Born: November 16, 1975
Erica Walsh was born November 16, 1975 in Bordentown and grew up across the Delaware River in Montgomery County. Erica played travel soccer and became the star of the Lower Moreland High School basketball team, lettering all four years as a point guard and leading the Lions to a pair of district titles. She was also a leader of the school’s spring lacrosse team. Heading into her junior year at LMH in 1991, she and a few other girls looked into starting a girls varsity team. Boys’ coach John Oberholzer coaxed Erica into suiting up for the boys team, instead. She not only held her own, but as a senior in 1992 was named to the all-conference team as a midfielder at the end of the season. Although she was a little smaller and slower than the competition, she more than made up for it by thinking a couple of passes ahead of the boys.
There was interest in Erica from some college hoops programs as she neared graduation, but she decided to pursue soccer and accepted a scholarship from William & Mary. Under coach John Daly she became an accomplished attacking defender/sweeper and was the team’s MVP as a junior and senior and was named team captain as a senior in 1996. W&M’s soccer team made the NCAA all four years and rose as a high as #4 nationally while she played for the Tribe. After graduation, Erica decided to get into coaching and took an assistant position at Bucknell. She also continued playing, joining the New Jersey Lady Stallions in 1997. In 1998, she accepted an assistant coaching gig at Dartmouth and became head coach in 2000. In three years at the helm, her Dartmouth teams won a pair of Ivy League titles and made the NCAA Tournament each season. She took an assistant job at Lehigh, where she was able to complete her MBA.
Erica’s coaching abilities were recognized by USA Soccer and she was named head coach of the Under-17 team. She also worked with U-19 coach Mark Krikorian, who was named head coach at Florida State in 2005. His first staff hire was Erica. In 2006, Harvard snapped Erica up as its head coach but after a year there, she moved over to Penn State, where she took over a national powerhouse from Paula Wilkins. Erica also was part of the coaching staff at the 2008 Olympics.
The Nittany Lions ran their string of Big Ten conference titles to 15 during Erica’s first six seasons. Her 2012 squad won close games against Michigan and Duke and made it to the NCAA Final against UNC. The game was knotted 1–1 at the half, but a quick goal by the Tar Heels shifted momentum and Penn State fell 4–1. Three years later, Erica—now Erica Walsh Dambach—led her team on a magical in the NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions beat Albany, Boston University, Ohio State, West Virginia and Rutgers without allowing a single goal to earn a berth opposite Duke in the championship game. Team captain and Herman Trophy winner Rocky Rodriguez scored the only goal in a 1–0 victory over the Blue Devils to give Penn State its first College Cup championship.