WATSONVILLE—It took some time for Watsonville High sophomore Aubrey Rodriguez and the rest of the Wildcatz girls’ soccer team to start gelling as a unit.
But things seem to be changing as the season has progressed and she believes they’ve improved dramatically since that first day of training camp.
“I feel like we’re getting better,” she said. “We just need to start passing more and developing as a team … There’s new players, we met the new players and now we all know each other. We can all do it together.”
Rodriguez, who has a team-leading four goals this season, scored a first-half goal for the Wildcatz in a draw against the North Salinas High Vikings in non-league play on Dec. 16. She scored twice for the Wildcatz in a 5-2 win against Carmel High on Dec. 14.
Watsonville coach Gladys Mondragon said that her standout forward has a certain type of skill set and raw talent that comes around every so often.
Mondragon said the way Rodriguez naturally cuts and moves with the ball makes her such a unique player.
“Now if we can turn all that into knowing when to shoot, when to pass, it’s going to be great to see how that develops,” Mondragon said.
Mondragon, who also coaches the Cabrillo College women’s soccer team, said she told the players that in order to compete they will have to put in the extra work. This year the Seahawks advanced to the CCCAA semifinals for the first time in the program’s history.
Mondragon added that it’ll also take building a certain type of bond and chemistry that’s going to lead them to work as a single unit.
“Everyone is different, it’s a new squad and not everybody plays together in the offseason. It takes a lot of work for them to build up from there,” Mondragon said. “I think they’re building from each other and they’re understanding the need to have that connection with each other.”
Other standouts include Anely Flores and Julissa Felix, who also scored goals against the Padres.
Kiana Varela, Star Espinoza-Rayes, Nayeli Jimenez-Fernandez and Flores have also been in the mix, recording several assists for Watsonville.
Jimenez-Fernandez, who is also the starting goalie, has 20 saves for the Wildcatz but she’s been sidelined with a knee injury she suffered in their game against North Salinas.
Julianna Mendez has stepped in for the meantime. She made 10 saves for the Wildcatz in a loss to Aptos High on Dec. 18.
However, the Wildcatz did go undefeated in the 15th Annual Watsonville Tournament, beating Pioneer Valley of Santa Maria, Monte Vista Christian and Harbor high schools.
“It gave us a lot of energy and hope that it’s going to give us going into league [play],” Rodriguez said.
Watsonville (5-4-1) will compete in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan Division this season. They will go up against top-tier teams such as Alisal, Christopher, Gilroy, San Benito and Salinas high schools.
Rodriguez said in order to come out on top in the league standings they’ll need to truly come together as a team. That means showing up to practice every day and always being there for each other, no matter the outcome.
“Helping each other out, talking a lot and just doing it as a team,” she said. “A lot of communication.”
Mondragon said they’re happy to be in the top-tier of the PCAL’s five divisions and Wildcatz want to compete with the best to become the best.
She added that the Gabilan Division is pretty spread out this year and anyone could end up as the champion, including them. But the main goal for Mondragon is to have her players prepared as they head into league play.
“We just have to be well organized, we need to have some discipline and we need to be smart,” Mondragon said.
The Wildcatz will host Gilroy in the teams’ PCAL’s Gabilan Division opener on Jan. 12 at 5:45pm.