As a two-time captain, the team’s top returning scorer, and the sole senior-starter on the squad, Cole Erickson ’15 is an undisputed leader of the Macalester Men’s Soccer team. Hard to imagine, but things weren’t always so set for the laid-back, exemplary defender.
During pre-season of his freshman year Erickson tore his ACL, missing the whole season to surgery. By sophomore year, he was cleared to play but not physically fit to contribute. “I still remember a conversation we had in the parking lot at the beginning of his sophomore year and I just said, ‘Cole, you have to decide if you want to play or not,’ because at that point there was not a huge emphasis on his physical development and to get his knee better so he could get back on to the field,” Coach Gregg Olson said.
For Erickson the road back to the playing field was a tough experience with the time commitment and energy needed for rehab, but it was ultimately a rewarding one. “Being injured as a sophomore allowed me to watch some of the older guys and learn from them. I think the desire to play soccer is what kept me going and now that I am back I’m definitely happy that I went through all the work,” Erickson said.
A year ago Erickson sat atop the stat sheet in goals scored, tied at five with Robin Forslund ’14. He was also elected team captain and emerged as a leader on a senior-heavy team. “To see him make that progression from one year to the next was incredible. He has a really fast learning curve, but he’s had to carry the team with goals and assists. He’s had to carry the team. He’s had to explain to the team, ‘Here’s how we do things at Macalester as a student, here’s how we do things as an athlete,’” Olson said.
Through 12 games this season he’s picked up two goals and two assists. What makes his numbers all the more impressive is the few chances he gets to play up front. As the Scot’s center back, Erickson gets moved up only on set pieces, yet he works to make every chance count. “You’re not given a lot of opportunities to go forward, so when those opportunities come you’ve got to put in the work and try to get in the right spot. I’ve just been very fortunate to kind of be in the right spot at the right time,” Erickson said.
He was in the right spot again in the final moments of Macalester’s most recent home game against Bethel. On Oct. 4, with less than 30 seconds on the clock, Erickson set up Dylan Wong’s (’16) game-winning goal. The win put the Scots at 3-2 in conference play and tied for fourth in the standings. With their remaining schedule featuring five games against MIAC rivals, the Scots remain in the hunt for the playoffs, which they have not made since 2010.
Erickson identifies the energy and athleticism of his younger teammates as reason for the season’s success. Austin Burrows ’17 and Alan Schembri-Wismayer ’17 lead the team in goals and assists, respectively. “We’ve done a really good job of playing fast and to the style that we want to, whereas in past years it seemed more we were developing our style of fast play,” Erickson said.
As Erickson leads a back line that features a junior, sophomore and first year in protection of keeper Zeke Vainer ’17, he is looking to clean up the details on defense: “I want it it to be crystal clear in the back. We can work on everything, from finding your mark to not letting up goal scoring opportunities,” he said.
To his teammates, Erickson provides a calming influence and a balance of leadership and levity. “He’s our rock in the back. He keeps us in line, leading by example on and off the field,” said Charlie Spurr ’17. “He’s also a goon and keeps it light.”
As an economics major, Erickson has been challenged to balance all the aspects of school, soccer and social life, but he’s done it his own way. “I would like to think that I’m a big goofball and I think part of that is putting it all into perspective. The sport that we play and school, I think it’s all serious and you should take work seriously and soccer seriously, at least that’s how I feel, but definitely I try not to take myself too seriously,” Erickson said.
Though the team hopes to return every other starter next fall, the void left by Erickson will be considerable. In the meantime Olson is looking to have Erickson “[use] his voice and his experience to help the young guys around him progress as players and leaders. He is unique in his leadership style in that he is mature beyond his years, and I hope the younger guys in the group can learn from that.”