than most realize.

“Let’s look at what it’ll take to just start a program.,” Mendoza said. “They’re going to need the equipment. So, shoulder pads, helmets, cleats, uniforms, footballs and—oh, yeah, a stadium. Also, let’s not forget the team members and a new football coach, several actually, because it takes more than one coach to train so many members in a sport as complicated as football.

“Now, will the players be protected by an insurance plan in case they get hurt and will they also be offered scholarships? Because if they are, then where is all of this money going to be coming from? Sure, some of it can be state funded, government funded and even funded by donations, but the school, and in turn its students, are going to have to put in most of the money and that’s money the school could be using for more important things.”

Realistically, despite all the speculation, a football program might be out of TAMIU’s reach for the time being.

“A football program is not in the talks right now,” Athletics Director Griz Zimmerman said.

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National Cheer Association event canceled, converted to online media

National Cheer Association event canceled, converted to online media

By Karina Mendoza
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 13, 2020

 This would have been the final countdown before TAMIU’s cheer and dance team took off for Daytona Beach, Florida. The teams were scheduled to compete in the National Cheer Association and National Dance Association Collegiate Championship competition, which was canceled due to the coronavirus.

“They’re not getting to compete at all and all practices have been canceled, as well,” assistant coach Rose Troche said.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted from the effects of the coronavirus. As a result, numerous events across the nation became canceled, including many Texas A&M International University functions.

“In order to help prevent the spread of the virus, it was in the best interest of the company, the city of Daytona and for the health of all participating athletes, coaches and supporters to cancel the competition,” coach Anyssa Salazar said.

According to varsity.com, the event’s officials created a way to showcase these students’ cheer and dance skills, via social media.

“We understand and appreciate the hard work, time and sacrifice that teams have put into preparing for the NCA & NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship,” according to the website. “Due to the cancellation of the event, we would like to give teams the opportunity to receive special recognition.”

Varsity.com’s goal is “to highlight college teams from across the nation and give athletes the opportunity for all of their hard work to be recognized.”

The registered collegiate cheer and dance teams were able to upload videos of their skills via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and BAND from April 6 to 9.

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Dustdevils fall to Rattlers

Dustdevils fall to Rattlers
Espinoza: ‘It’s all about heart’

By Angela Carranza
Bridge Staff Writer
Published March 30, 2020

The Dustdevils men’s basketball team came up short against the Rattlers on Feb. 8, after losing 70-77 in overtime. Despite losing, the team holds optimism.

Texas A&M International University started the game on a high note against St. Mary’s University. The first half of the game was undeniably close with neither team obtaining a two-possession lead.

After the intermission, the score between both teams stayed close. Shortly after, the Dustdevils began to build points and took their first lead since the early half with the scoreboard at 43-41 and 12 minutes left in the game. Slowly, they began to build the lead to 60-53 with only 6:44 left to spare.

Matthew Balderas | TAMIU Athletics File
Tom Higgins drives the ball in this undated file photo. He scored 14 points against the Rattlers.

St. Mary’s rebuked the thought of losing, so they tied the game at 65-65 with 25 seconds to spare, causing the game to go into overtime.

In overtime the Rattlers scored 7, which placed them in the lead at 72-65. The Dustdevils refused to fall without a fight, which proved difficult because foul trouble and free throws kept them from advancing points.

St. Mary’s ultimately took the win with a final score of 77-70.

After the game, there was a sense of defeat in the TAMIU bleachers and the basketball team, but assistant coach Jeremy Espinoza looked optimistic while talking about future games and about how he felt overall about the game.

“I’m just really proud of our guys overall,” Espinoza said. “…we’re going to focus on a lot of team building, team bonding and building chemistry [between] each other. At this point of the season, X’s and O’s don’t really matter. At the end of the day, it’s all about heart, it’s all about sacrifice and it’s all about mentality.”

Since that game, TAMIU athletics announced the new coach for 2020 to 2021: Rodney “Mac” McConnell.

McConnell will bring in almost two decades of experience to the basketball program next season.

TAMIU’s scoring leaders, tied with 14 points each, included: Tom Higgins, Jorge Mejias-Sanchez and Caleb Highley.

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Golfer showcases talent on green with every swing

Golfer showcases talent on green with every swing

By Gabriella Prather
Bridge Staff Writer
Published March 30, 2020

At a young age, her life altered when a sport gravitated to her and it changed everything, Natchawan Serisamran, a TAMIU senior golfer.

Serisamran majors in psychology and minors in computer science. She is originally from Bangkok, Thailand, and decided to come to Texas A&M International University because of the hot weather Laredo has to offer, so she can play year-round golf. She was introduced to golf by her parents, who were players as well and she decided to give it a shot and play.

Since beginning, she found a coach who helped her hone her game her for 12 years. Coach Kitipong Srithongkul said he is one of the top-10 golf coaches in the country. He coached PGA players and an Asian tour. Since age 8, Serisamran played golf for 14 years; now, at 22, she says she couldn’t imagine her life without the sport.

Even when the University coach took a day off for the team, Serisamran thought otherwise.

