BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - On National Signing Day, Samantha "Sami" Erickson signed to play soccer with Fairfield University with her family and Gov. Livingston girls' head soccer coach Mike Roof by her side.
Playing Division 1 soccer has been a dream for Erickson, and once she experienced Stag culture for a day, she knew Fairfield was the perfect fit.
Coach Roof is confident that Erickson has all the physical tools to help at the next level. He describes her as a versatile player that has made lasting contributions over these last four years at GL. He recognized her work on both ends of the field, and said she will make a great defensive addition at Fairfield.
Erickson was named to the All-County First Team and was honored with an All-State Player Recognition. She was part of the 2018 State Championship soccer team and was named a team captain this season after leading her squad to the conference final in 2019.
Roof credits Erickson for playing an important part in winning the 2018 State Championship Semifinal, advancing the team to the final and ultimately winning the State Championship. "One of her lasting contributions was her man-marking responsibilities in the state semifinal versus Delsea where she basically put their 30- goal scorer in her pocket and didn't let her impact the game as much as most people would have thought. That played an important part in us winning that night."
Winning the 2018 State Championship as a sophomore is a memory of a lifetime. "My all-time favorite memory with my high school soccer team had to be winning the State Championship in 2018. It might even be one of my favorite memories of my life," said Erickson. "There is no better feeling in the world than upsetting a team in a stadium with a huge crowd, for the Group 2 State Champion Title. When the buzzer sounded, I felt a million amazing emotions at once. I still get chills whenever I think about or look at pictures from this moment."
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has crushed the hope of another championship title for Erickson and her senior teammates -- shutting down the team's run in the Union County Tournament and taking them out of the State Tournament.
"COVID-19 was a disease that nobody saw coming. It is devastating that 8 of us seniors are ending our high school careers like this. Many of us have been playing together seasonally for as long as I can remember. I think that my grade has always been considered a very 'special' group of girls when it came to soccer. I was really expecting another state title this year, so being shut down for COVID is extremely disappointing."
Roof was equally devastated. "I was disappointed to see our opportunity in the UCT cut short, but I was even more gutted to see our chances of participating in the state tournament ended, especially after such a long fact-finding process by our district. I was always holding out hope that we would be in but ultimately I think there were too many challenges and some question marks to make it work."
Erickson and her Highlander teammates will have one last chance to play together on Saturday, November 21 against neighborhood rival New Providence Pioneers at NPHS Lieder Field with a 10 a.m. start.
Sami took time to respond to some questions from TAPinto Berkeley Heights.
TAPinto: Why did you choose to play for Fairfield?
Sami: Fairfield stood out to me amongst other schools because of the location, campus, size, education, and of course the soccer program. I was considering other schools, in fact, Fairfield was my last choice before I saw the campus and got a little insight on the college. Once I saw the campus and experienced the Stag culture for a day, I fell in love! My mom and I both knew that this college would suite me perfectly at the end of the tour.
Some of the things that I love about Fairfield include it being right next to the beach, the campus is relatively small, so I can walk from class to class, the fabulous education, and, my favorite, the grass soccer field (a well-kept grass field is better than a turf on any given day in my opinion)! Fairfield is also only an hour and a half away from home, therefore, my family can come and watch my games anytime they want!
TAPinto: Have you spent time there -- what do you like about the facilities? What do you like about the coaching?
Sami: The coaching staff is great! Coach Barret and Coach Meg were very welcoming when I came to visit and made it clear that they are ambitious to win and want to keep improving the team any way possible. They keep me and my fellow recruits in the loop and update us on any information and organized some icebreakers during our first few Zoom calls. The coaches also encouraged us six 2021 recruits to see each other in person and get to know one another a little better. After this, we all met up at Batello in Jesey City and enjoyed a nice dinner with a gorgeous view. The girls were awesome, I had the best time and the experience only made me more excited to meet the rest of the team!
TAPinto: How has COVID-19 impacted your recruitment process?
Sami: COVID-19 had a drastic impact on my recruitment process. I play for PDA and the main goal of this team is to develop you into an outstanding player, then show you off at showcases in hopes that a college will notice you. Since COVID hit us around March last year, I missed a lot of big opportunities to showcase at tournaments. Luckily, Fairfield was one of the schools that had noticed me a month or so before at an ECNL showcase in Florida. By the time we were quarantined, I had already visited the school. However, I was not able to come back for the soccer camp where we meet the team and get to stay overnight, which was supposed to take place over summer (canceled because of COVID). COVID-19 put a lot of stress on my plate because nobody knew when I would be back on the field again and have the ability to showcase for more coaches. On the other hand, the last thing I wanted to do was rush into a commitment to a school that is not perfect for me. I spent a lot of time making sure that Fairfield was the perfect fit for me, and 3 months later I decided to be a Stag!
TAPinto: Has your college coach given you advice on how to prepare for the next level?
Sami: My coach has not really given me advice on how to prepare for the next level other than just keep doing what I’m doing and keep going to practice. He encourages us to workout everyday and practice our skills. Sometimes he will ask us what we have been doing to stay in shape via zoom calls.
TAPinto: You also run track, are you considering running track in college?
Sami: I started running track to make myself faster for soccer, until it turned out that I was pretty good at the sport. I ended up really enjoying track and winning quite a few medals. However, I also conducted my first 2 injures during track. I have never really been injury prone during soccer, but both years I ran track (freshman and sophomore) I strained my left and right hip flexors. These injuries caused me to miss out on a lot of soccer training since it was during the season. Junior year, I decided it was best to not pursue track any more because soccer was beginning to get more serious, and I needed more time to balance school work, a job, and club soccer.However, I after taking a year off, I am debating on running track again sometime this year or at some point in college.
TAPinto: What can you tell me about your GL soccer experience as a four-year varsity player?
Sami: Being a four-year varsity player has been a great ride. When I walked up the hill for the first day of preseason freshman year, I was terrified. Not only because of soccer, but also the upperclassmen. However, when Kelsey, Jackie, Kaylee and I made the varsity team, I think we could all agree that the seniors could not have made us feel any more welcomed. They invited us to friendly outings and really made us feel comfortable on and off the field. Being a freshman on varsity can really be intimidating, but it ended up helping me branch out and improve my social skills.
Sophomore year, a lot more girls that I had played with on Berkeley Heights travel soccer made the team. The high school soccer season really reconnected us and made all of our friendships even stronger. My grade has a bunch of very talented players, and as soon as we gained our chemistry on the field, we were unstoppable. Coincidentally enough, this was the year we won our State Champ title at Kean.
Junior year was similar to sophomore year. We still had a great team and loads of fun. Sadly, we took defeat down in Wall for the State Sectional Final. The most disappointing thing was that I said “it’s okay we will win next year”.
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