Who We Are: Jill Aguilera
"The first two years, I just wanted to do well and make an impact on the team," she said. "But the next two years – and now three years – my mindset is to leave my mark on this program and help it take the next step in the NCAA Tournament." – Jill Aguilera
Major: Received undergraduate degree in Nutritional Sciences and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Real Estate Development
Hometown: Redwood City, California
When Jill Aguilera signed her National Letter of Intent to play soccer at the University of Arizona in early 2016, being on the pitch was something that almost came second nature to her growing up in Redwood City, California.
She played on multiple club teams at one time through junior high school and then joined a travel club team in high school that played a rigorous schedule, drawing the attention of college coaches from across the country because many on the team had the skill and dedication to play at the collegiate level. Aguilera was a regular goal scorer for the team, capitalizing around the goal with her left foot countless times.
Hours and hours on the pitch trying to hone a wide array of skills through training and games as a youngster led Aguilera to Tucson for her freshman season in the Fall of 2016. As the start of the season approached, she continued to train and prepare for the season with her Wildcat teammates.
But just like that, it all stopped.
A knee injury would sideline her for the entire season.
To some, it could be a devastating injury to a promising career that never gets going.
But Aguilera was determined to not let the injury stop her.
"I learned to never take anything for granted and, no matter how hard it might get, don't give up," Aguilera said. "I set my mind to coming back from the injury and being a better version of what I was before the injury. But I was also forced to take a step back and learn more about the game and my teammates by just watching. In some ways, the injury was a blessing in disguise."
When she returned to the field in 2017, her goal at No. 16 Oklahoma – the first of her career – gave the Wildcats the upset win over the Sooners. She went on to score two goals and have two assists as a redshirt freshman. The next season, she increased that output to four goals and five assists from the forward position.
But Aguilera admits that her mindset changed after her first two seasons.
"The first two years, I just wanted to do well and make an impact on the team," she said. "But the next two years – and now three years – my mindset is to leave my mark on this program and help it take the next step in the NCAA Tournament."
In her third year, that mindset change resulted in her tallying nine goals and two assists and then netting nine goals to go with five assists in just 14 games during the 2020-21 season that was shortened due to COVID-19.
But that season was supposed to be her final season in Tucson. However, the NCAA granted an additional year of eligibility for those that were on the roster for the 2020-21 season, if the individual wanted it.
So the question was posed to Aguilera, who ranks fourth in program history in career goals scored (24) and points (63) and fifth in career assists (14), are you coming back?
"I talked to my family a lot about making the decision to come back for a sixth year of college," Aguilera said. "And when it came down to it, it was about getting as many games as possible to prepare me for the NWSL in the future.
"But not just that, it was being able to play for a coach like Coach Moros, who played in the NWSL and was just coaching there recently. So, I thought that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a former professional player and coach help me get to that next level."
And when you look at Aguilera's career off the field, her determination has been evident there as well. She embodies that Bear Down spirit of determination that is a value of Arizona's Wildcat Way.
She was a 2021 NCAA Woman of the Year nominee and a Third Team CoSIDA Academic All-American while being named to the Pac-12 All-Academic Honor Roll each of the last four seasons.
And she did not allow the knee injury to slow her down in the classroom to start her career. She earned her undergraduate degree in General Studies with an emphasis on Sports and Society, and when she decided to return for the 2020-21 season, she began pursuing a master's degree in Real Estate Development.
"I've always been interested in real estate, in particular as a developer." Aguilera said. "I have envisioned myself being part of the development process as opposed to the trying to sell the finished product as a realtor."
Before she takes the next step in her career, there's the current step of helping the Wildcats navigate the upcoming season as one of the most experienced players on the team.
"I don't consider myself to be the 'the leader' of this team," Aguilera said. "There are a lot of players that have had different experiences than me and I think it is important to bring in all of their experiences to the team. When it comes to college experience, I'm the oldest on the team so I can help there, but maybe there's a sophomore that just went through a COVID-19 year and they can help a freshman navigate the season because they were just in their shoes. So all of those experiences are important for our team."