Powerful PVCC soccer player leads team to perfect season

Jamie I (photo by Josh Martinez)

Jamie Iurato (photo by Josh Martinez)

Every time Paradise Valley Community College forward Jamie Iurato walked off the soccer pitch, she usually had reason to celebrate.

Moving on from the PVCC Pumas to Dixie State University the talented athlete is looking to set new goals after a record-shattering season.

Eleven times this fall, Iurato has netted multiple goals in a match, scoring three or more goals in a match eight times — known as a hat trick —  and reaching a season-high of five goals in a match.

These impressive numbers have rocketed her to the top of the NJCAA Division I individual standing as she leads the nation with 42 regular season goals as of Friday, Oct. 21 morning. The person behind Iurato has 39 goals and will play Friday night.

Needless to say, Iurato, who is in her first and last season with PVCC, has been a big part of the Pumas’ success. The team had a perfect, 20–0 regular season, securing the top spot in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference — four games ahead of the second-place team — and in the country.

This success may widen the eyes of many fans, opponents and even her own coach, but for Iurato, this success started brewing long before the opening kick of the season.

Iurato said before the season started, the team sets goals. In her individual goals, she said wanted to notch one or two goals each match.

“I just expect greatness, I always have,” Iurato said during an Oct. 19 interview. “My dad has instilled this in me. A quote I really like is ‘average is the enemy of excellence.’ So, if you’re not achieving excellence, then you’re just being average.”

Additionally, PVCC head coach Jon Ruzan said Iurato set a mark to score 40 regular season goals.

“I chuckled and said ‘the record is 29. If you get close to that, that’d be great, but you have to score nearly two goals a game in the toughest conference in America,’” Coach Ruzan said in an Oct. 19 interview. “Wow. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

To Oklahoma and beyond

Again, Iurato’s success did not begin at the start of the 2016 season, or even in that preseason goal-setting session.

Iurato attended Heritage Academy in Mesa and played club soccer for SC Del Sol. During her senior year, she signed with the University of Oklahoma.

“It was kind of last minute,” she said. “My coach, Les Armstrong, really helped with that and told them I was a good player and I was able to go.”

Upon arriving in Norman, Okla., Iurato made an impact on the Sooners’ squad.

During the 2013 season, she played in 16 matches with three starts, scoring two goals and assisting on another.

Iurato said she enjoyed the city of Norman itself, and working with head coach Matt Potter was great.

“(He was) just amazing and (he) already knew the style of play that I’ve been brought up my whole life in,” Iurato said.

However, she said despite all she enjoyed, there was something missing in her life and she spent significant time doing self reflecting and trying to better find herself.

“I was always a good kid, I’ve never really done anything bad,” Iurato said. “I just wanted to find out who I was a little bit more.

Around Thanksgiving 2013, Iurato said she came to the conclusion that she needed to return to Mesa.

Upon arriving home, Iurato said her mother advised her to pray to God to find her path in life. Iurato and her immediate family are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so Iurato said praying was the natural advice from her religious mother.

Jamie, on right, during her mission to Australia. (submitted photo)

Jamie, on right, during her mission to Australia. (submitted photo)

“I prayed about it and a mission popped into my head,” she said. “And so I decided, on Dec. 29, 2013, that I was going to serve a mission for my church.”

Mormon missionaries usually are young men and women, but the church does send out senior missionaries. Younger missionaries are single members usually in their late teens and early 20s who meet church requirements. Men typically serve for two years and women usually serve for 18 months.

Serving a mission is optional and missionaries are unpaid. Mormon missionaries spend their time living by a strict set of rules, spending their time teaching church principles, bringing in new members and providing service.

Iurato did just that in Brisbane, Australia, spending time in areas serving 16 hours a day.

“It was just a combination of not only physical work, but also, for myself, spiritually developing and, like I said, finding myself as a person,” she said.

Return to paradise

Upon returning home, Iurato cited not being Division I ready as a reason for not returning to Oklahoma. However, she also stated her priorities changed during her 18 months of service.

“I just wanted to prioritize God first and that was the driving factor,” she said. “I didn’t want to play on Sundays anymore. I know I could play Division I again but I have just decided that to do otherwise because it’d just be more beneficial for me.”

That decision to not return to Oklahoma left a conundrum for Iurato regarding her soccer future.

Childhood friend Tasha Coleman, a former PVCC midfielder, helped her decide to play for the Pumas as opposed to Pima Community College.

Her arrival at PVCC brought a bit of skepticism from coach Ruzan, saying he could tell Iurato was a good soccer player, but was out of shape.

“She promised me she would get fit and that was in the spring,” he said. “By the end of spring and early summer, she’s fit. Not only is she fit, but her strength (increased).”

Coach Ruzan said this exemplified how focused Iurato can be when she sets her mind to a goal. Additionally, Coach Ruzan said she has an impressive amount of character.

“She’s more of a character human being than she is a soccer player and she’s a great soccer player,” he said.

For example, Coach Ruzan said there was one match where he pulled Iurato out of the game because the Pumas were in control. He said she wasn’t happy with him because she hadn’t reached how many goals she wanted.

The next day, Coach Ruzan said he received a phone call which he thought was going to involve Iurato venting her frustrations about Coach Ruzan’s decision. Instead, Iurato offered an apology.

“Floored me,” he said. “Ninety percent of players have made that phone call to say ‘I need to play more.’ Jamie did not. Jamie called to apologize and recognize the fact that she erred in terms of setting an example for her teammates. That right there is exemplary character.”

PVCC forward Jamie Iurato (9) pushes the ball up field avoiding the defense of Phoenix College midfielder Evelyn Ramirez Leon (15) during PVCC's 3-1 win over Phoenix College Tuesday, Sept. 27. (photo by Josh Martinez)

PVCC forward Jamie Iurato (9) pushes the ball up field avoiding the defense of Phoenix College midfielder Evelyn Ramirez Leon (15) during PVCC’s 3-1 win over Phoenix College Tuesday, Sept. 27. (photo by Josh Martinez)

Moving forward

PVCC celebrated sophomore day Tuesday, Oct. 18, honoring sophomores, including Iurato, on the team who will be ending their careers as Pumas.

While the team still has the region playoffs and a potential berth to the National Championship on the docket, Iurato’s future is beyond that.

She committed to Dixie State University, a Division II school in St. George, Utah.

“I just decided that I want to go for Division II and Dixie State is looking to go Division I,” she said. “My goal is to help them go there and put a mark on that program.”

Iurato has already proven that when she sets a goal and gets that “laser focus” Coach Ruzan mentioned, nothing is impossible for her.

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