By Ray Hamill — A change of scenery has proven to be beneficial for one former St. Bernard’s star, both on and off the field of play.
It’s certainly been different for Esmeralda Torres, who moved 2,200 miles across the country to play soccer at Concordia University in Illinois, swapping the isolation of the North Coast to live within a stone’s throw of the Windy City.
But Torres seems to be embracing every minute of it.
And it’s not the only recent change the 2017 SB grad is liking these days.
With a new coach calling the shots for the team, Torres was moved from defender to forward for her sophomore season and was an instant success in the new role.
“I had never played forward in my life,” she said. “I had played every position but forward. At St. Bernard’s I was always sweeper or defensive center mid.”
In the former Crusader’s own words, however, the move “worked out really well.”
She played in all 19 of the NCAA Division-III Cougars’ games, starting in 16, and her minutes went from around 200 as a freshman to more than 1,000 as a sophomore.
She also led the team in points, and was second in goals with four.
“I didn’t play much my freshman year,” said Torres, who had to endure a coaching change midway through that season. “I felt like I wasn’t being coached to my strength. But the new coach Shayni Paul came in in January and she told me ‘I’m going to try you in a forward role.’”
One of the highlights of the season for the former Crusader was scoring the winning goal against regionally-ranked Illinois Tech.
The Cougars finished the season 6-13, including a 6-5 mark in conference.
Life in the big city
Torres has also embraced her new life off the field and appears to have settled in well to her new environment, just 15 minutes from Chicago.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s different being a Humboldt kid. A lot of Humboldt kids are scared of the big city, but I’ve met so many great people.”
And while she admits she misses home and many things in Humboldt County, she says “Chicago is like no other place I’ve seen.”
This summer she will stay in the area to do an internship at Northwestern Mutual, on the way to majoring in Business Administration, with a minor in Sports and Fitness.
As for how a move all the way to Illinois came about, Torres says Humboldt State head coach Paul Karver played a big part in it.
“He helped me with the process,” she said of her former AC Samoa coach, who has helped many local players move on to the collegiate level.
“I knew I wanted to play at the next level, and I was looking at a lot of places, mostly D-III and a couple of D-II schools on the west coast, and Concordia was the only midwest school I looked at.”
Torres got in contact with the Concordia coaches, who were immediately interested, and she flew out for a visit in October of her senior year, instantly taking to the program.
“The coach was super welcoming,” she said.
In addition to playing for the Cougars, Torres also has taken on a coaching role at a local all-girls high school, Trinity High.
Now in her second year with the program, it’s another aspect of her new life that she has embraced.
“The opportunity to share my love, enthusiasm and knowledge for the game is something I look forward to every day,” she said.
She began coaching while still in Humboldt.
“It all started for me coaching at AC Samoa with Nick Parker, and at Humboldt Soccer Academy with Andy O’Brien where I would teach academy classes and sometimes travel to tournaments as an assistant coach,” she said.
And it’s something the former Crusader is hoping to continue after graduation, at either the high school or college level.
“My plan is to hopefully find a graduate assistant position for a soccer team at a university, men’s or women’s, hopefully near Chicago, and get my masters in athletic administration,” Torres said.
The three-time North Coast Scholar Athlete is also a member of the leadership council on her team, as voted on by her teammates.
Torres played four years of soccer at St. Bernard’s and competed for three seasons in track and field.
She is also vice president of the Concordia University Student Business Club.