Monte del Sol girls coach pulls triple duty

·6 min read

Jan. 21—In the span of one phone call, Ray Roybal went from wearing one hat to three.

Normally, Roybal is the head girls basketball coach for Monte del Sol, but he learned Tuesday morning he not only was going to coach the girls team for that night's District 2-2A opener at Albuquerque Menaul, but also the boys' junior varsity and varsity squads. Dragons boys varsity head coach Ralph Casaus and junior varsity coach Brandon Peterson were in quarantine because they had close contact with relatives who contracted COVID-19.

Peterson, who also is the school's athletic director, asked Roybal if he wanted to fill in for them or he could postpone the games for a later date. Roybal, who does not have an assistant, never hesitated in his answer.

"I was like, 'Let's do it. Let's get it over with,' " Roybal said with a chuckle.

So, Roybal coached 96 minutes of basketball over a five-hour stretch that night, going 0-for-3 as Menaul swept every game.

It wasn't the end of Roybal's good Samaritan act. He also coordinated all three teams' practices Wednesday and was prepared to coach Monte del Sol's boys/girls varsity doubleheader against Santa Fe Waldorf on Thursday before Casaus was cleared to resume his coaching duties after consecutive negative tests cleared him.

Roybal said he wanted to walk away with at least one win against Menaul, especially for the boys, but the most important part was just giving the teams a chance to play.

The boys team already had to pull out of last week's Lion Classic at Santa Rosa because a couple of players sat out after contracting the coronavirus, and losing another game meant the team might not play for a 10-day period. Roybal said the girls team lost a couple of games because of illness, as well, and two starters are still sitting out as they slowly work their way back into shape after their recent bout with COVID-19.

"All I was trying to do was the best I can do," Roybal said. "I wanted to try and get the boys a 'W' and keep my head involved in all three games."

Casaus said he and Peterson both learned of their situations Monday afternoon, but it didn't affect any practice plans because it was an off-day because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He left his home in Pecos to quarantine with his daughter who lives in Santa Fe while his wife stayed at home after she tested positive for COVID-19.

"My wife had been sick, but we never thought it was anything like COVID," Casaus said. "She had been tested by the public schools because she works there, then all of a sudden, she tests positive."

Meanwhile, some of the boys players thought they might not have a game at all. Monte del Sol senior Kevin Enriquez said he was preparing for an even worse scenario than a postponed game.

"Because he was exposed, I thought he was going to get us all exposed," Enriquez said.

That didn't happen. Casaus said he had worked on a game plan for the Panthers last week, so the Dragons knew what he wanted. He and Peterson chatted with Roybal on Tuesday about what their teams worked to get him up to speed. The challenge for Roybal was to balance the demands of coaching all three teams, even though he wasn't as familiar with the boys teams, along with his girls.

He said Peterson and Casaus gave him the starting lineups for both teams, as well as the rosters to avoid any issues with the scorebook. The absence of any player in it would have led to a technical foul once it was discovered.

Roybal made his pre- and post-game talks with each team short so that he could devote his attention to each squad. But Roybal added he gave the boys teams a longer leash, since they knew the game plan better than he did. He called a couple of timeouts and set up a couple of plays the Dragons executed, but he merely offered advice.

"Since I didn't know them as well, I kinda let them run their thing," Roybal said.

In the varsity boys game, Roybal said he leaned on the starters a little more than maybe he should have, but he didn't know the roster as well as Casaus. They were exhausted after playing an intense first half that saw the Panthers take a 41-22 halftime lead thanks to their size. Menaul ended up winning 71-45, while the girls team lost 57-19.

Roybal said at one point, he inserted a player who normally didn't see much playing time in the fourth quarter, and his eyes lit up when Roybal motioned for him to go into the game.

He hit a 3-pointer and celebrated for a moment before getting back on defense.

"In an inadvertent kind of way, I gave him a memory," Roybal said.

The energy it took for Roybal to stay engaged for all three games was draining, and he said he was exhausted by the end of the night.

"My wife asked me if I wanted any dinner, and I was like, 'No, I just wanna go to bed,' " Roybal said.

But Roybal's work didn't end there. He also handled all three practices Wednesday, as he went from one court to the other at Santa Fe Community College coordinating with each team. He said it made it difficult to really focus his time and energy on one team, but it was important to get ready for the doubleheaders against Waldorf, especially since they had been rescheduled from December when Monte del Sol dealt with a shortage of players because of positive cases.

However, he and the Dragons breathed a sigh of relief when Casaus walked into the gym Thursday afternoon. Casaus said he was itching to get back to the sidelines after spending much of the previous two days watching TV, especially the Golf Channel.

"My wife and I were talking and she was like, 'Try to relax,' " Casaus said. "But it's hard to relax when you know you should be there, but you can't."

Casaus and Roybal could breathe a little easier Thursday, and not just because the Dragons and Lady Dragons won, respectively. Roybal said it felt like a cloud was lifted over him with Casaus' return, adding he could get back to coaching and teaching a young, inexperienced Lady Dragons team.

There was plenty of opportunities for that in a 40-12 win.

"I tried to make sure to give all the girls that have not gotten as much playing time in the game but still coach them at the same time," Roybal said. "I don't want them thinking they can just go off and do whatever they want, because that doesn't work."