Sierra High’s boys soccer team was stopped short of earning its first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section banner four weeks ago, dropping an exciting Division IV final to No. 2-seeded Pacheco in a penalty kick shootout.
Eddie Aguilar and David Lopez, two of the Timberwolves’ top contributors, will soon have an opportunity to chase many firsts for another school. The two longtime friends and teammates have signed with Ottawa University of Surprise, Ariz., which will begin its sports programs next year. Although the Surprise campus is new, it’s an extension of Ottawa University in Kansas.
“It’s always great to make history, and that’s something I look forward to doing alongside David,” Aguilar said Wednesday at the Sierra library, where friends, family, coaches, teammates and school administrators gathered to celebrate the tandem’s special moment.
They won’t have go far to seek comfort in new surroundings.
East Union’s Giovanni Ruelas and Ramon Rojas of Manteca are also signing with Ottawa-Arizona, which will compete in the NAIA. Miguel Acosta, who attends Franklin in Stockton, will join them. All five began playing together for the Manteca FC under-8 team.
“I’ve known David since the third grade — we’re pretty close,” Aguilar said. “We hang out a lot and are together all the time. It’s great thinking that I’m going to college with one of the kids I grew up with and possibly being roommates. All of us have known each other for about the same amount of time.”
Ottawa’s head coach knows the local recruits well. Matt Gow coached both Aguilar and Lopez on the same Central Valley Monarcas Academy squad and was formerly an assistant for the Pacific men’s team.
Lopez said his familiarity with the coach was the biggest draw for him. The center midfielder plans on studying human services with aspirations of becoming a police officer. He finished his senior campaign with 16 goals and 15 assists for Sierra (17-9-3), which placed fourth in the competitive Valley Oak League but reached the SJS Division IV title round as the No. 8 seed.
“It’s going to be something new and exciting,” Lopez said. “We’ll have to adjust, but it’s nice to already know the coach and some of the other players he recruited. He’s very outgoing, humble and speaks truthfully to his players. I think it was the right choice for me.”
The Spirit are getting a talented forward in Aguilar, who led area scorers with 28 goals along with 12 assists. He’ll major in business and minor is sports studies or leadership.
What he looks forward to the most is helping Gow build a foundation for the fledgling program. Ottawa’s residential campus in Surprise is set to open next fall with dorms and 19 men’s and women’s varsity sports teams. The school is estimated to have 250 students when it opens and eventually growing to 3,000 in 10 years.
“Being a first-year school, usually they build up the academics and then bring sports along, but this school is doing it different,” Aguilar said. “They want to bring sports in right away and I think that’s great. It’s actually designed specifically for athletes. It’s a dream come true for me, to be honest.”