“I felt like my day was waste[d] and I didn’t do nothing,” Serisamran said.

While golfing, she said she feels extremely comfortable yet not overconfident. She said being an athlete made her a better person and prepared her mentally and emotionally, not just for herself but also her teammates. While under pressure, she said it is always best to distract herself from her surroundings so she can focus on what happens and on the game itself.

Regarding the importance of her becoming a student athlete, she says the benefits of being on time, pushing herself hard on the green and, most importantly, working harder to maintain the grades and her GPA—because without them, she wouldn’t be where she is.

“Being a student athlete is tough,” Serisamran said. “You need to manage your time nicely ’cause you don’t have [as] much time as normal students.

“Do what your first priorities are.”

Gabriella Prather | Bridge
TAMIU golf player Natchawan Serisamran of Bangkok, Thailand, poses for a photo.

Serisamran said her favorite golf player, Jordan Alexander Spieth, inspired her to become the athlete she wants to become. Spieth, a creative player, began at a young age and reached the top at a rapid pace—eventually making a name for himself in the world of golf.

She is one of TAMIU’s youngest athletes and the thought of her playing for an entire decade might be difficult for some to comprehend yet it might inspire others to push themselves as she did.

“It’s important that golf, or whatever sport is your priority, don’t give up whatever happens,” Serisamran said. “You will be treated well and you will have your team to support you and aim for the goals that best suit you the best.”

In the 2018 UH-Victoria Fall Classic, Serisamran took 5th place with cards of 16over-160 and 3-over-75. On the Oklahoma Intercollegiate, she four-way tied for 11th place after carding a 10-over-152. She took 15th place at the Jack Brown Memorial.

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New Volleyball Coach Joins TAMIU

New volleyball coach joins TAMIU

By Itzel Luna
Bridge Staff Writer
Published March 30, 2020

After a 6-19 overall record for the 2019 volleyball season at Laredo College, Brittany Harry has been named coach of the Dustdevils. Harry comes into TAMIU with 14 years experience.

Director of Athletics Griz Zimmermann looks forward to Harry’s addition.

“I am confident that the best days of our program are ahead of us, and I believe that Harry is the right person to take us there,” Zimmermann said in an interview with TAMIU athletics.

Harry’s last five seasons at Laredo College accumulated an 84-65 record. Before that, she served as volleyball coach at Vincennes University for three seasons; her team took an 88-38 record throughout the seasons.

Harry coached four players to All-Region honors and two players to the Region XII All-Tournament team.

She also coached at Spartanburg Methodist College in Region X, in South Carolina, and led her team in back-to-back appearances in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Championships.

“We are looking forward to her bringing her success with her here to our volleyball program,” Zimmermann said in an interview with TAMIU athletics.

Despite previous seasons, Harry is optimistic for 2020.

“I’m fired up for the fall already,” Harry said.

“This is a growing and learning process.”

Courtesy | TAMIU Athletics
New TAMIU volleyball coach Brittany Harry

She said the team is getting used to coaching transition.

Within the last month of practicing with the team, Harry says she loves the energy from this group of women.

“I definitely get a good vibe from this group,” she said. The team is working hard in the gym, she adds, and feels like they really want to improve.

Despite the less-than-stellar 2019 record, Harry feels the Dustdevils crave more.

“They’re definitely not satisfied with their results, so I do feel like they’re hungry in the gym, and [they’re working on] strength and conditioning to really make enough progress,” she said.

Implementing a new tool to help players stay in shape over breaks is a factor in their 2020 progress.

She wants to provide physical, mental toughness challenges, and a nutrition log that can be completed over the summer break so players can be held to a standard to remain focused.

“Hopefully this challenge will help them stay a little bit more accountable over the summer with workouts,” she said.

Sophomore middle hitter Anna Smith said Harry’s coaching style is energetic.

“She’s here to work, and she’s ready to get things done.” Smith said. She adds that Harry pushes the team to get better. “[Coach says,] ‘Every single ball is an opportunity to be better.’”

Smith said Harry pushes them to a higher standard.

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Inside An Athletic Trainer’s Life

By Alexandra Camacho Many people know what a “coaching” position is but, few people know what an “athletic training” position really means. Sports is a big part of America, it is all over the television and schools and athletic trainers are the people behind the scenes that play a big role, most of the times unnoticed. Continue reading “Inside An Athletic Trainer’s Life”
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Laredo Lemurs: ‘Love at first sight’

By Ricardo Rangel There have been four professional sport leagues in the City of Laredo within a short span of just about 15 years. With in these years all but two out of the five original attempts of professional sports are still active today. The Laredo Bucks was an ice hockey sport team under the Berry Conference, The Laredo Rattlesnakes was a football team under the Lone Star Football League, and the Laredo Heat was a soccer club under the Premier Development League all of which shut down as professional sports in Laredo because of acclaimed low attendance turn outs which eventually leads to profit loss. Currently, there are two teams active today the Laredo Swarm a professional basketball league and the Laredo Lemurs, a professional baseball team. Continue reading “Laredo Lemurs: ‘Love at first sight’”
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