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June 24, 2012 12:55 PM
Evangeline_Trujillo_008_(2)The Valley Memorial Tournament, to be held July 13-15 at Valley High School, benefits scholarships for high school seniors.  The tournament honors three former Valley tennis standouts, now deceased: David Long, Mike Velasquez and Heather Sanchez Wrzesinski. Evangeline Trujillo, 64, Sanchez Wrzesinski’s mother, has helped coach tennis at Valley the last three years.
Q:  How hard was it for you to come back to the Valley courts?
A:  It was very difficult. In January 2010, six months after Heather left us, I called up Juan (Martinez, the Valley girls coach). I was retired and wanted to do something with girls tennis. Juan told me to come by the next day, so I did. I remember driving up to the courts, wondering if I was doing the right thing. But Heather was watching over me, I think, happy as always. It was like she was saying, You can do it Mom!
Q:  Did you teach Heather to play?  
A:  Oh, no, all my girls, Heather, Natalie and Erica, took lessons at Columbus Park and at Los Ranchos.
Q:  Heather was twice runner-up in the state singles. She kept meeting up with Eldorado’s Amy Goff, and playing these marathon matches.
A:  Theirs was a big rivalry. I think they started competing in the 10s and found themselves in many, many finals.  In Heather’s senior year, Heather beat Amy all season and at state Heather had her 5-2 in the second set with three match points—and lost! Heather got over it, of course, but that’s one reason she went to Smith College. She wanted to compete against all new people.
Q:  How did Heather do at Smith? It’s at the top academically among women’s colleges.
A:  Heather loved Smith.  It was the only school she applied to.  When she visited, she liked the campus, the tennis coach, the idea that so many opportunities awaited women. She was captain of the tennis team and a Division III All-American. She met her husband there. Dave Wrzesinski was the assistant tennis coach.  They got married right after her graduation, in 1996.
Q:  Did she stay with tennis?
A:  Oh, tennis was her life.  She and Dave first were resident professionals at the Monte Carlo Resort, on the Strip in Las Vegas, Nev.  She played on a 5.0 team. Then they became owners and pros at the Spanish Oaks Swim and Racquet Club. Soon they had two small boys and wanted a life away from the city. They moved to Logandale, Nev., about an hour northeast. Heather taught women and worked as a sales rep for Wilson. Dave became a commercial real estate appraiser. 
Q:  She loved teaching tennis, it sounds.
A:  We would visit sometimes by Skype. I would simulate a stroke and Heather would say, Mom, don’t just slice your backhand; hit with topspin! She always wanted to coach in high school but she had two little boys and after the lymphoma came along, she never got the chance.
Q:  Was she ill a long time?
A:  She was diagnosed in June 2008.  I would visit her and she would hit with me.  She’d go out there with a picc line, similar to an IV, in her upper right arm.  She’d play me left-handed. In January 2009, she got very sick and they moved her to UCLA, to participate in clinical trials. But the cancer was eating away at her. I was by her side when she passed, on July 4, 2009. She was 35.
Q:  You have a lot of memories, don’t you?
A:  When I’m on the courts at Valley, I feel Heather is with me. I wear a butterfly pin on all my tennis caps. Heather loved butterflies. They represented something not so nice transformed into something beautiful. That’s what Heather always wanted to do in the world. She was playing a match in Phoenix when she was 13. It was the first round and Heather was up 6-0, 3-0. During the changeover, she and her opponent were having the nicest time. Suddenly Heather loses the next game and finishes 6-0, 6-1. How did you lose that one game? we asked. Heather said her opponent told her that her dad would give her $50 if she got one game off Heather. Heather smiled when she told us. She still smiles.
For information about the Valley Memorial Tournament, call 489-4733 or 264-5745.
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