It had been 14 years in which Erica Perez had been blazing her way through soccer fields. 14 years of soccer being her reason to wake up, to pick up a ball, to practice drills for hours. 14 years of experiencing pre-game jitters instantly switching to game mode once the whistle blows. 14 years of soccer being a core source of her happiness, until one day, the story was no longer about soccer.
A torn MCL injury during her senior soccer season in high school set Perez up for what seemed like failure. Her thoughts about her future soccer career constantly swarmed her, as pain ran through her muscles as she continued to play with her MCL partially torn.
“You tend to not let your injuries get in the way,” Perez said. “But I was accepting that I wasn’t going to play anymore…I just figured that it was God’s plan, that it was no longer the path for me, and I had to figure out my life.”
To Perez, there was no point in being recruited for soccer immediately out of high school in 2016, since her MCL injury marked a considerable setback to her soccer career. Instead, it was time to focus on her educational career by attending PCC in 2018, also giving Perez her second shot at soccer after a two year rest and recovery break.
“Not only was not touching a [soccer] ball for practically two years, but just getting back into shape and knowing that everyone else is at high pace…I was basically two steps behind everyone else!” Perez said. “But I knew I wasn’t done, I knew that my senior year of high school shouldn’t have been the last of my years playing,” she added.
Playing since the age of 4, Perez was your typical soccer star from the start. Beginning her early years with the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) league, she was a fierce competitor. Moving onto Villa Park soccer, and ultimately playing for various club soccer teams—Crown City United, LAFC, Crescenta Valley Soccer Club, F.C. Golden State. But her ultimate connection to soccer stemmed from the bond it formed between her and her father. Traveling far on the road during club tournaments, practices and weekly games, Perez’s father-daughter connection allowed her to be successful in her soccer career, as she’d sense her father’s presence on the field during every game, even when he was unable to attend.
“If you ask me why I am so competitive it’s because I grew up with two older brothers, and that explains why I was so into sports,” Perez said. “But my dad was the one who put me into soccer…and he realized that I was really happy while playing in comparison to my brothers who stopped [playing soccer].”
As a freshman starter, Perez couldn’t always steer clear of injuries as she experienced a forceful collision with a Chaffey College opponent, leading her to sit out her remaining 6 games for the 2018-2019 season after experiencing a concussion. KT tape at hand during her sophomore year, Perez continued to ball out with recurring pains from her previous MCL injury, in addition to her often ignored sprained ankle.
“My dedication explains who I am as a person on and off the field,” Perez said
Today, Perez stands as the fourth sophomore from the 2019 PCC Women’s Soccer Team to commit to the 4-year NAIA University of Saint Katherine in San Marcos, triple majoring in kinesiology, business, and American Sign Language. Perez was second on the Lady Lancers team in assists, with 10 and one goal in the 2019. Her 13 career assists were ranked second in the state and eighth most in PCC history.
“I made an impact on my team especially from changing to different positions,” Perez said. “I went from left mid to right mid to right defense to left defense…my coach always showed confidence in me and I feel like that’s what made me an even better player, made me a smarter player.”
Under the circumstances of COVID-19, Perez currently trains with her fellow Saint Katherine team members via zoom, and takes it upon herself to perform daily drills outside of virtual practices. The goal is to recreate Nike women’s soccer commercials, with every drip of sweat that runs throughout her body, every shot she makes into the net, every lap she finishes around the soccer field and every dribble she coordinates will only advance her for what’s in store for her soccer journey at University of Saint Katherine.