Arizona soccer coach Tony Amato had one word for Jill Aguilera’s performance during the Wildcats’ 2-1 win over Utah last week.
“She’s gotten better and better and better,” Amato said. “You train players so they’re capable of having a special moment, and she had a special moment.”
Aguilera scored twice as the No. 22 Wildcats (8-2-1, 1-1-1 Pac-12) pulled off the home win. They’ll take on No. 14 USC (9-1-1, 2-1) on Thursday afternoon in Los Angeles.
The redshirt sophomore forward is playing (and scoring) more this year than ever. Aguilera has played 520 minutes already this fall. She played 788 all of last season, and scored just two goals. Last Thursday’s performance marked her first collegiate multi-goal game, when she scored her third and fourth goals of the season.
“It was crazy,” Aguilera said. “It’s kind of like a blur because as I was seeing the shot go in, I feel like everybody just lost it.”
Aguilera said her big moment was the result of hard work. She missed her entire freshman season after suffering a knee injury, and started just six matches as a redshirt freshman last season. This year, she’s started in four of the Wildcats’ 11 matches.
“After the game, Tony was telling us that all the hard work and struggle in the heat that we do in the summer pays off for these types of moments,” Aguilera said.
The Wildcats also tied Colorado 1-1 over the weekend. Although Aguilera didn’t score, she attempted six shots — more than any other player — as the UA handed the undefeated Buffaloes their third draw of the season . She said her tenacity on the field allows her to push for the ball every chance she gets.
“Being able to tie (Colorado) and get them off of their winning streak is really important for us,” Aguilera said. “We’ve always wanted to beat them and we didn’t lose.”
Aguilera, a Northern California native, found her love for soccer a little later than most.
“For most people, they start playing soccer at like age 4 — but I started when I was in fourth grade,” Aguilera said. “When I moved to Redwood City, I would play soccer with all the boys during recess and the teachers would tell my mom that I needed to sign up for a club.”
Aguilera starred at Woodside High School, and was both team captain and MVP as a senior. Leaving the Bay Area for college was difficult, Aguilera said, but her desire to continue improving drove her to Arizona.
“Making the necessary change of leaving your friends behind to make sure that you play at the level that you want is worth it for me,” Aguilera said. “I had never really thought of Arizona, but they found me.”
Route No. 1 for Aguilera after college: Turning pro. If that doesn’t work out, her other passion — real estate — is a solid backup. It’s one of the reasons Aguilera is focusing on economics and urban development while she pursues a general studies major.
“I want to do city planning with a little real estate as well,” she said. “I’ll probably use my fifth year to focus on real estate.”