HAWAII GROWN REPORT
COURTESY OF LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY
Long Island University's Erica Chong helped the Blackbirds set a school record with 13 wins last year, but the team missed going to the NCAA tournament.
Multi-talented Erica Chong
Hilo's Erica Chong has excelled at soccer, golf and school at Long Island U.
By Al Chase
ERICA CHONG is one of those rare student-athletes who can juggle two sports and maintain a high academic standard at the same time.
The senior at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus is a starting midfielder for the Blackbirds soccer team and an All-Northeast Conference member of the golf team.
She has been in the LIU honors program since her freshman year after being first in her class for four years at Hilo High School and serving as valedictorian.
"It's hard balancing two sports and school. The thing I'm most impressed with about Erica is her time management," said golf coach Michael Michaelides.
"The thing I respect the most is she is not afraid to ask questions or speak her mind. That is a maturity issue and she has learned that."
Her athletic highlights occurred last year. She scored her first collegiate goal and shot her best round of golf. The goal was at Boston University. The play started with a BU defender passing back to the goalkeeper.
"I rushed the goalkeeper, who was going to clear the ball. It hit my leg and, as she dove for the ricochet, I kicked it in. I felt like a lot of hard work had paid off," said Chong, who is on scholarship for both sports.
On the golf course, Chong shot a 76 last spring, her best round in a tournament.
"It was the last hole and I was off the green, but I chipped on and sank it for par," she said.
She considered Hawaii, Nevada and Northern Colorado, but a tape made by Global Sports Network resulted in East Coast schools showing interest. LIU's health sciences department attracted her interest.
Her plan on entering college was to study pharmacy, but she also knew LIU had other medical programs.
"The other thing was being able to play two sports. I never imagined that I could do that," Chong said. "I'm very appreciative of the opportunity and have tried to take as much advantage as possible."
Chong switched her major to respiratory care and needs an extra year to complete her degree requirements, with graduation set for spring of 2008.
She chose LIU without making a visit to the campus.
"I didn't know too many kids who visited schools. We couldn't afford to make that trip so I trusted what the school offered and what the coaches said," Chong said.
She declined to elaborate fully on her first impression of the campus other than to say, "It was definitely nothing like Hilo High School where everything is so homey.
"I came in with a big freshman class and we did a lot of venturing together. That made things more comfortable. I learned how to take the subway and the train and it is so easy to get places."
COURTESY OF LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY
Long Island senior Erica Chong, can hit a 3-wood 250 yards.
A striker in high school, she was moved to outside left midfield at LIU for two seasons. Last year, LIU soccer coach Tracey Bartholomew used a 4-3-3 system and Chong was up top. This year the Blackbirds favor the 4-4-2 with Chong back at outside left mid.
"Erica can serve the ball with either foot, but is more comfortable on the left," Bartholomew said. "She is one of nine seniors and this has been the class that has catapulted the program.
"She is very powerful and strong. She will run through people and pressure people, but doesn't get called for fouls that often."
Chong says she is an aggressive player, what people in the East refer to as West Coast aggressiveness.
"I really don't know how to describe it, but that is what people tell me," Chong said.
"They call things a lot quicker on the East Coast. I saw my style on our West Coast trip (LIU played at St. Mary's and Pacific to open the 2006 season). "I love getting on that field and roughing it up. It's not like I'm trying to hurt anyone, but the refs don't call it (as close) in California."
She does not have a favorite sport.
"When I'm in season, that is the sport. I just put everything into it. Now I'm head over heels into soccer," she said. "I'm loving my senior year. In both sports I'm always learning something new."
Soccer keeps Chong from playing in many fall golf tournaments, but last year, after a Friday soccer match at Wagner in the city, she took Amtrak to Cape Cod to participate in the East Coast Athletic Conference tournament at Falmouth, Mass.
She finished third in the Northeast Conference tournament last spring with a 78-79--157. That earned her all-conference honors for the second time.
"Erica had a breakaway season last year and it was definitely fun to see," said Michaelides. "She is a very good golfer, but first of all, she is a tremendous athlete. I truly believe any sport she decided to play she would just be amazing at. She is stronger than the girls she plays against, hits a 3-wood 250-260 yards.
"Erica does not like to lose. She will fight for everything. She has a competitive spirit you don't find too often."
Michaelides credits Chong with becoming a team leader and having the ability to light a fire under her teammates when necessary.
Bartholomew added, "Erica has a tremendous work rate. She will push through any training regimen while yelling and cheering on her teammates. She certainly is a leader and does it in different ways on and off the field."
The Blackbird soccer team set a school record with 13 wins last year, but missed going to the NCAA tournament when they lost the NEC tournament championship match to Central Connecticut State 1-0.
CCS is picked to win its fifth consecutive title this year, with LIU tabbed second in a preseason poll.
Chong has several options to consider following graduation. She could become certified as a respiratory therapist.
"I really enjoy the city and would like to be here for a few years and see what the hospitals have to offer. I might consider other medical occupations and I also want to travel abroad," she said.
Chong, who plays the saxophone, was a member of the Hilo High School band that played in Carnegie Hall her sophomore season. That summer she played in the AYSO National Tournament at West Point.
"I never thought I would be back in New York City," she said.
Notes: Bartholomew coached the Blackbirds in 2002 when they lost to Hawaii 6-1.
"We've come a long way since then. We had one athlete on the team and I asked her to please stay close to Natasha Kai," recalled Bartholomew.
Kai scored two goals as UH ended a four-match losing streak with the win.
Chong's younger sister Katrina is a freshman striker at Loyola Marymount.
ERICA CHONG BY THE NUMBERS
Long Island University soccer statistics for the soccer player/golfer from Hilo