Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal Staff
Daily Journal Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year Jillienne Aguilera was a big addition to Woodside’s Central Coast Section squad. The freshman scored 23 goals in 24 games in 2013-14.
As a freshman last season, Woodside striker Jillienne Aguilera wasn’t sure she wanted to play at the varsity level her first year.
Coach Jose Navarrete and the Wildcats are glad she did.
In her first varsity soccer game against perennial Central Coast Section power Los Altos, Aguilera recorded a hat trick. That’s when Navarrete knew he had something special.
“She just exploded from the very first game,” Navarrete said. “I didn’t start her against Los Altos. She came off the bench and scored three goals in 20 minutes.”
And Aguilera hasn’t stopped. After finding the back of the net 15 times last season in helping lead the Wildcats to their first CCS title since 1977, the sophomore took her game to another level this season, scoring 23 goals in 24 games, and adding six assists, as she helped her team to a second straight Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division title and a spot in the CCS championship game for the second year in a row.
She was held without a goal in just three games and recorded at least one point (a goal or an assist) in 23 of 24 games. The only game she was held without a point was in the Wildcats’ 2-0 loss to Mitty in the CCS Division title game.
There may have been other players who scored more goals and accumulated more points but, given the rugged nature of the Wildcats’ schedule, it can be argued that no one scored more important goals than Aguilera.
It’s for that reason she is the Daily Journal’s Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year.
“I was pretty satisfied with what I accomplished. But like any player, I feel like I could have done more,” Aguilera said. “I felt pressure (this season) because there were [news stories] that said I was going to be one of the top goal scorers. But I felt like it made me play better and gave me a goal to accomplish.”
Navarrete credits Aguilera’s tenacity, speed and nose for the goal for turning her into a force to be reckoned with, not only in the PAL but in CCS.
“You have to, as a coach, really appreciate what she can do. I’ve never coached a kid who has that kind of tenacity,” Navarrete said. “She just has a willingness to just compete and just wants to do better and better and better. The best thing about it is, she’s only a sophomore.”
The one aspect of Aguilera’s game that makes her such a dangerous player is her speed. At 5-11, she has long strides that can gobble up real estate in a hurry. No ball is ever seemingly out of reach. The Woodside defense has the luxury of just sending long balls out of the back and let Aguilera chase them down.
Fifty-50 balls suddenly become 70-30 balls to Aguilera’s advantage when she goes after them and the pressure she can put on defenses can rattle even the most veteran defender.
“From what I remember, people always told me I was fast. … It makes me play better. With my speed, I can get the ball from a defender and score or dribble up the line and beat a defender,” Aguilera said. “Sometimes [my teammates] underestimate how fast I can be. … Sometimes I tell them it’s easier for me to chase the ball instead of having to fight for it. .. Whatever they give me, I try my hardest to get there.”
Navarrete said Aguilera’s speed takes some of the focus off her shot, which he said is one of the best he’s ever seen.
“What people don’t realize is that she doesn’t just have world-class speed,” Navarrete said. “She has an unbelievable strike at goal. She has a professional strike. She runs away from the competition so she rarely has to [display her striking ability].”
Despite Aguilera’s goal-scoring prowess, she’s definitely helped by a team that can score goals in bunches. A pair of freshmen — Isabella Bescara and Alex Augulis — scored 14 and six goals, respectively, while junior midfielder Lauren Holland added six goals and a team-leading 13 assists.
“It made me feel better that I didn’t have to score every single game,” Aguilera said. “It made me feel even more part of the team.”
As the Wildcats lose four starters to graduation next season, Aguilera will most likely become one of the main leaders on the team. Navarrete believes she will naturally grow into the role and believes the sky is the limit for Aguilera.
“As a freshman, I said, ‘This kid is really confident,’” Navarrete said. “This year, she just took off out of the gate and never stopped. She’s matured so much. … Now, she wants to get on the field and dominate and (has the attitude of), ‘I want to be the show.’
“In order to play this game, you have to have confidence that borders on cocky. She’s not cocky, but she is very confident.”
And despite Aguilera’s ability to make defenses game-plan specifically for her, she goes into every game feeling she has to prove herself all over again.
“I take it game by game,” Aguilera said. “Before every single game, we’d always [ask] which is the most important game? It was the next one. … My goal, every game, I tell myself I want to score one goal, or make one really good pass, or make an assist.”
Aguilera does that more often than not.