Araujo returns to give Seneca scoring threat, reason to believe in run at states

Duquesne University-bound Jaimi Araujo immediately provides the Golden Eagles with an All State-caliber player in the middle of the field

Seneca senior Jaimi Araujo gains control while Bishop Eustace’s Nikki Dedes is in pursuit. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

Despite being one of the newer schools in South Jersey, Seneca High School, which opened in 2003, has established a consistently competitive girls soccer program.

So it was at least a little disappointing when it endured a sub-.500 season last fall (7–9–3). In each of the two previous seasons the Golden Eagles had made spirited postseason runs.

In 2018, they are hoping to get back on track with a familiar name back on their roster.

Jaimi Araujo, a senior who will play college soccer at Duquesne University, rejoined Seneca for her final prep season after spending her junior year playing for Sky Blue of the United States Soccer Player Development Academy. Araujo will bounce between the forward line and midfield for the Golden Eagles, who lost their first two games during the first week of the season to perennial Olympic Conference heavyweights Shawnee and Bishop Eustace.

“Last year, defensively we were really good, we were just missing that person to finish. So getting Jaimi back, I think she can do it,” said Seneca head coach Matt Abate, who watched minutes earlier as Araujo nearly connected on a game-tying opportunity in the final 10 minutes of the second half in an eventual 2–0 loss to Bishop Eustace.

“We’re getting there,” Abate continued. “We had a little rough preseason with injuries, and we’re still not at full strength. Once we start clicking we’re going to be alright. (Eustace) only lost two games last year. We’re (right) there.”

Getting one of the state’s top players back should certainly help Seneca return to the Group 3 playoff picture. The Golden Eagles won the South Jersey Group 3 championship in 2016, the second in school history, before losing in the state semifinals.

“Obviously she’s got great skill,” Abate said of Araujo. “Her desire to be better is just remarkable. She never stops working. She could be the most talented player on the field, but she also wants to be the hardest worker on the field. That’s what sets her apart, that’s what sets any great athlete apart. That’s what she does well.”

Seneca’s Jaimi Araujo (center) gets a breather during a game against Bishop Eustace, which was played with temperatures in the mid-90s. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

And now The Sun One-on-One with Araujo:

The Sun: Why did you decide to return to high school soccer?

Jaimi Araujo: First of all (Sky Blue) pulled out of the (United States Development Academy), but even before we pulled out of the D.A. I’d made the decision I wanted to play my senior year with my friends. We had a really good program my first two years. This was something I was really looking forward to, getting back in it. We can win a South Jersey championship. These first two games aren’t an indication of the rest of the season, I really believe that.

The Sun: Why did you concentrate on Academy soccer last year and not play high school? Just an opportunity you couldn’t pass up?

Araujo: Of course, and last year we practiced three times a week and it was an hour-and-a-half away from my house, we’d practice from 8 to 9:30 (p.m.) and I wasn’t home until 11:30 every night. And I was in three or four AP classes. I was exhausted. And it’s a lot on your body, too. You play one game on the weekend but it’s a professional game, you’re in the whole half, and as soon as you’re done, you’re done for the game. I’m in for 75 minutes, it’s exhausting, going against big girls, big teams. But it’s good to be back in high school, it’s really good. The chemistry is different, it’s a different style of play, but it’s definitely something I looked forward to coming back to.

The Sun: The Academy team was 90 minutes away? So three hours of driving each day?

Araujo: Yeah.

The Sun: So who did all of that driving?

Araujo: My mom [laughs]. We had one carpool (with Cherry Hill East’s Faith Rosenblatt). One week one person would take two days, the next the other would take two days, switch up.

The Sun: What made you decide to play collegiately at Duquesne?

Araujo: It felt like home. I’ve always wanted to be in the city. I grew up in Tabernacle, it’s a very small town. I always looked forward to going (away). They’re not a huge school. But they’re predicting four-year starting. So I’m going in and getting touches. It’s a closed-in-campus feel but you’re in the middle of Pittsburgh.

The Sun: When did soccer get serious for you?

Araujo: When I was 6 I started playing on a travel team. I was playing on a U-9 team. From there, I went to a larger club team until I was 10, and then I went to PDA North and I’ve been there ever since, I’ve been there almost eight years now.

The Sun: Who is your favorite team to play against in high school?

Araujo: Always Shawnee. Even if they’re insanely good, it’s always a challenge when we play them.

The Sun: What are your goals for senior year — states?

Araujo: South Jersey champions. This team has the potential to be our first state champion. My sophomore year we lost in the semis on a bad (penalty kick) call, so I definitely believe in this team, we have good heart.

The Sun: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Araujo: I have a little sister

The Sun: Also a soccer player?

Araujo:No [laughs], she’s a volleyball player.

The Sun: What would be your advice for a young kid who wants to be a serious soccer player?

Araujo: You’ve got to do the extra stuff. I’m at Blue Barn in Marlton almost every day, hitting shots, getting touches in. I do wall ball in my free time, always getting touches in. You have to be dedicated, you have to fall in love with it. And if you don’t love it, then don’t keep going with it. Because it’s really something you have to love to play at a top level.

The Sun: Like be ready to sacrifice a lot of sleep.

Araujo: Yeah, you have to sacrifice everything. It was nice when I slept three hours.

The Sun: Do you have any superstitions before games?

Araujo: Not really. It’s always right cleat, left cleat; right shin guard left shin guard.

The Sun: So nothing crazy.

Araujo: Nothing crazy, no.

The Sun: What’s your favorite food?

Araujo:Chicken Parm

The Sun: Favorite athlete?

Araujo:Gareth Bell, Real Madrid.

The Sun: What’s the best thing you’ve watched lately, at the movies or on Netflix or wherever?

Araujo: “Vampire Diaries.”

Seneca senior Jaimi Araujo returned to the high school field after playing exclusively for her club team in 2017. Araujo will continue to play next season at Duquesne University. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)