The security of being surrounded by her freshman sister, Nicole, and an extended family of teammates and coaches. And the haven of knowing that whether or not she scored a goal, or whether the Knights won or lost, Tammy Estrada would be on the sidelines offering her support. “My mom was definitely a people person,” Estrada said. “I always remember her being around and making people laugh. She could talk about anything.” After being sidelined for more than three weeks with a fractured bone in her left foot, Estrada returned to the field Feb. 24, 2006, for Desert Christian’s Southern Section Div. VI quarterfinal game against Western Christian of Covina. Unfortunately for the Knights, Estrada’s presence wasn’t enough to produce a victory. Sadly, Tammy wasn’t there to console her daughter. After battling biliary cancer in her stomach and liver for more than three years, twice making trips to Mexico for specialized medical treatments, Tammy began to slip in and out of consciousness the morning of Desert Christian’s playoff game. Robyn Estrada has always found sanctuary being on the soccer field. The comfort level that comes from playing with her best friend Jaide Garcia on the Desert Christian of Lancaster girls’ soccer team. Robyn stayed with her mom as long as she could before leaving for the Lancaster National Soccer Complex, but she wasn’t optimistic. The cancer had metastasized to the point where her kidneys were failing and her bile ducts were clogging. Tammy eventually slipped into a coma and died the next day, the day before Robyn’s 16th birthday. “She was diagnosed in 2002 and they gave her six months, but we didn’t know that at the time,” Robyn said. “She was in remission for awhile, but then the cancer came back. We were praying and hoping because it happened before and she came out of it, but it was just too much for her to overcome.” The outpouring of support for Robyn, her father, Saul, and her four siblings was incredible. “At my mom’s funeral, I felt so honored,” Robyn said. “Seeing all the people that loved her was really inspiring.” But inspiration alone wasn’t enough to help Robyn cope with the loss of her mom. “She didn’t bounce back right away,” Desert Christian coach Deann Lewis said. “She didn’t care for a time and she was so far behind in school. It was a really tough thing for her to deal with. It showed Robby’s maturity in that she surrounded herself with people that would push her even in a time of weakness.” Soccer became less of a priority for Estrada, almost to the point where she decided to give up the sport for good. “It made me realize there are bigger, important things in life,” she said. “I love the game of soccer, but it made me realize soccer isn’t everything.” Thanks to Garcia, that scenario never materialized. Aside from being teammates, the two juniors have taken turns providing comfort and stability for one another during periods of tremendous grief. “My grandfather died the day after my birthday and Robyn’s mom died the day before her birthday, so we have that bond,” Garcia said. “I’ve been there for her and she’s done the same for me. When she cries, I’m not going to cry because I have to be strong. “It’s a big deal for one of us to show emotion, so I consider it an honor if she cries in front of me.” With the assistance of Garcia and youth pastor Chris Harrell, Estrada was able to channel those emotions into her faith. “(Chris) took me through the process,” Estrada said. “It’s still in the process now because (it’s been) a year, but I’m a lot stronger now. I definitely would’ve never got through it without God. He’s real to me.” Although Estrada spent time training with the Orange Junior Soccer Club’s under-17 premier team, her new passion became playing guitar and piano with her worship team at First Assembly of God in Lancaster. “She took all of her emotion and all of her sorrow and she put it into God. She put her life in his hands,” Garcia said. “This is the biggest God project I’ve ever witnessed and it’s still ongoing. All she wants to do is use her experience and her testimony to help people.” In addition to working with younger kids at her church, Estrada also took on a maternal role at home, watching over Nicole and seventh-grade sister, Lauren, while her dad ran his own pool company. “Her mom was super loyal to her family and friends, and that’s why her dad sees her as a rock to the family,” Lewis said. “He sees (Robyn) and how consistent she is.” As a result, Estrada has grown on and off the field. “Eventually she settled (her mom’s death) in her heart,” Lewis said. “She’s trusted the Lord and has not allowed this to change her life in a negative way. She now knows she can be a blessing to other people in similar situations.” Estrada’s return to the field has also improved the fortunes of Desert Christian (23-1-2), which is competing in its first Div. VI title game since 2003. The striker, selected High Desert League MVP, leads the Southern Section with 40 goals entering Saturday’s final against Ontario Christian (20-6-4) at 6p.m. at Downey High. “If I had given it up, I would have regretted it,” Estrada said. “I play for God because he has given me so much.” Estrada’s faith helped her remain strong on the anniversary of her mom’s death, a day that included a trip to Joshua Memorial Park Mortuary in Lancaster to visit Tammy’s grave site. “The only thing I was thinking was `I’m so proud of her,”‘ Garcia said. “I expect so much of her because I know what she’s capable of. But she’s amazing in more ways than I thought. She wants to be the best she can through God and she wants to honor her mom.” Regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s title game, Estrada will again find sanctuary on the soccer field, knowing that her mom will have the best seat in the house. “I think about her every single day,” she said. “I know my mom is watching me and I want to go out and play for her and for Christ. To have this opportunity makes me very proud.” [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!