Wonder Woman is real. Just look around campus.
Southwestern College’s women’s soccer earned the right to compete at the California Community College Athletic Association playoffs after having an almost perfect season with 21 straight games undefeated. SWC lost to Grossmont College, 1-0, in the last 10 minutes of the season finale.
Pelé, the king of soccer, said success is no accident. The Lady Jaguars seem to agree.
Head coach Carolina Soto said her players hunger for victory and all their hard work is paying off.
“It is very rewarding,” she said. “We try to keep a really high level of intensity and rigor. If we are not performing, then we talk about it, we communicate, we fix and then we move forward.”
Fall 2017 was a breakthrough season for the women’s soccer team. With every match they won, expectations grew, but the Lady Jaguars knew how to keep their feet on the ground. Soto said players built momentum from last year by making sure everyone was academically eligible and returning with a winner’s attitude.
“We always talk about keeping it humble,” she said. “They already created a change and there is something magical how we all came together.”
The team went from dominating victory to dominating victory, averaging 4.41 goals per game. Captain Aletse Camacho said players are aware of their successes but always focused on the next match.
“We know it is a big difference from the past years,” she said. “We do not want to get too confident because we know the next rivals are going to be more challenging.”
The Lady Jaguars have developed chemistry on and off the pitch. Soto said this generation of players is more connected to the maroon and gold.
“They are proud to wear the jersey and represent our school,” she said.
With a chameleonic style of play, SWC has a solid defense and a high-pressing game.
Freshman forward Damaris Aguila and sophomore midfielder Bianca Mora lead the powerful offensive. Aguila, a Pacific Coast Athletic Conference Women’s Athlete of the Week, finished the regular season with 22 goals. She is the top scorer of the PCAC and sixth in California.
Soto said Aguila is “relentless.”
“She is powerful,” she said. “When you watch her play it looks like a young kid having so much fun, just enjoying the game and not having any pressure.”
Aguila, 18, scored two goals in her first home match when SWC beat Norco College, 7-0. She led Southwestern in its overwhelming victories against the Los Angeles Harbor Seahawks and the Cuyamaca Coyotes with three goals each game. She extended her scoring streak to 22 goals against Mt. San Jacinto and Imperial Valley. Aguila has a shot percentage of .957 and 11 assists.
“I am super happy,” she said. “It is all about hard work and team effort, without my team, I would not be able to be up there.”
Sophomore midfielder Bianca Mora contributed 21 goals and 12 assists. Mora said she did not expect to score a lot because she is more of a defensive player.
“I did not think I was going to be a big part of the team,” she said. “I feel my performance has been really good and I am very proud of why I have accomplished here.”
Another key player in the feline squad is sophomore goalkeeper Rose Hauser, who is third in the conference with 109 saves. Hauser earned two PCAC honorable mentions in September.
“I come here (to SWC) almost every day before practice to work with the goalkeeper coach,” said Hauser. “Once I step on the field I just trust on my teammates and myself. All the work I’ve put in translates to the game.”
San Diego Mesa College defended as PCAC Champions, but the Lady Jaguars finished the season ranked 12 in California while the Lady Olympians are 13.
A DeVore Stadium showdown with Mesa had SWC looking for vengeance. Last year the Lady Olympians crushed SWC, 8-0.
In the 38th minute the goal that changed the balance in favor of the Lady Jaguars came off the left foot of freshman midfielder Fernanda Lopez. The offensive thrust began in the right flank with a throw-in made by towering sophomore midfielder Christina Hernandez to Camacho, who dribbled into Lady Olympian’s territory until she was dragged down after crashing with Mesa defender Karlyn Ironside. Hernandez quickly recovered the ball and passed to Aguila. She directed a first-touch pass to Lopez, who fired a bending shot behind the 15-yard line into the net out for a 1-0 lead.
The Lady Olympians offense got stuck in the midfield throughout the second half and could not score. A roar of happiness erupted in the stands at the final whistle. The Lady Jaguars celebrated with Soto. Lopez was hugged and congratulated by each of her teammates.
“I was nervous because I had not scored in the past few games,” Lopez said. “I just saw the ball coming and shot with my left.”
In the last match of the regular season, a lone goal by Grossmont’s Karina Pulido in the last 10 minutes of the match ended the undefeated streak and the possibility of the first PCAC title in the history of Southwestern’s women’s soccer program. Soto said soccer, like life, is unpredictable and sometimes the best team does not win.
“We played strong and the ball would not go in,” she said. “At the end of the game, it was a little heartbreaking, but we just moved forward.”
Their record of 17 wins, 4 ties, and 1 defeat boosted the ranking of the Lady Jaguars and put them into the California Community College Athletic Association playoffs for just the second time in college history.
Their opponent will be the Chaffey College Panthers, ranked #7 in the state. Assistant Coach Jennifer Rodriguez said they are expecting a challenging game.
“Chaffey College is strong,” she said. “I feel is going to be a good game from both sides and we just want to be able to get the win.”
Soto said the 2017 season has empowered Southwestern’s women’s soccer program.
“It has really been a journey where we really worked hard to just to be the best we can possibly be and reach our maximum potential as players,” she said. “Overall I think this season has been something I would describe as historical and just changing perspectives.”