When Erin Vig laces up her cleats for her college team this fall, she won’t be far from home.
The 2017 Sequim High grad signed on to play for Peninsula College, one of the top community college programs in the Pacific Northwest, in May.
“They have always been such an impressive team,” Vig said. “I jumped at the opportunity (when I found) they were looking at me.”
Vig, a defenseman, was named all-Olympic League first team, along with teammate (and best friend) Claire Henninger, SHS’s goalkeeper.
“She’s intelligent, she’s got size and strength to be successful in the college game, and she’s got all the intangibles (like) the work ethic,” PC head coach Kanyon Anderson said. “She’s got the qualities to allow her to out-work other people.”
After averaging four wins per season from 2013-2015, Vig and the Sequim Wolves enjoyed a banner season in 2016 with an 11-8 record — best in school history — and coming within a single game of the state 2A playoffs.
“I don’t think any of us expected that much of a turnaround,” Vig said.
She credited a number of changes in the program — new head coach Derek Vandervelde and new practices such as more gym workouts and studying film tape — to the Wolves’ success.
“We had some amazing freshmen come up,” she said. “I feel like we all came together as a team.”
And on Senior Night, the defenseman got a chance to play a bit of offense and wound up scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 win against Kingston.
Though the Wolves wound up falling just short of the state tourney — to rival Port Angeles, no less, Vig said she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I’m happy PA got to state. I love those girls; they are fantastic,” Vig said. “It was the perfect end to my senior year.”
Soccer to running, and back to soccer once more
Vig says she was playing sports as early as she can remember.
“My parents (Craig and Julie Vig) threw me in every single sport they possibly could.”
The appeal to the game?
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful sport. I’m extremely lucky to be part of it,” Vig says.
Instead of relishing a sweet pass through the defense and netting a goal, Vig enjoys the aspects of her role on defense.
“Sometimes in a game you get this feeling of pure adrenaline — a really good slide tackle, a goal save,” she said. “It’s those little things that make all the practices and the bloody knees all worth it.”
Looking for a change, though, Vig switched to cross country for a couple of of years in her freshman and sophomore fall prep seasons.
That’s when Keith McMinn, who was helping organize a winter league team of top high school female soccer players from across the peninsula through the Peninsula Soccer Academy, contacted her.
“I missed soccer so much,” Vig recalled. “I thought, ‘If I do well, I think I’m going to go back to soccer.’”
“Her biggest attributes are her attitude — she doesn’t give up — and her perseverance: she’s not afraid to fail,” McMinn said. “She’ll take risks and develop in a rapid pace.”
Mixing in with players from Port Angeles on PSA, a U18 winter league team playing in the North Puget Sound first division, Vig said her time on the team proved to be worthwhile and set her on a course back to playing with the Wolves for her junior and senior seasons.
“It’s an incredible program, the difference it makes,” Vig said.
Anderson said the academy is a benefit for local young athletes who want to enhance their skills.
“It keeps them playing year-round,” Anderson said. “They’re doing a great job (of) not being exclusive. The girls still are able to be multi-sport athletes. Their focus is on training, not on competing … (and helps them get) just one step closer to college level.”
Vig credited her academy coaches — McMinn, Anderson, Tim Tucker, Jake Hughes (now Peninsula’s men’s head coach), Omar Anderson, Nick Johnson and others — for helping enhance her skills.
“Hopefully, it’s opening up doors for kids,” McMinn said.
Playing at another level
Now Vig is setting her sights on Peninsula, already a storied program after its inception in 2010.
PC’s Pirates won their third Northwest Athletic Conference championship in 2016, joining four other colleges as the winningest women’s soccer program in NWAC history.
Since the program’s inaugural season, Peninsula has gone 117-11-7 and winning league titles and Final Four appearances each season.
“(It’s) a great opportunity for her,” McMinn said. “For a long time, soccer communities have been a little bit divided. She’s one of the success stories having been through each one of those programs.”
McMinn said Vig will have an adjustment period playing at the next level.
“Anytime you move up a level it’s the same fundamental game, but everything happens quicker,” McMinn said.
Vig said she’s excited for the opportunity, one that will come fairly quickly: the first practice is Aug. 1, with the first preseason games slated for later that month.
“I’ve been around those girls: they helped out with team camps I’d done,” Vig said. “I could tell the environment was happy and fun. At their age and level, it would be so easy to look to look down on us, but they didn’t. They are so good at what they do. I was jealous. I wanted to be one of them.”
Vig said she had set up a tryout with a Canadian school but nixed that when she found Peninsula College had a spot for her.