APTOS—The Cabrillo College women’s soccer program is in the midst of building something special this offseason.
Nellie Pintor of Aptos High was one of nine new local recruits who recently committed to play for the Seahawks in the upcoming fall season.
The midfielder/forward had some options to compete elsewhere but she said staying local was the biggest factor in her decision.
Plus, she was convinced by Cabrillo head coach Gladys Mondragon to join a program that came off a postseason run in November.
“The defense plays well and they’re a super, solid team,” Pintor said.
The Seahawks (10-3-6, 7-0-3) advanced to the second round of the CCCAA NorCal playoffs for the first time since 2005. It was also their first postseason appearance since 2014.
Pintor had a chance to meet her future teammates during a team BBQ in May held at Carl Conelly Stadium.
She said she’s looking forward to being an asset and she wants to become an offensive threat on the Seahawks.
“I hope to bring good energy, stay positive, get along with the team and hopefully make a difference,” she said.
Mondragon said it’s amazing to be able to recruit from a pool of local players, while keeping a connection with the community.
“There’s a lot of talent here,” she said.
Mondragon, who is also head coach of the Watsonville High’s girls’ team, said the level of competition in the high schools is not that far off.
Aptos High (17-3-1, 8-2) was runner-up in the competitive Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League league.
Santa Cruz High (15-0-2, 10-0), winners of the SCCAL, made it to the Central Coast Section Division I finals.
“I think we have some of the strongest high schools around the area that are also competitive,” Mondragon said.
Mondragon was able to convince a pair of former Wildcatz players, Ariana Alvarez and Juliana Méndez, along with Sarah Thornburg of Monta Vista Christian to compete for the Seahawks.
Cabrillo’s coaching staff was able to recruit players from just about every high school in the area including Emma Gipson of San Lorenzo Valley High, Yasmin Ortega of Harbor High, Olivia Ross and Luz Ruiz of Soquel High, and Kayla Pugh of Christopher High.
“It’s really nice to see some of these local players [commit to Cabrillo],” Pintor said.
Like most high school graduates, Pintor said it wasn’t time for her to fly away from the nest just yet.
Instead, she will take advantage of the Cabrillo Promise Program, which covers full-time tuition fees for two years for first-time college students.
Pintor said she still needs time to figure out what college life is all about and attending Cabrillo will hopefully help do that.
Sticking around also means she won’t have to travel far to play soccer in her very own backyard, so to speak.
Pintor said she’s seeing a lot more sportsmanship and competitiveness within the girls/women’s division in the area. She’s also taken notice of an increase in participation.
“And definitely skillswise, I’ve noticed that we play as similar as males and we play as strong as them,” Pintor said. “It just makes me feel very bad ass…walking around, showing them our skills just makes me feel very confident and very strong like them, too.”
Mondragon said there are plenty of dedicated female players that are connected with the local soccer clubs. There, they put in the extra time to improve their skills on the pitch.
“We’re here to provide them with the right tools that they need to be successful as well, too,” she said.
Mondragon said going to Cabrillo not only extends the students’ playing careers after high school, but it’s also an opportunity to further their education.
Seahawks standout Jasmine Taylor, an Aptos High alumna, will take her talents to NCAA Division II Holy Names University in Oakland this fall.
Taylor signed her National Letter of Intent to play for the Hawks in front of former teammates, coaches and family members on Feb. 23.
“For us it’s more like a stepping stone for them to keep going into a four-year college,” she said. “I think we have the best of both worlds. We have a strong women’s soccer program and academically, the community college is one of the top community colleges in the state.”