Oftentimes it takes a proactive approach for a high school athlete to get noticed and offered a scholarship.
Last November, Christopher High senior Aesha Sandoval finally decided to attack the recruiting process similar to her play on the field: with aggression. With no offers to her satisfaction and time seemingly running out to reach her goal of going directly to a four-year program out of high school, Sandoval decided to take matters into her own hands—rather, feet.
The midfielder/forward attended an ID camp in Livermore after seeing the event advertised on social media. ID camps are usually run by college coaches or soccer organizations and hosted at neutral locations where numerous college coaches are able to attend.
The fascinating part about Sandoval’s participation in this particular camp is she went in not knowing anyone. Typically, players will attend a showcase event brought to their attention by their club team and they’ll have teammates with them.
However, Sandoval’s club team, Santa Clara Sporting ’04 Green Girls Academy Team, wasn’t involved in this particular ID camp.
“It was really intimidating because I knew what schools would be there ahead of time, but I didn’t know anyone that was going,” she said.
It was Sandoval’s first-ever ID camp, and her performance in the various games and skill sessions caught the eye of Holy Names women’s soccer coach Paul McCallion and eventually led to the private Oakland-based university offering her a scholarship to play for the women’s soccer program.
“It was definitely a big step in my life, a big turning point in my soccer career,” she said. “When I got this offer, it wasn’t D1 and that I’m pretty sure is any athletes’ dream. But going D2 is a pretty big accomplishment. I had a rush of a billion types of emotions.”
Despite a productive career at Christopher which included being named last season’s Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division MVP, Sandoval’s playing future was up in the air until McCallion saw her at the ID camp. It was a last-minute move as Sandoval didn’t have many four-year collegiate playing options to her liking.
“I had known about ID camps but never really brought myself to attend one since I was doing competitive soccer and thought I would get noticed through that,” she said. “I always had the mentality I could only be recruited through showcases, but I was halfway through my senior year and was getting kind of anxious because I really wanted to play college soccer. The ID camp was literally the last place I could get recruited at.”
Sandoval said the ID camp was broken up into four different sessions, including games, shooting, footwork and passing drills, and 1-on-1 sequences.
“So it gave me a chance to show every aspect of my game,” she said.
Sandoval obviously impressed McCallion because after the camp was over he invited Sandoval for a campus visit on Feb. 25, when he offered her the scholarship. But it was Sandoval who initially approached McCallion at the conclusion of the ID camp, stepping out of her comfort zone.
“I had researched the coaches ahead of time, and at the end of the camp I felt like someone was watching me and felt a vibe with Paul so I went up to introduce myself to him,” Sandoval said. “I asked him if he had a chance to watch me play and if I could get some feedback, and he told me my jersey number basically confirming he had his eye on me. He slipped his card to me while I shook his hand and said he would love to have me come to campus for a visit. Again, I never thought I would get a spot offered to me from an ID camp, so it’s pretty amazing.”
In her time at CHS, Sandoval displayed a variety of skills on the pitch, including being adept at dribbling, winning 50/50 balls through sheer determination and delivering accurate passes. However, Sandoval was most known for her rocket shots.
Cougars coach Matt Oetigner said Sandoval has the strongest leg of any girls high school player he’s ever seen. Sandoval experienced every gamut of the emotional spectrum at the end of last season. In the second to last game of the regular-season, Sandoval was involved in a violent collision with the opposing goalkeeper, resulting in torn ligaments in her left ankle.
Just like that, Sandoval’s season was over, and despite her absence, CHS was able to march on toward a historic season, repeating as CCS champions and then winning the school’s first-ever CIF Nor-Cal title in any sport.
“I think I did a pretty good job of putting a smile on my face, but it was honestly the hardest moment of my soccer career,” she said. “Getting taken out for two months took a really big toll on me. Going from being so active to not being able to do anything was brutal. Getting to support my team throughout a really big moment for Christopher soccer was nice, but it didn’t feel the same if I was out there on the field for them. But of course I was still super happy for them winning a CCS and state title. Even though I wish I could’ve played during the playoffs, I don’t regret any moment of my senior year. It was great and I’ll have so many good memories.”
Sandoval got out of the walking boot in early March and resumed soccer-related activities more than three weeks ago. She plans on playing for a high-level amateur team in the summer before heading off to Holy Names.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]