Posted in Sports

Olivia Aguiar, a leader on and off the pitch

Despite early adversity, she is now an essential element of coach Hamel’s starting lineup

Aguiar is the co-captain of the women’s soccer team, as well as president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
Aguiar is the co-captain of the women’s soccer team, as well as president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
Image Credits: Alexa Tarrayo

For Olivia Aguiar, soccer is more than a sport: it is a family affair. The Coquitlam native explained how her father’s European roots infused a religious-like soccer atmosphere in her home. “My dad’s love for soccer spread onto us, and my passion developed through him,” she said.

With this passion, Aguiar decided not to hang up her boots. “I got introduced to competitive at the age of nine, where it became more organized. As you get older, that’s when your skill set starts developing more. [. . .] I felt a big gap, though, from high school to university: just playing against American-type soccer makes a huge transition, but everything was bigger and better.”

Having been part of SFU’s first promotion to compete for the national championship, Aguiar experienced the challenges of adapting to a new level: “My first year was the first year we were eligible to compete in any form of national championship. We are academically a tough school ,and lay on top of that an NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] division competition of sports. It becomes this massive balancing act, but it’s great because I’m getting the best of both worlds.”

The captain’s armband was earned through a lot of hard work for Aguiar, who had to rehabilitate an ACL injury in her sophomore year. “I came in my first year with a damaged knee and I didn’t know how bad it actually was. By the end of my first season we found out that I had torn my ACL. I got a surgery and I redshirted my second year.”

Having gone through a long and frustrating process of rehabilitation before stepping again on a soccer field, Aguiar acknowledged the unconditional support in her entourage. “I am very fortunate to have support from my family, my friends, my professors to the athletic department. I’ve had no reason to not be successful. I am a product of my environment.”

“It has been incredible to go from 2012 to being in contention for the NCAA tournament.”

While many student athletes engage in studying the science of the body because of their history with injuries, Aguiar’s altruistic nature reveals itself in her choice of major. “I love working with people. I find the human body fascinating with the more I learn. When I was looking at programs to apply to, kinesiology seemed to take everything that I would like to pursue.”

Aguiar also summed up how she made her way to SFU. “[It was] based on a sentimental value, a lot of my cousins came here for various programs, academics, for me who wanted to go into kinesiology and soccer, for playing in an NCAA institution.”

The SFU women’s soccer team has arguably made the most remarkable progress of any team since the athletics department joined the NCAA. Starting with a winless season during her first year to securing a spot in the NCAA tournament, Aguiar reflected on that new era for the Clan’s women. “My freshman year was not successful in terms of statistics. We did not win a single game.

“It has been incredible to go from 2012 to being in contention for the NCAA tournament. It is unreal to flip a program like that. My coach deserves a lot of credit between recruiting and coaching.”

The co-captain of the team unpacked to The Peak the work habits established by head coach Annie Hamel through the last three years. “We train four days a week and we have two games. It is very demanding. I love our training sessions; they’re well-structured and organized. Each session has its own purpose.”

More optimistic than ever, Aguiar reviewed her team’s chances to lift the NCAA trophy. “I think we have the potential to do a lot of great things, as long as we keep executing our game plan and working hard. This is a matter of being disciplined and taking our coaching advice.”

Aguiar looks to establish a culture within SFU Athletics, and to extend her love for sports to her community. “I’m the president of the student athlete committee,” she said. “Our goal is to bring the student body together within athletics and on campus. We also take on fundraising for organizations. We have been able to grant a wish to a girl in the province who was suffering from a life-threatening disease.”

With her team spirit and fancy footwork, could our captain be the next Christine Sinclair? Aguiar isn’t shy about her future career path.

“When I was five, being a professional soccer player was the main goal,” she laughed. “It is a dream for any competitive athlete to play at a high level. I just think my dreams have changed over time; there are other things I’d like to pursue. I would still like to be involved in soccer, whether it’s coaching or something else.”

Fun Fact: Why did you choose your number?

“You always associate a number with a player. I love Luis Figo. That’s where my number seven comes from.”

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