The Daily Wildcat recently spoke to Arizona women's soccer team's senior forward Jill Aguillera in an interview via Zoom. Aguillera enjoyed a breakout year as a junior as she registered a career-high nine goals and 24 shots on goal which led the team. That momentum from last season has already carried over into 2021 as she has scored three goals and one assist in the Wildcats’ first two games.
Daily Wildcat: At an early age, what drew you to the sport of soccer?
Jill Aguilera: A lot of the kids at my school would play at lunch because I grew up in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood. Soccer was everything and I kind of just joined in at lunch, and then my teachers told my mom that I should get involved in a team.
DW: Who was your first coach and did they have an influence on your development?
JA: My first club coach, her name is Martha. A lot of us grew up in the same area and some in different parts of the city. She saw me because I was fast and that was what she wanted to develop the most because I was already fast and that was a little different for girls my age. That definitely helped me with being able to retrieve long balls because that was something that we did a lot. She helped me a lot working on my opposite foot. Being left foot is very unique. We spent every summer even training where I wasn’t allowed to shoot with my left foot, and I would train a lot with my right. That way I was good with both and that would be important for the future. It’s definitely something she helped me with a lot.
DW: What made you choose Arizona over other schools?
JA: It was definitely when I came on my unofficial visit. It was just a good vibe and I liked how the school was really big into sports. It was also a pretty close campus. It’s a good community, you can fit so many students but everything you need is right here. It’s not spread out very far. You can get across campus in a 15-minute walk. What Tony [Amato] and the other coaches are doing to build a program that is able to compete and beat some of the top teams in the nation when we weren’t the best eight years ago. I think being able to affect change in a positive way to make Arizona standout is definitely what got me.
DW: Who was the professional soccer player that you grew up idolizing?
JA: I was a big fan of Abby Wambach specifically. She’s always been an amazing forward and broke so many records. On the male European side, one of my favorite players is Marcelo [Vieira da Silva Junior]. He’s not a forward, he’s a left-back. But he scores a lot of goals and gets forward a lot. He helps assist and does so much for Real [Madrid]. I feel like, him specifically, he’s just a really good player overall.
DW: Did you perhaps take a part of their game and implement it to your skillset?
JA: For Abby Wambach, getting better at heading off of crosses because she’s amazing at that. Something I wanted to work on and get better at because I was decent at heading the ball: definitely learning to get power behind it to actually be able to score the goals and focusing on placement. That’s definitely something that after I saw her do that so many times that maybe this would help me stand out even more as a player.
DW: At what particular moment in your life did you realize that you were going to take soccer seriously?
JA: I was in middle school playing for a specific club in the Bay area. I started guest-playing for another team. I was playing three leagues at that time because I wanted to play as much as I could. Two of the leagues were with my regular team and one league was with a separate club team. That coach decided that he wanted to make up a whole new team made up of girls who specifically wanted to play soccer in college. My freshman year was when the team was created, and I joined. That’s when the rest kind of took off where we’re focusing on specific things to help us stand out as players for colleges; email colleges, at that time, the rules were a little more flexible. I started talking to them and committed in my sophomore year of high school.
DW: I noticed you were claimed by the Chicago Red Stars just last week. What is the whole process like being claimed by a professional team while still playing for Arizona this season?
JA: I don’t know if it’s different. I try not to think of it that way because I’m still playing for Arizona. I’ll be here in the spring and the fall. Chicago is an amazing opportunity and I’m so grateful, but I’m not going to treat myself or anybody different than if I had not gotten picked up. I’m going to try and score as many goals, get as many assists, create as much positive change in the team as I normally would. Hoping to do that, Jada [Talley] and I have both talked about it and we are both on the same page with that as well. We just want to help our team win and score goals. Whoever scores … doesn’t matter to us. We just want to keep winning games and do well together as a team. It’s amazing but I don't want to lose sight of what my goal in the present is right now, which is playing with my team, doing well and scoring goals and assists.
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DW: What would you like to accomplish in your last year with Arizona?
JA: Help my team win games; go farther in the tournament that we have before. We’ve been working hard for it for a long time and we really do deserve it. We’ve been working hard for so many years and [Amato] has helped all of us develop. He sees things really well within his players and helps us establish our role well in the team. I just want to be able to score goals and win games, help out as much as I can. Whatever I need to do, whatever the coaches need from me. Anything to be able to win games and do well.
DW: How unusual is it to play a season in an unprecedented time such as the COVID-19 pandemic?
JA: It’s definitely weird. I wouldn’t recommend it. We get to play games now and I couldn't be more excited. All these new changes, rules and protocols are all necessary and if that’s what it takes for us to play games and that’s what it’s going to take. I’m really lucky because my teammates are very responsible. They don’t do anything they're not supposed to be doing. I think it’s really just being able to trust your teammates. I think especially in this time it’s really important to be able to do that because it’s not just about you individually. It’s about the health of the team. Overall, I think we’ve done a really good job with following protocol, staying safe and healthy.
DW: What are the things that you will cherish the most after your last year as a member of the UA women’s soccer team is completed?
JA: I’ll definitely remember the night games the most. Those are always very memorable. The crowd is always amazing at every game but playing at night under the lights is always a fun experience. Off the field, I’ll definitely remember Jim [Krumpos]. I appreciate [Krumpos] and Adam [Garmon] so much because they have helped us grow and develop every single year; make us stronger, faster, healthier and understand our bodies as players.
DW: What do you think can be done for women’s soccer to gain more exposure at both the collegiate and professional levels?
JA: The World Cup  definitely did a lot with that. We’re seeing more professional women’s soccer teams being created like Angel City [FC] next year and Louisville this year. Angel City is primarily women-owned so I think that’s amazing. It’s getting more powerful that women are good at sports. Not just soccer specifically. Other sports, like tennis is one of the most evenly paid between men and women's sports out there. I think just putting our name out there. Keep showing up all these other teams and showing that women deserve to be where they are and be able to be paid more than what they’re being paid. It’s going to take lead by example, of course, which is more than deserving now but we got to keep doing it. We’re catching up though. We’re definitely catching up.
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