Leandra Loftis never hoisted a championship trophy over her head while playing soccer or basketball for the Harvest Christian Academy Eagles, but what she did lift was far more valuable and brought her great pride. Throughout her high school career, she improved the lives of those around her, and made her teams and teammates better.
“Even for the new players, the freshmen, everybody would try to get to know them to give them advice, and I knew that it would be a really great season,” said Leandra Loftis, sharing her thoughts on the 2020 soccer season before it had been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Leandra Loftis’ eagerness to help extended beyond the pitch and spilled over onto the basketball court, and in her relationships.
Harvest's basketball team, the upstart Eagles, were loaded with freshmen and often didn’t see eye to eye. Leandra Loftis, one of three seniors, was tasked as team captain and asked to turn a bunch of individually talented players into a cohesive unit. Even though she had only started to learn to play the sport in her junior year, and she wasn’t as talented as some of the younger players, her natural leadership abilities turned what could have been a long, unproductive season into a successful campaign.
“She brought leadership skills,” said Holly Novak, Harvest girls basketball head coach. … “They had a tendency of not getting along, and Leandra helped pull them together and kept them in check.
“Some of them had more experience than she did, and some of them were more talented than she was, but she had the personality where she could rein them in and keep them on the same page, and we ended up doing well.”
No matter the challenge, whatever the situation, Leandra Loftis always stepped up, led by example and offered sage advice. And, it wasn’t just coaches who leaned on Leandra Loftis. Her friends, whenever they needed help or were feeling down, shared their troubles and benefited from her counsel.
She was a great listener, never passed judgement, and felt pride that her friends trusted her to help them deal with problems.
“My friends would have miniproblems, and they would always come to me to help them and they really said that they appreciated me with my advice, and said that I am a good listener,” Leandra Loftis said. “I like helping people with any problems they have. I’m there to help them, no matter what, in any situation."
For Leandra Loftis, her knack for helping people isn’t just a small footnote, to be filed away in the recesses of her mind, its impact is more profound and helped shape her decision in choosing a college major.
"I want to become a clinical psychologist," said Leandra Loftis, adding that she had originally wanted to become a zoologist but had changed her mind.
“There are just so many different things that you can learn through psychology, and how to help people,” she said.
While there are many words that can be used to define Leandra Loftis’ high-caliber student-athlete career, adaptability and resiliency best describe her experience. On the girls soccer team, after playing two years at the wing position, head coach Jeremy Wendal decided he needed her in the backfield. The Eagles were forward-heavy, and needed players with experience to help defend their goal.
“I was kind of scared because I wasn’t used to that position,” she said, adding that having teammate Sabrina Kenney in the backfield helped smooth the transition.
Sabrina Kenney “was the one who helped me through my troubles,” Leandra Loftis said.
“It was very, very comforting that she was there because, if I had any questions, she was there, she would guide me on the field.”
In 2019, Kenney graduated and signed to play soccer for the Gordon College Flying Scots, an NCAA Division III school competing in the Commonwealth Coast Conference in Wenham, Massachusetts.
For Leandra Loftis, the 2020 season was her opportunity to test what Kenney had taught her.
“When she graduated, I felt relief because she taught me what I needed to know to be on my own.”
As a freshman, Leandra Loftis admired Kenney, looked up to her, and was inspired by her presence on the pitch.
In Kenney’s final year at Harvest, on Senior Night, the Eagles and the George Washington High School Geckos were deadlocked in a 79-minute stalemate.
“All of a sudden, Sabrina Kenney took the ball from the defense and went all the way up by herself, passing all the other opponents and scoring the goal,” said Leandra Loftis, selflessly recalling her favorite moment in athletics. “She didn’t have help from anyone. Then, she fell, and a lot of people started crying because that goal made us win. …
“That moment really impacted me. She showed leadership. She showed no fear in that moment. She knew what she was doing. She was very confident in what she was doing, and she was a role model to me.”
Hoping for a Kenney moment of her own, Leandra Loftis was ready to compete and had been looking forward to making new memories, and new friends.
“I knew we would have a fun season, no matter what, because we all knew each other," she said.
Leandra Loftis said that she was honored to have played for Jeremy Wendal and his wife, Katie Wendal, who was the team’s assistant coach. They taught her the importance of teamwork and instilled a love for soccer that she hopes will stick with her for the rest of her life.
“In a game, there were times when one person would want to shoot and not pass around and that’s when we would lose,” Leandra Loftis recalled. "He really taught me the basics and fundamentals of what a team needs to do. …
“He didn’t neglect anyone.”
Before the pandemic hit Guam and Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero declared a public health emergency, Leandra Loftis had been accepted at Hawaii Pacific University and she was excited to leave for college. Because of the coronavirus, her parents, Jerry and Bernice Loftis, insisted that she should stay on island and enroll at the University of Guam.
"I was sad that I had to defer from my term,” she said.
But, never one to let depression settle in for too long, Leandra Loftis sees the situation as an opportunity to continue her playing career.
"I really want to keep soccer close to me in my life because soccer gave me joy," she said.
“It gave me a feeling of excitement, and I was never tired of it," she added. "I would always be up for it, no matter what.”
As much as she wanted to leave the island, her older brothers, Greg Loftis and Chris Loftis, probably, wanted her to leave even more. Leandra Loftis, the youngest of three children, was spoiled by her parents and received gifts and special treatment that the boys never knew.
“I was spoiled, and I am still spoiled, and my brothers do not like it,” Leandra Loftis said. ...
“And, yeah, they didn’t like it at all. Of course, I loved it.
"When I was 16, I did get a car and they didn’t get a car until they were older. The things that my parents buy me, they didn’t give it to them," she said, adding that she also had a later curfew.
"Even my friends would call me spoiled," she joked.
After a sterile, socially distanced unceremonious graduation ceremony, one that did not include a send-off handshake, but a turn of a tassel, Leandra Loftis has a lot to look forward to. Even though she was robbed of her senior year of competition and a formal graduation, and her off-island college experience was placed on hold, she is rolling with the pandemic and is counting her blessings.
“Of course, at the end, it was very devastating,” she said. “I was very sad that I couldn’t do my soccer because this was my last year. … I was also looking forward to graduation and going to college, but that’s just how life is.
“There are unexpected obstacles, and you just have to go through them. But, all I know is that, everything will be fine and the senior class of 2020 will be remembered.”
It’s over and done with, she said.
"All you can do is push forward," she added. "It’s very sad, but I’m OK right now. I’m grateful that I’m healthy and everything like that. There are more important things to be grateful for."