Union Latina soccer players honor slain teammate Sunday

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Union Latina coach Marco Grigorio and Zully Valle place a memorial poster of Mirian Yohana Garcia Mancilla on a fence before Sunday's soccer game.

A simple thought adorned a poster of Mirian Yohana Garcia Mansilla as it hung from a fence at Mattituck’s Strawberry Fields on Sunday.

Siempre te recordaremos Yohana, it read. We will always remember you, Yohana.

On the one hand, it was just another soccer game for Union Latina, the team for which Yohana played during the past year. On the other hand, everything had changed. Only six days had passed since Ms. Garcia’s body was found behind the Riverhead DMV, her killer still at large.

Not only did her teammates and their supporters don black ribbons in memory of their friend, but many opponents on Mattituck’s La Tienda team also wore the ribbons.

“It’s not like we’re enemies,” said Irene Pleitez, a friend of Yohana’s who plays for La Tiendra. “It’s a friendly game.”

Her words came only minutes after La Tiendra bowed to Union Latina by a score of 2-1 under sunny skies. The warm summer-like breeze defied the horror of what had happened just a week earlier.

And while the players on both teams tried to bring some levity to the game, they admitted they were playing with heavy hearts.

“She was good; she always gave everything,” coach Marco Grigorio said of Ms. Garcia. She played every game as though it were a final championship match, he said.

A moment of silence on the field was also observed in her memory.

As is their habit at the regular Sunday afternoon games, the winners took a victory lap around the field.

After, they arranged to have a team picture taken as they hoisted the poster of their fallen teammate.

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JULIE LANE PHOTO | Union Latina coaches, players and their relatives hold a photo of their slain friend after Sunday's soccer game in Mattituck.