Personal Best: Soccer star overcomes loss to chase dream of going pro 

The summer after graduating from Lowell High School in 2007 marked Erica Wheeler-Dubin’s first season with the San Francisco Nighthawks of the Women’s Premier Soccer League.

“I was one of the youngest players on the team. I just remember bonding with all of these older players that I looked up to and felt respect for,” Wheeler-Dubin said. “Everyone had each other’s back; there was that feeling of family.”

The 21-year-old Wheeler-Dubin has bravely faced the Nighthawks season without the support of her mom, Jane Wheeler, who lost her battle with cancer last fall. Mom’s legacy as a counselor and therapist inspired Erica to study psychology and play soccer at UC Santa Cruz.

“My mom and my dad were such supporters of my soccer career. They were at every single game,” the midfielder said. Dad Andrew Dubin, an education administration professor at San Francisco State, will continue to cheer on his daughter from his lawn chair on the sideline of this summer’s Nighthawks games as he has done before.

Wheeler-Dubin’s soccer career began at age 9 as she and Katie, her fraternal twin and Santa Cruz roommate, played in the San Francisco recreational and club leagues near their Westwood Park home.

The girls played together all four years at Lowell, where senior season team captain Erica was named MVP, as well as Offensive Player of the Year and Most Inspirational Player.

Katie decided to forego college ball, whereas her sister was focused on playing for the Banana Slugs of Santa Cruz.
Captain is a title that has followed Wheeler-Dubin from Lowell to Santa Cruz to the Nighthawks.

“She’s all heart and love,” said Jill Lounsbury, Nighthawks general manager. “She also has amazing precision with her passing.”

Playing the center of the field is Wheeler-Dubin’s specialty.

“I love playing possession, wearing out the opponent by letting the ball do the work, finding seams, finding feet, making passes, beating the defenders,” she said.

“Dubie,” as her teammates call her, is spending the summer before her senior year at Santa Cruz teaching soccer to kids while training and competing with the Nighthawks.

“I never feel that I’m not getting better as a soccer player. I always feel challenged with the new players and high level of coaching that we receive,” she said. “People go on to play professionally.”

Lounsbury supports her captain’s plan to play for a paycheck in Sweden or Denmark, Wheeler-Dubin’s goal after college, although the general manager comments that the team’s field leader will remain a “Nighthawk forever.”


Women’s Premier Soccer League


What: Independent national amateur soccer league with 50-plus teams

Season: May-July

S.F. Nighthawks: Founding member team of the WPSL (1998)

Big names: International soccer stars Brandi Chastain and Sissi play for the California Storm, a divisional opponent of the Nighthawks


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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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