Jill Aguilera still ices her left knee after every game.
It’s a precautionary measure, she says. Her surgically-repaired knee is pain-free, and she wants to keep it that way.
“Because I never want to go up to [head coach] Tony [Amato] and say ‘my knee’s hurting, I need to sit out,’” Aguilera said.
She did enough of that last year. The redshirt freshman missed the entire 2016 season with a torn ACL.
“I want to be there whenever Tony needs me,” Aguilera said. “So I do whatever in my power to make sure I’m 100 percent all the time.”
And playing with 100 percent effort, with no thoughts about getting re-injured.
“If I think about it, that’s when the bad things start to happen,” Aguilera said after a physical game against UC Irvine. “So you go in 100 percent. You don’t go in 50 percent because that’s when you’re going to get hurt. Because if you’re too afraid and your opponent is going 100 percent, nine times out of 10, you might get hurt out of that.”
That all-in approach — along with her blazing speed — has already made Aguilera an integral part of Arizona’s attack in 2017.
Aguilera made her debut against then-No. 16 Oklahoma last Friday. She subbed in late in the first half.
“Just go get the ball,” Amato told her.
She did. And then put it in the back of the net.
Aguilera scored Arizona’s first goal of the 2017 season in what ended up being a 2-0 road victory.
“I went in with Brynn Moga and we were like, ‘let’s be the difference. Let’s be the difference in the game. let’s make the difference,” Aguilera said.
“And it just happened. It was such an amazing feeling to know that you can come on as a sub and you can change the entire game.”
Some players may loathe coming off the bench or get frustrated when their playing time is scarce or unpredictable.
Aguilera isn’t exactly used to coming off the bench herself. Before her ACL injury, she was the captain of her high school team, and a two-time All-Conference player. She scored 39 goals as a senior at Woodside High School in Redwood City, Calif.
But coming off the bench sure beats sitting on the bench.
“After getting hurt, I don’t take anything for granted,” Aguilera said. “It was such an important experience for me to have. ... When you get back on the field that’s when you make sure you’re making the difference every time you step on the field.”
“Think about it,” she adds. “You’re playing. Some people don’t get the opportunity.”