UO nabs soccer coach

Women’s soccer head coach Tara Erickson is headed for greener pastures next season, as in Duck green. Portland State was alerted early Friday afternoon that the University of Oregon had tendered an offer to steal away Erickson, whose Viking team had just won the Big Sky regular season title by going 4-1-1, the second time they achieved that mark in three years.

Erickson arrived at Portland State in 2001, taking over a team that went 0-18 the year prior to her hiring. She guided a much-improved squad to a 1-15-2 mark in her first year as head coach. Since that time the Viks have gone 28-23-8 overall, including an impressive 10-4-3 in Big Sky competition. The Big Sky record is tied for the best over the last three seasons.

In 2002, just her second year, Erickson led the Vikings on an impressive Big Sky tournament run, serving notice of their arrival as a power with a 1-0 victory over Montana in the semifinals. Though they lost to defending tourney winner Idaho State in the championship match 1-0 in OT, the effort was not lost on the rest of the Big Sky, and Erickson was named Coach of the Year, only the second coach in any sport in the history of PSU to be granted the honor.

The Vikings played extremely well in what turned out to Erickson’s final season at the helm, going 8-8-2, including their 4-1-1 mark in the Big Sky. However, the season ended bitterly for Erickson and her team as they faltered during a semifinal match against visiting Weber State, succumbing to the eventual champs 0-2 at PGE Park.

Coach Erickson, introduced Monday afternoon at the University of Oregon, is headed for a Duck team that her Viking squad picked on last season, defeating the Ducks 2-0. After a 1-0 victory against Oregon State as well, Erickson has a lifetime 4-2 record against Pac-10 teams, which certainly bodes well for her future employment.

The Ducks get an excellent recruiter in Erickson. In 2002, Erickson’s eye for talent was vindicated as two freshman and two sophomores earned spots on the All-Conference team. Star Katie Miyake transferred to PSU to play for Erickson. She went on to become the first player in conference history to win both Newcomer of the Year and MVP awards in a single season.

Recently, sophomore forward Jamie Blakesly earned Big Sky All-Conference honors and also took in the Golden Boot award, given to the player who led the conference in total points. It is only the second time a Viking player has earned the honor, yet it is Erickson’s second recruit. Miyake came through with the award in 2002.

The decision was tough for Erickson, who is three months pregnant, according to assistant coach Leslie Weeks. " It was an awesome experience for her, but it was a hard decision for her, and her expecting family. She accomplished a lot here," Weeks said. "But it was hard to tell the players, especially since we just graduated her first class."

Her players greeted the news with varying degrees of shock. " I found out the day she went down there [UO] to get interviewed. I have a friend who goes to UO and she told me that Coach was getting interviewed that day," said Kari Otani, a sophomore midfielder.

Junior midfielder Carly Sawhill is optimistic. " Our team is strong for the future. We started with a good coach and we all came through," she said. Both girls have circled the University of Oregon game on their calendars for next year.

Portland State must now come up with its own plan for next year and start a nationwide search for a replacement. "The good news of it is that we’ve turned the whole program around," said Andy McNamara, the Vikings assistant Media Relations director. "We’re already attracting outstanding interested candidates." If the Vikings score a major name to replace Erickson, it is only because of the attention PSU has garnered in the last four years under her direction.

Additional reporting by Ian Ruder.