All season, it has been glaringly obvious which Atascadero High boys soccer player other teams needed to stop when they took on the Greyhounds.
That hasn’t slowed Alex Aguiar, though.
While Aguiar has faced nearly constant double teams, the senior midfielder has had a hand in 35 of the Greyhounds’ 52 goals this year, scoring 20 times and assisting on 15 others. All of that has come despite other teams already knowing he was a Division I talent.
In October, prior to the start of this season, Aguiar verbally committed to continue his career at UC Davis. Although the Aggies went 6-12-1 overall and 3-6-1 in Big West Conference play this past season, the two previous years they were a regional power, qualifying for back-to-back NCAA Tournaments.
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“I’m very excited,” Aguiar said. “It’s not every day someone gets to go play Division I.”
As a whole, Atascadero has generally struggled to consistently complement its star this year, going 8-11-6 and 2-7-2 in PAC 7 play heading into the season finale at home against Pioneer Valley at 6 tonight.
Consequently, despite his growing individual résumé, it’s Aguiar’s humble nature and persevering mentality as a teammate that he will be most remembered for in Atascadero, Greyhounds coach Andrew Wilkie said.
“No, he’s not happy when we’re losing,” Wilkie said. “But he’s kept a positive attitude through it all. For somebody who has that much talent and potential, so many times in this world these days, kids like that are cocky and it goes to their heads. That hasn’t happened to him.
“He’s made a positive influence on each of the other members of the team,” Wilkie added. “He’s leaving a legacy behind that all the kids around him will remember.”
Perhaps no moment this year defined Aguiar more than one that came Jan. 6 against a deeper Arroyo Grande squad now ranked No. 8 in Division V of the CIF-Southern Section that Wilkie estimates has been the toughest opponent the Greyhounds have faced this year.
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the 98th minute and looked like they had safely turned the potential upset into a marathon win. But seven minutes later, Aguiar — who had entered the season coming off shin problems stemming from a broken foot — dribbled through a handful of defenders and, as Wilkie recalls, “lasered the ball into the net from 30 yards out” to preserve a double-overtime tie.
“You could see it in his body language,” Wilkie said of Aguiar’s refusal to lose that day. “He just put us on his shoulders and carried us.”
The play was the latest in a long line of standout performances by the team co-captain. In a 7-3 win over Templeton in early December, Aguiar tallied four scores and assisted on the Greyhounds’ other three.
“It’s kind of like (NBA superstars) LeBron (James) or Kobe (Bryant),” Wilkie said. “You just want to get him the ball and let him shoot.”
Aguiar started playing at the club level when he was 10, and for the past seven years has belonged to the local Madrid Premier Soccer Club. At a camp this past fall, Aguiar impressed the UC Davis coaching staff before being offered a roster spot.
“I just pushed myself hard through the training sessions and scrimmages to stand out and show I was ready to play at the next level,” Aguiar said.
Cal Poly also inquired to his services, Aguiar said, as did UC Irvine, but he was drawn to UC Davis, where he plans to major in biotechnology with a minor in environmental science. Because he’ll be receiving a large financial aid package as a student, he didn’t sign a National Letter of Intent last week along with other NCAA recruits, in order to not be on an athletic scholarship unnecessarily. Therefore, as he won’t be signing a letter of intent with UC Davis, Aggies coaches aren’t able to publicly comment on him until he’s enrolled in the school, although a school media relations official did confirm the Aggies have recruited him.
At UC Davis, Aguiar said, he expects to be moved from center midfielder to the outside, and is willing to move to whatever position at which the Aggies think he’ll fit best.
“He’s very quick, and he’s got very good touch,” Wilkie said. “He’s a hard worker with a great attitude. He’s a student of the game and sees things developing ahead of others, things that professionals see. He’s got everything he needs to continue on and play professionally.”