On Sunday, the Arkansas-Pine Bluff women’s soccer team played its final home game on senior defender Kristy Martinez’s 22nd birthday.
And even though UAPB lost the game, 1-0, to Jackson State, Martinez went home a winner thanks to an engagement ring on her left hand courtesy of now fiancé Scott Denny.
“I got called to centerfield by the announcer,” Martinez, 22, said Monday. “I had actually forgot it was my birthday until the team started singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me.
“I started to walk away, but the announcer stopped me and said my boyfriend had something to tell me. I come over and he has a ring in his hand. He proposes to me and I said, ‘Yes.’”
According to the couple, both families, some close friends, Martinez’s teammates and UAPB’s soccer coaches knew about Denny’s plan.
Besides the traditional asking-Martinez’s-father-for-his-daughter’s-hand-in-marriage talk Denny had, there was one other man whose permission he sought … UAPB head coach Rohan Naraine.
“I came by his office Thursday on Halloween, actually,” Denny said. “I talked to him about it and he was on board.”
Both Martinez and Denny hail from the St. Louis area and, according to Martinez, have been dating for four years and four months.
Denny, 22, said he had been planning the proposal for about a year, even if he had to change his plans a little bit.
“The original plan was to do it Friday for her Senior Night game,” Denny said. “But I wanted to wait until both our parents could be there.
“I decided to wait until her birthday on Sunday so my parents could be there, as well.”
The halftime proposal was far from the only dramatic scene Martinez and the Lady Lions were a part of on Sunday.
The Lady Lions (2-15-3, 0-2-2 SWAC West) needed Grambling State to lose its final game to Southern to reach the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament.
“After the game, like right after the final whistle blew, everyone was looking at their phones,” Martinez said. “Because we lost, our fate rested entirely on how (Grambling) played.”
When the players saw the Southern-Grambling score on the SWAC scoreboard, they knew they would not be going to the SWAC tournament.
“Everyone was very, very upset,” Martinez said. “It was hard for me to cry, because I was still excited since I had just gotten proposed to.
“But it was still tough, because this is my senior year and the last game I’m ever going to play on this field. It was very emotional.”
Those emotions changed with the ringing of Naraine’s cell phone. On the other end was UAPB athletics director Lonza Hardy letting Naraine know he had received a call from Grambling’s AD congratulating them on reaching the SWAC tournament.
As it turns out, Grambling had lost to Southern 2-0. The SWAC website posted the score incorrectly.
“It was pandemonium,” Naraine said of how his team reacted. “It was like we had just won the conference tournament.
“We were really depressed, because we had worked so hard and now we can’t go. We were just heartbroken. It makes you realize how lucky you are.”
UAPB will begin tournament play with a first round game against the Eastern Division’s No. 1 seed, Alabama State, at 3 p.m. Thursday at Houston Amateur Sports Park.
After having new life breathed into their season, there’s no telling how the Lady Lions will do in the single-elimination tournament. One thing is certain, though, Martinez will cherish the moment.
“It was so amazing, because we’d been given another chance,” she said of getting to play in the SWAC tournament. “… It’s true what they say, ‘Everything happens for a reason.’”