Carol Erickson, team captain of Cal Poly women’s tennis and the school’s career leader in wins with 138, copes with having to spend the rest of her senior season sitting on the sidelines because of a forearm injury.
“It’s like a part of my life died,” Erickson said.
She received the news that her tennis season was over while on spring break.
“Thank God I was home with my family,” she said.
The news hit hard.
Erickson has been around tennis her entire life. She made her first appearance on a court at two weeks old and started playing competitively at age 10.
When Erickson hit a strong, short shot from her opponent during a match against UC Riverside on March 2, the return sent more force into the back of her forearm, tearing a muscle, Cal Poly head coach Hugh Bream said.
Swelling and nerve pressure contributed to compartmental syndrome, a condition where increased pressure in a small space affects tissue function, Bream said.
Erickson faces surgery in a few weeks, which she hopes will allow her to start playing tennis again this summer.
“I plan on playing for the rest of my life,” she said.
A graduating business senior, Erickson plans to move back to her hometown of San Diego and work as a financial advisor. But there will always be tennis.
“I don’t know what I would do with my life,” Erickson said of the scenario in which she would be forced to stop playing tennis.
Tennis has helped Erickson effectively manage her time throughout her college career.
“It keeps you on track,” she said.
Bream described Erickson as a student who was regularly on honor roll despite the year-long tennis season.
Bream described Erickson as “kind of like dynamite in a small package.”
Though built small, Erickson is a very aggressive baseline player who hits the ball hard and flat when she plays, Bream said.
Erickson added: “I’m a perfectionist to the utmost degree on the tennis court.”
Erickson shows her intensity on the court, Bream said.
“She’s fiery,” he said.
During her Cal Poly tennis career, Erickson faced and defeated opponents from Pac-10 schools like UCLA and Stanford.
Bream described Erickson’s best match as her 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3 loss to defending NCAA singles champion Susie Babos of Cal in January. The three-hour match showed that Erickson could compete with the best, Bream said.
Although Erickson’s injury has forced her to sit out much of her last season with the women’s tennis team, she remains on the sidelines coaching and supporting her teammates. As the only senior on a team otherwise comprised of sophomores and freshmen, Erickson has experienced both the high points and difficulties of playing Division I tennis, and acts as a leader and mentor to the other women, Bream said.
“It’s hard if I’m not out there hitting and getting better with them,” Erickson said, but despite her own injury, she looks to the “bigger picture,” a Big West Conference championship for her team.
Cal Poly (7-11, 3-4 Big West) is at the Big West Championships in Indian Wells from Friday through Sunday.
“We’re ready to win the Big West championship this weekend,” Bream said enthusiastically.