Athlete of the week: Aylin Ulloa went from newbie to veteran in the blink of an eye

Published 8:45 am Wednesday, April 10, 2024

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Ulloa’s belong on the soccer field for Callaway. Aylin Ulloa’s soccer journey began later than most, but she found her own way to the pitch.

Ulloa’s father and brother played soccer practically all their lives and her older sister Milly was a standout for the Cavaliers as well. The younger Ulloa did not start playing competitive soccer until her freshman year of high school. It was a steep learning curve and Ulloa only received playing time sporadically during her freshman year as she came to grips with the sport.

“I was not starting much my freshman year and it was my first year playing soccer that was definitely an adjustment period,” Ulloa said. “I’ve learned a lot in the program especially when coach (Mike) Petite took over. I’ve grown a lot since then.”

It was a transition year as Ulloa went from the volleyball court to the soccer pitch. Burnt out on the sport of volleyball, Ulloa was looking for a new sport to play. Her fellow freshman at the time recruited her to the soccer team.

“Honestly the only reason I came out was peer pressure from people like Scott (Payne) and Daynay (Velasquez) and I didn’t really want to play volleyball anymore,” Ulloa said with a laugh. “I needed something to replace volleyball and ended up falling in love with soccer.”

Despite her passion for the sport now, it was anything but love at first sight. There was an adjustment period in her freshman year as she got used to the rigors of her newfound sport. When coach Mike Petite took over the program heading into her sophomore year, Ulloa’s passion for the game exploded. 

“I honestly did not enjoy it at first, it took some time to adjust,” Ulloa said. “Towards the end of my freshman year, I began to enjoy it and once Petite took over I started to enjoy it even more.”

One point of consistency that has helped Ulloa develop rapidly is her position. Since day one, she has been a winger, and even though she flipped sides from right to left, having this consistency has helped her find her identity on the soccer pitch.

“My freshman year I didn’t really know anything, my footwork was awful and it took me a while to get adjusted,” Ulloa said. “I have to give my coaches credit for sticking with me and those drills that Petite does really helped me get better as a player.” 

Ulloa is an even-keel person. The wins and the losses do not affect her the way it might other players. But even she let loose after her late goal against North Springs that gave the team a 2-1 victory just days after falling in the region championship.

“I was so excited because we hadn’t been playing that well and really needed a win,” Ulloa said. “Even though we conceded first, we didn’t back down and that goal came as more of a relief than anything.”

That late goal is just one of countless memories that are going to stick out when Ulloa graduates in May.

“I will definitely remember that goal as well as my first goal my sophomore year,” Ulloa said. “Being able to play with my sister Milly was also very special for me.”

Ulloa put her heart and soul into Callaway soccer for the last four years and sadly, her time in red and black is nestling its conclusion and with that comes an end to her soccer journey. There has never been a time where she thought about playing after high school, it has always been for fun, but now, as she sits on the precipice of it all ending, she feels thankful that she found the right sport for her.

Callaway is only guaranteed three games the rest of the season — two regular season games and a home playoff game against East Jackson. Ulloa is not taking a game for granted as the team heads into the final stretch of the season.

“We have a long week of preparation ahead of us, but I know that it is going to fly by,” Ulloa said. “I’m still processing the fact that these are my last games here.”

Ulloa and her fellow seniors will be celebrated on Wednesday for senior night before the game against Sandy Creek which is set to kick off at 6 p.m.