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Brooke Wilson, Arizona soccer thriving in WPSL with San Diego Surf

Wilson has six goals and three assists in seven games

Photo credit: David Frerker/San Diego Sports Domination

Featuring hundreds of amateur prep stars, college players, former college players, and even some 30-year-old veterans, the WPSL is the largest women’s soccer league in the world.

It consists of more than 100 teams in nearly 40 states. The San Diego Surf, led by a handful of Arizona Wildcats, are one of the top squads in the West this summer.

Coached by former UA assistant Kate Norton, the Surf have jumped out to a 5-1-1 start while posting a 21-9 goal differential, good for second place in the five-team San Diego Division.

Arizona sophomore forward Brooke Wilson, junior forward Jill Aguilera, sophomore midfielder Iliana Hocking, and senior center back Samantha Falasco star for the Surf, who play their home games at Canyon Crest Academy.

All were key players for the Wildcats in 2018 and are expected to have significant roles in 2019 as the program looks to return to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in six years.

“I would say (the competition) is similar to club level,” Wilson said of the WPSL. “It’s not anywhere near the Pac-12, but it’s good to get some game fitness. We played a girl from Colorado-Boulder, and there was a girl from Idaho, and a girl that played on the U.S. National Team—but she’s like 35 now.”

Continuing where she left off in the spring, Wilson has poured in six goals for the Surf, tied with Washington State sophomore Molly Myers for the team lead (and sixth in the entire league). Wilson also has a trio of assists.

The once-highly-ranked recruit scored three goals in seven games at Arizona last year, showing a penchant for finding the back of the net, before suffering a broken leg that robbed her of most of her freshman season.

Like a lot of players, Wilson is using the WPSL to elevate her fitness level heading into the college season, which begins in mid August.

“I wouldn’t say that my play is where it needs to be for Pac-12 yet, but it’s definitely good to get some practice and get some touches on the ball,” Wilson said. “That way I don’t come into Arizona like a chicken with my head cut off.”

A short but skilled forward, Wilson admits she is “not the biggest fitness fan” but finds it easier to maintain a summer regimen when she knows there is light—in this case, WPSL games—at the end of the tunnel.

“I know I’m working towards something,” the sophomore said. “So it makes me want to do fitness every day and just get in shape for that and just looking at the big picture for Arizona.

“I’m just as nervous going into this season. Fitness is always my biggest worry...but I think that this summer I have prepped myself better than I did last summer, so hopefully that will show in the fitness test, which will then boost my confidence in the game.”

The Surf practice twice a week, usually Mondays and Wednesdays. There is typically one game per weekend, though last week they played on a Wednesday.

Some players like Wilson and Hocking have summer jobs, and others go on vacation, so WPSL rosters are always changing.

Wilson has played in all seven games, Hocking has appeared in six, and Falasco and Aguilera have played in five and four games, respectively. UA sophomore midfielder Iyana Zimmerman played in the Surf’s opener before leaving the team.

“It’s not enforced practices,” Wilson said. “Like, you don’t have to be there, but if you want to get the touches (it’s helpful), and Kate obviously is a super good coach and leads good practices, so it’s almost like we want to be there versus we have to be there.”

Wilson said it’s the “coolest thing ever” to have some of her Arizona teammates alongside her.

“I almost feel like I bond with them a little bit,” she said. “It’s not only on the field, but off the field. I think those off-the-field relationships are almost as important so you can get a feel for their personalities, and then I feel like at the end of the day that’ll help you play better with them.”

Wilson has been carpooling with Aguilera, a Bay Area native who recently moved to Wilson’s hometown of Vista, California.

“Jill literally lives 10 minutes from my house now,” Wilson said.

Aguilera has yet to score in the WPSL, but the speedy left-footer was third on Arizona in points last season, notching four goals and five assists.

Spending time with Falasco, an intimidating three-year starter, has helped Wilson uncover the center back’s “fun personality.” They share an affinity for pigs too.

“On the Arizona field, I think of her as the typical starting center back, who is the leader of the team,” Wilson said. “And I still think of her like that, but I also see a little bit of a fun side of her where I can mess around with her a little bit.”

Still, Wilson stressed that winning is important too, even if there is not much at stake in the WPSL. She said she almost cried when the Surf lost 3-0 to the undefeated San Diego SeaLions on June 9.

Fortunately, they will get another crack at their crosstown rivals on June 29. It’s the last time Arizona players will suit up for the Surf before they head back to Tucson to continue prepping for the college season.

“I still have a super competitive side in losing to them, especially it being our first loss, was very frustrating,” Wilson said. “And I do not think our loss was a talent issue. I think from the warmup it showed that we were not going to win that game. You can ask anyone on the team. It was a lack of effort, lack of energy. And I think that if we can get that up, we can put up a good fight. ... We have a very talented squad, so when we are fully mentally there, we should be unbeatable.”