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Steinbrenner alum Erika Peitersen makes instant impact for UT soccer

University of Tampa midfielder/forward Erika Peitersen (Courtesy of UT)
University of Tampa midfielder/forward Erika Peitersen (Courtesy of UT)
Published Sep. 25, 2017

TAMPA — University of Tampa women's soccer coach Erin Switalski said it's always difficult to predict a freshman's performance.

"The expectations are always high," Switalski said. "But you don't know what you're going to get until they arrive. Where they go from there depends on their mentality and the work they put in. It's great when it happens quickly."

Spartans midfielder/forward Erika Peitersen, a freshman from Steinbrenner High School, already has made a rapid ascension to productivity.

During her first weekend as a college athlete, in two matches, she scored all three of UT's goals. For that stunning debut, she was named Sunshine State Conference player of the week.

"I was ecstatic," Peitersen said. "Coming in as a freshman, I didn't even know they gave out honors like that. I was sitting on our bus when they announced it and I was like, 'What?' It surprised me.

"But it was awesome. I felt good about making an impact and it was a starting point for me. It's nice to make a little name for yourself, but you never want to be satisfied. You try to set a standard, then keep moving up."

Peitersen established her standard early on. She's 5-foot-9 and ultra athletic, a difficult matchup for any defender. She's hard-working and instinctive.

"Erika just kind of gets it," Switalski said. "She puts herself in positions where she can score in and around the net. She's got a nice shot and she understands the game well. She's young, but she listens, pays attention, then puts it into action on the field. I'm excited to see how much she can progress."

Switalski was told about Peitersen by Steinbrenner coach Shannon Scott, a former Spartans goalkeeper. Switalski said she felt Peitersen's skill set would be a perfect fit.

But Peitersen already had committed to Saint Leo University.

The possibility ended.

Then it re-opened when Saint Leo had a coaching change.

"It was hard and I was very stressed out because I wasn't sure what to do," Peitersen said. "I even thought about going to school and not playing soccer. The University of Tampa was always an option. Once I got here and visited, it all came together for me."

Peitersen, 18, has been playing since the fourth grade. It was a natural thing since her father, Ole, played a year of men's soccer at UT and remained active in the game after college.

"He loves that I'm here and playing, kind of following in his footsteps," Peitersen said. "We always talk. He tells me what I did wrong, what I did right. It's never too harsh. He and my mother are a huge support system."

Peitersen has Danish and Venezuelan roots. Her father's parents were from Denmark. Her mother is from Venezuela and Spanish was spoken in the home, so Peitersen feels like she has "a huge advantage to meet so many different people and making connections."

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Her parents always encouraged participation and creativity. Peitersen's oldest sister, Natasha, is a model currently working in Istanbul. Peitersen, who enjoys art and photography, is majoring in advertising/public relations.

She also expresses herself on the soccer pitch.

"Erika is just getting started, so I'm very interested to see how much she can improve and how far she can go," Switalski said. "She could have a really great career here."

For now, Peitersen is concentrating on current events.

"We definitely could win the conference and get a ring by the end of this season," said Peitersen, whose Spartans took a 5-0-1 record into the SSC match Saturday night (Sept. 30) against Florida Southern. "I think I'm in a really good spot and I'm loving being part of this team.

"Continuing to improve is important to me. I want to keep going up and getting better."

If Peitersen finishes what she started, it could be a special career indeed.

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