By John Philip Wyllie
Competing in a women’s soccer league that includes perennial champion Bonita Vista and always tough Eastlake, the Sweetwater Red Devils tend to get overlooked, but coach, Robert Bonilla has his charges playing some solid soccer and has them sporting a winning record (10-8-2) at this juncture in the season. On offense, the Red Devils offer a three-pronged attack featuring Jenny Jimenez (11 goals) Brenda Coronel (7 goals) and Zahyra Val-dovinos (7 goals). But his defensive star, senior Julia Rojas, was the one that caught his attention when we spoke on Monday.
“Julia lines up a sweep-er for us so she is the last defender on the team. She has been around the program since the 10th grade, but this is actually the first year that she has made grades and been out here. She has always been very talented, but academics have been an issue for her. She has gotten it together this year and we are really proud of her and fortunate to have her,” Bonilla said. Her desire to play soccer has helped to motivate her in the classroom.
“I am more focused on school this year. I just want to get through it so I can play and get my diploma. I think (the motivation comes) both from soccer and the fact that I want to finish school,” Rojas said.
Bonilla considers her to be one of the better overall players in the Mesa League and one of its best defenders.
“Julia is one of the most skilled players on this team. Her strength is in going one-on- one. People rarely get by her. In fact, I have yet to see her get beat one-on-one. She uses her body and speed well to hold off the other players and she touches the ball well,” Bonilla said.
Rojas played a key role in the unexpected Red Devils victory in the Lady Vaqueros Tournament at the beginning of the season. But the competition has stiffened now that they are into their league season. As the lone Division II team playing in a league filled with Division I squads, Sweetwater has struggled. With a league championship now out of reach, the goal is to qualify for the CIF Division II Championship. If they can squeeze in, it will be their first post-season trip since 2004. With their aforementioned three-pronged attack and Rojas solidifying the Red Devils defense, they have a good shot at it.