Santillan plays with heavy heart

Sometimes, when he sees that No. 21 charging full-on at a defender, creating space where it doesn’t seem to exist or ripping a shot from too far that somehow finds net, Bob Gamino has to rub his eyes and take a second look.

“That’s Tony right there,” the O’Connell soccer coach thinks. “That’s Tony.”

Tony Santillan was a star soccer player for the Boilermakers, one of the best Gamino has seen at the program he has been involved with since playing at the school in the late 1960s and early 70s. The charismatic 19-year-old waskilled near his North Beach home last summer, but he is remembered at the Mission District school nearly a year later by RIP memorials painted on campus, conversations between students and the girl who wears his jersey.

His younger sister Korey Santillan now occupies No. 21, and the sophomore forward scored 12 goals in five games this year while helping the Boilermakers (13-3) reach the San Francisco Section final.

Today, she will be a part of the Academic Athletic Association All-Star Match at 4 p.m. at Boxer Stadium.

“She’s like a mini-Tony,” Gamino said. “The fearlessness, the ball control — everything she picked up, she got it from him.”

Korey Santillan’s lessons on the soccer field began when she was 6 as she and Tony would walk to Franklin Field every day to practice. When those training sessions ended, the two would continue playing at home, creating impromptu goals out of couches and kicking tennis balls back and forth.

Now, she walks around with a necklace with two cards full of photos of Tony and plays on a club team — JAS Chivas 21 — named in his honor. Before every game, she kneels down and crosses herself thinking of him.

“I tell my brother to help me out on the field and that I’ll play the best I can,” Santillan said. “He always tried to teach me all the tricks he knew and I always remember all the things he would tell me.”

Jersey No. 21 was temporarily retired during the fall season, when the boys’ team dedicated its season to Tony and asked Gamino that no one use his number. It wasn’t worn again until Korey resumed wearing it late this year after overcoming academic issues and rejoining the team. She formed an instant chemistry with freshman forward Jocelyn Alonso (who scored 33 goals this season) after being named honorable mention All-AAA in 2007 and second team this year. Her brother was the league’s Most Valuable Forward as a senior in 2005.

Korey Santillan had been wearing 21 for years after modeling her game after her brother.

“When I told [Tony] I wanted to wear his number, he said ‘Well, you’ve got to be really good to do it,’” Korey Santillan said. “And I’m trying my best to make him proud.”

AAA All-Star Match

» WHO: Heinlein Division vs. Rueda Division

» WHEN: Today, 4 p.m.

» WHERE: Boxer Stadium

All-AAA Girls’ soccer


Liz Abad, Washington, Sr.

Jocelyn Alonso, O’Connell, Fr.

Jhosselyn Alvarenga, O’Connell, Sr.

Emily Anderson, Lowell, Sr.

Madeleine Armour, Washington, So.

Ana Avilez, ISA, Jr.

Elvira Barrientos, Mission, Sr.

Alejandra Caro, O’Connell, Sr.

Chandra Dawson, Lowell, Sr.

Aracelly Hurtado, Lincoln, Sr.

Mari Novak, Lowell, Sr.

Zulema Lupe Gamez, Lowell, Jr.

Kellsa Toatelegese, Marshall, So.

Sandra Wing, Galileo, Sr.

Most Valuable Forward: Madeleine Armour, Washington, sophomore

Most Valuable Midfielder: Zulema Lupe Gamez, Lowell, junior

Most Valuable Defender: Mari Novak, Lowell, senior

Coach of the Year: Rocio Ramirez, Balboa


Denise Castro, Wallenberg, Fr.

Bianca Guillen, O’Connell, Jr.

Tasha Killmaier, Washington, So.

Shira Kogan, Lowell, So.

Magaly Martinez, Galileo, So.

Akunna Nwankwo, ISA, So.

Lilianna Pedroni, Lowell, Jr.

Gabriela Rustia, Lowell, So.

Christina Sampayo-Ruiz, Marshall, Sr.

Korey Santillan, O’Connell, So.

Mayra Vazquez-Montiel, O’Connell, Sr.

Mareah Wiles, Lincoln, Jr.

Samira Zebarjadian, Mission, Sr.


Sarah Angel, Wallenberg, sr.; Rachel Baskin, Lowell, so.; Eden Basset-Jones, ISA, fr.; Tiffany Camp, ISA, Sr.; Gina Cargas, Lowell, so.; Candy Cheung, Lincoln, sr.; Norma Cordero, Wallenberg, sr.; Molly Doyle, Washington, so.; Olivia Froelich, Lincoln, so.; Vina Giang, Marshall, jr.; Alejandra Guzman, Lowell, fr.; Natalie King, Lincoln, jr.; Stephanie Lee, Galileo, so.; Raylene Lopez, Burton, fr.; Yesenia Lopez, O’Connell, jr.; Anabel Martin, Burton, sr.; Sateeva Mickels, Marshall, fr.; Sandy Pablo-Bamaca, ISA, so.; Amber Perez, O’Connell, jr.; Laura Ramirez, Mission, fr.; Susan Reina, Marshall, sr.; Vanessa Rosillo, Mission, so.; Yesenia Sandoval, Galileo, jr.; Cynthia Salazar, Washington, sr.; Debrah Taisali, Mission, fr.; Esterlina Vargas, O’Connell, sr.; Vanessa Zamudio, Wallenberg, fr.; Gabby Zink, Washington, so.

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