Paz dedicates season to brother

Jesse Paz never knew his older brother, Adam, but he hasn't forgotten about him.

Jesse said he was a toddler when Adam passed away of leukemia at 14.

What Jesse knows about Adam are the stories his family has provided. The one he hears often is how talented Adam was on the soccer field.

Adam never got the chance to play soccer at Estancia High. Jesse said he feels fortunate to have been able to suit up for the Eagles.

In his final season, Jesse played in honor of his brother.

"He would've been a senior when [Estancia] won CIF in 2000," Jesse said.

Jesse tried his best to help the Eagles make another run at a section title.

The midfielder scored the golden goal in overtime, lifting Estancia to a 2-1 victory at Whittier La Serna in the first round of the Division 4 playoffs last week.

The goal is one Jesse will cherish for the rest of his life. It was the kind of finish his brother, who played defense as a kid, would have praised.

Jesse did most of the work after a give-and-go between him and Abraham Cortez. Near the top the box, Jesse dribbled through one defender before splitting two to set up a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper. There wasn't much room to work with, the keeper taking away Jesse's best angle at finding the back of the net.

There was no stopping Jesse. He struck the ball with the outside of his right foot toward the near post, barely beating the keeper.

Coach Robert Castellano said Jesse found the only opening, which was about a foot wide. It was enough to advance the Eagles to the second round for the second time in three seasons under Castellano.

"He stepped up big-time for us," Castellano said. "He has played big for us ever since [Orange Coast League play] started in January."

Back then, Castellano wasn't sure what to expect out of Jesse. He knew he had a good player in Jesse, but he played a position Estancia usually has a lot of depth at each season.

That was the case during Jesse's junior season. Castellano didn't have room to carry Jesse on varsity.

Five matches into the nonleague schedule, Castellano dropped Jesse to the junior varsity level.

The move was to allow Jesse to develop and get playing time.

"He came with a chip on his shoulder the following season," Castellano said. "He came back trying to prove something."

Jesse showed that he belonged on the field.

Jesse earned a starting job as a center midfielder, an attacking one, as he likes to put it. Jesse never scored more than one goal until the postseason.

Castellano didn't need him to put away goals. Jesse bolstered the Eagles' style of play of possessing the ball. The program was able to turn things around after a three-win season, finishing 12-5-5 and placing second in league.

Even though Estancia's playoff stint ended with a 1-0 lost at home to second-seeded Lakewood Artesia in the second round, Castellano was proud of Jesse and his team.

"Everybody loves Jesse and he's very unselfish," Castellano said. "He worked hard and became one of our two most improved players. He was one of our most valuable players on the field."

Twitter: @DCPenaloza


Jesse Paz

Born: Sept. 13, 1994

Hometown: Costa Mesa

Height: 5-foot-9

Weight: 135 pounds

Sport: Soccer

Position: Center midfielder

Coach: Robert Castellano

Favorite food: Spaghetti

Favorite movie: "Angels in the Outfield"

Favorite athletic moment: "When I scored the golden goal against La Serna in overtime [in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs]."

Week in review: Paz recorded the game-winning goal in overtime, lifting the Eagles to a 2-1 overtime win at Whittier La Serna in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.

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