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Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 09 January 2014 00:00

Lisa Erickson and Tereza Simonyan didn’t know each other when they attended Cal State Northridge, primarily because they were students there at different times.

New Hall Members -- Tennis player Tereza Simonyan (left) and softball player Lisa Erickson are part of the latest class of Cal State Northridge athletes voted into the university's athletic Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is Feb. 9.

Lisa Erickson and Tereza Si- monyan didn’t know each other when they attended Cal State Northridge, primarily because they were students there at different times.

But Erickson and Simonyan are linked together – by their athletic legacies, and the individual and team championships they won. And now you can add the CSUN athletic Hall of Fame. The university’s Hall of Fame was established in 1981 to honor and remember it's distinguished athletes, either by sport or meritorious effort, while an undergraduate or in later years after leaving the university. It now has more than 200 members.

Simonyan, currently an attor- ney with the prestigious Lane Powell firm in Seattle, WA, was a standout tennis player while at Northridge from 2000-03. Erickson, a fourth grade teacher in the Paso Robles School Dis- trict in central California, was a top-flight softball player from 1987-90.

They both set athletic stan- dards at Northridge that have yet to be surpassed. Now they are immortalized in Matador history or, perhaps in this case, her story.

Tennis Whiz

Simonyan was a 17-year-old racket talent from Yerevan, Ar- menia, when she came to Amer- ica and, specifically, CSUN.

It would have been under- standable if Simonyan had felt isolated and overwhelmed by her new environment. But in- stead of being intimidated by the circumstances, she embraced them.

“There was a culture shock, but I really liked it right away,” Simonyan said. “Los Angeles is such a diverse place; I loved all the different cultures coming together. This is a very homogeneous country. It was a real treat.”

Simonyan now 31, would produce arguably the best tennis career at Northridge, male or female.

She was a four-time all- league selection, and set the school career record for wins (78), and career winning percentage (78-20, .796). She and doubles partner Marietta-Louise Shaw posted an amazing 19-1 single season record in 2000. Simonyan helped the Matadors win the Big Sky Conference cham- pionship in 2001, and in 2003 she was named the Northridge Senior Athlete of the Year.

Ask Simonyan of her fondest memories, however, and they are not dominated by the victories.

“We took a lot of trips with the tennis team,” she said. “I spent a lot of time with my teammates and we had become a real family. When you are competing and supporting each other, you be- come close. It was special time.

“I had one trip to Hawaii for a conference match and that was great. It was my first time anywhere tropical. And the year we won the conference title was special.”

Simonyan very briefly thought about trying to become a professional tennis player, but quickly decided that wasn’t the life for her.

“I did consider it in 2000-01,” Simonyan said. “(But) to have that glamorous pro life you have to be in the top 20 in the world. And that is such a long shot; there is so much tal- ent out there. I wanted some- thing where I could realistically achieve success, where the odds are better.”

She studied pre-law and business law at Northridge, gradu- ating in 2003. She eventually relocated to Seattle, attending law school at Seattle University and graduating in 2009 with a specialty in creditor’s rights and bankruptcy.

She met her future hus- band, dentist Dr. Tim Ernoff, on a visit to his office – “I had a cavity,” she said – and mar- ried after graduating from law school. They have a son, Niko, who’s about to celebrate his first birthday.

“In law you don’t have to retire at 30. It’s a much more stable life than pro athlete,” Simonyan said. “Every now and then I do look back; there is some nostalgia. But I’m happy with how my life turned out.”

And she carries with her cer- tain lessons that sports taught her.

“One of the biggest from coach Gary Victor is to win and lose with dignity. That’s the most important thing I have learned,” she said. “That has carried over into so many places, in the court room especially, and all aspects of my life.”

Both Simonyan, practicing returns, and Erickson, beating a throw to first, set school career records that stand today.

Softball Standout

Erickson already knew some- thing about championships before she came to Northridge as an 18-year-old freshman, hav- ing been a part of a CIF Section title softball team at Crescenta Valley High in La Crescenta.

And as a freshman on the 1987 Matadors team, converting from third base to an out- fielder, Erickson was not heavily needed on a deep, well-stocked squad that would go on to win the NCAA Division II national championship.

But Erickson was getting an education on the field that she could not get in the classroom.

“When I look back...going to nationals my freshman year and winning it all was amazing,” she said. “It was my first experience of college ball. The camaraderie – I learned so much from the upper classmen. Barbara Jordan and Priscilla Rouse (Decker) were the team leaders then as seniors. They were so inspirational, played so hard and I wanted to be like them. The driving force they created in me made me want to be great every day.

“It seems like yesterday. Coach (Gary) Torgenson was a mentor...I loved the sport. He always believed in all of us. His belief made us strong and tough as we were. He knew we could do everything we set our minds to. That helped us rise to the occasion to win.”

She didn’t like softball at first. She played T-ball and little league with her brother and callously thought, “the softball was too big.” But she struggled at first in baseball and became frustrated trying to keep up with the boys. When she ex- pressed that frustration to her father, he simply replied, “you have to be better” if she wanted more playing time.

Erickson worked at her game and got better. When she switched to softball at age 12, her heightened skill set made her a player to watch. “They could put me at any position, and I could hit the ball,” she recalled.

At Northridge she evolved in to an ideal leadoff hitter. Blessed with good speed – “I’ve always been fast, still am” – she gave Torgenson and the Mata- dors the kind of offensive catalyst other teams envied.

Erickson went on to set school career records in batting average (.410), runs scored (170), hits (293), and stolen bases (117). She played on four CCAA conference champions at Northridge, and was a two-time All-Region and Division II All- America selection, both in 1989 and 1990.

She continued to play after graduating Northridge with a degree in Liberal Studies, mixing jobs as an office manager and private coach with being a member of the USA national team that played in China for the 1992 World Challenger Cup, and won the gold medal.

But when Erickson failed to make the 1994 national team that would eventually play in the 1996 Olympics, she knew it was time to get out of the cleats.

“By then I was married and pursuing my teaching credential,” Erickson said. “So I decided to start other part of my life as a teacher and a mom.”

Since earning her teaching credential in 1997 from Pacific University, Erickson – who turned 46 on Jan. 5 – has lived happily in Paso Robles, teaching fourth grade elementary school and coaching teams while raising three sons with her husband Scott, a hospital officer in Atascadero Mental Hospital.

Like Simonyan, she lives life by lessons learned from sports, starting with what her father subconsciously implanted, and what Coach Torgenson nurtured.

“Perseverance is so important,” Erickson said. “(Softball) is a game of failure; you don’t get on base every time. You have to have determination. Every at-bat is an opportunity, and you have to find a way to be successful. The girls I coach, they get upset if they make an out sometimes, and can have a hard time seeing that. But it’s about not giving up – you can be down and losing until the last inning, but if you persevere something is going to happen.

“It’s so important to teach that to young kids. What are you gonna do to score that final run and rise up to the occasion? The successful teams I played on had that determination to never give up, and do something about our situation.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 January 2014 23:03

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