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Jaguars help lift teammate after loss

By Victoria Advocate
Sept. 3, 2012 at 4:03 a.m.

UHV midfielder Juan Ibarra shoots during the Jaguars' 3-1 win over St. Gregory's University The Cage on Saturday.

It's unlikely Adrian Mendoza has met Miguel Massa. But that didn't stop the sophomore striker from dedicating his first goal of the season to him.

Massa, the grandfather of University of Houston-Victoria defender Martin Bautista, died late last week in a surprise to his family.

Mendoza's move was yet another tribute to honor a man, and stand in solidarity with a teammate.

"It was hard losing someone that's so close to you," Bautista said. "But I got to see him two months ago. It caught all of us by surprise because he was fine. I'm really glad that all my teammates stepped up."

Bautista was not with the Jaguars in their 2-0 victory over Schreiner University on Friday, but he was with the squad Saturday when UHV shut out St. Gregory's 3-0. He said the weekend wins were special, especially since Mendoza was wearing the black armband he wore in practice earlier in the week to remember Massa when he scored in the 66th minute Friday afternoon.

"I'm glad we won this game for him," said UHV freshman Hector Ramirez about Massa, following a game where he contributed his first assist in UHV colors. "Hopefully, he's in a better place and he's in all our prayers."

Bautista has been with the Jaguars soccer program since its inaugural season. Though he's only made three appearances in that time, he's become a respected member of the team. Head coach Adrian Rigby said someone else asked whether they could wear the armbands in remembrance of Massa, not Bautista.

"I got a text from one of the players asking if they could wear the armbands today," Rigby said Saturday. "That shows how much these kids care about each other."

Captain Israel Nava said Massa's death is difficult for the entire team because they consider Bautista a brother.

"It's hard right now. We're trying to give him support," Nava said. "He knows he can count on us."

Since Bautista enrolled at UHV in 2010 he's frequently been the one providing support to teammates on and off the field. He said he wasn't a captain when he played at Alief Taylor outside of Houston, but in his three years at UHV he's taken on a leadership role.

"A lot of them look up to me, even though I don't play much," Bautista said about his teammates. "They ask me a whole bunch of questions. . I'm cool with everyone. I try to be out there, I try to be with them most of the time."

Though he is Uruguayan, Bautista didn't start playing soccer until he was 14.

Basketball, tennis and swimming interested the man who claims the capital Montevideo as his hometown. Houston might be 5,100 miles away from Montevideo, but Bautista saw his abuelo at least once a year.

Massa didn't play soccer. He was a boxer. However, a lot of people in Martin's family did play Uruguay's national sport, including his father, who introduced him to soccer.

"I had ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), so instead of taking meds they told me to get into sports," Bautista said with a smile. "Pretty much every single sport I played, I was pretty good at. And then I ended up with soccer. It wasn't my strongest sport.but I ended up playing soccer."

He wound up playing soccer, because that's what most Uruguayans do. The South American country may have fewer residents than metropolitan Houston, but it has an extensive soccer history.

Long before the current Spanish national team was lauded for winning the continental and world championships, Uruguay won consecutive Olympic titles in 1924 and 1928, the 1929 South American Championship and the first World Cup in 1930. More recently, the La Celeste won the 2011 Copa America and finished fourth at the last World Cup.

Bautistia joked there is a simple reason Uruguayans are so successful at soccer: "everyone plays it."

As he and his family continue though the bereavement period, his teammates and coach hope the same sport that everyone plays in Uruguay can provide solace.

"These kids have committed to our school to come get their education and play soccer," Rigby said. "It's not a huge school. There are no fraternities. It's a small school and they care about each other. They see each other every day, they train every day (and) they see each other in class every day. They get along, they argue. like a typical family does."

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