Kettle Run’s Erika Blevins to play women’s soccer for U.S. Military Academy
Kettle Run's Erika Blevins will soon join the United States Military Academy women's soccer team. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Erika Blevins got into West Point by playing in the mud.
That’s how the process began, at least.
Blevins traveled to North Carolina to play in a Capital Area Soccer League showcase during mid-November of 2013. Marcia McDermott, a first-year coach for the United States Military Academy women's soccer team, also attended the event.
McDermott observed from the sideline as a downpour ensued. Through the rains drops she watched as Blevins deftly navigated a muddy field.
One look was enough. After the game, McDermott began recruiting the Kettle Run senior, and two months later Blevins committed to play soccer for the Black Knights.
"Muddy as all get-out," Blevins said of the field. "But I was just playing my game. ... She liked my style of play and thought I would really fit in with her team."
Their meeting felt serendipitous. With the midpoint of Blevins' senior year approaching, she had struggled to find a college where she could play soccer and study engineering.
Then she and McDermott converged in North Carolina.
“Good luck. It worked out perfectly,” Blevins said of West Point, which has an engineering program she likes. “I’m just really excited.”
Blevins visited West Point’s New York campus in early January. She committed to the soccer program later that month and received admission acceptance last Saturday.
Her free education at one of the most prestigious universities in America will entail a five-year military commitment.
“It happened really fast," she said. “The visit sealed my decision … On my way driving home I just remember being like, ‘That’s it.’”
Then began the arduous process of applying to the selective military academy, including the first step of securing a congressional nomination. Blevins compiled a resume with teacher recommendations and essays, and interviewed, to garner a nomination from Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Virginia.
Then her academy application included recommendations, essays, fitness tests and a physical exam.
“The application process is so long and most of the students had already applied,” Blevins said. "It was late in the game and I still got [the opportunity]. It’s a blessing."
Blevins can now focus on playing one last season for the Kettle Run girls soccer team this spring.
Upon watching Blevins play for the first time, Cougars coach Elizabeth Martin had a similar reaction to that of McDermott this past November. Martin first saw Blevins play when the midfielder was a sophomore.
“I just thought, ‘This girl has such great vision. She’s going to go places,’” Martin said. “She’s a very strong, skilled player. I think any coach would want to get their hands on her.”
Other college teams, such as Navy and South Carolina, showed interest in Blevins. She also applied to a handful of schools that didn’t recruit her as a soccer player but had quality engineering programs, such as Virginia Tech and Virginia.
“But it just didn’t feel right,” Blevins said. “West Point was just perfect for me.”
Not even facing cadet basic training as a freshman plebe deterred Blevins. She looks forward to the rigors of attending a military academy.
“It fits my personality,” Blevins said. “I really like a challenge. I want to push myself.
“I just know it’s a huge honor to go to a school like that,” she said. “I’m nervous but excited.”
Blevins’ grandfather served briefly in the Army and two of her cousins attend Virginia Military Institute. So she has some understanding of academy life, especially for athletes.
“It’s the military on top of sports on top of academics,” Blevins said. “No doubt that it’s going to be tough, but I think this will make me a better person.”
She also feels excited about fulfilling a five-year service commitment in the military following graduation.
“I’m going to be young and get to travel and do things most people wouldn’t get to do,” Blevins said. “Have these hands-on experiences.”
She will report to West Point on June 28 to begin preparation for academy life.
“I think she’s up for that challenge,” Martin said. “She’s a strong person and a strong player. It’ll be a good fit.”
Blevins helped Kettle Run advance to the Region II tournament last spring and finish with a 14-5 record. She played center midfielder and fluidly facilitated the Cougars’ transition from defense to offense.
“She knows where the ball needs to be and when it needs to be there,” Martin said. “Making the connections on those runs, that’s what leads to goal-scoring opportunities.”
Blevins finished last season with only two goals, but she had 15 assists and created plenty other scoring chances.
“It’s like she can think two, three [passes] ahead,” Martin said. “She has good control and works the ball into spaces well.”
Blevins also excels when taking Kettle Run’s corner kicks.
“There were very few games we didn’t score off a corner kick,” Martin said. “She’s got such a great placement.”
Blevins will join a Black Knights team that finished last season with an 8-7-4 record. They went 4-3-2 in the Patriot League.
As with Kettle Run, Blevins expects to play center midfield for Army.
“They like to be aggressive and attack, but it’s a very possession-style team, which is definitely [for] me,” Blevins said.
“They’re a really close group of girls,” she said, “which is good being at an academy, and being female. They have each other to get through the military part of school."
Get Headlines Every Tuesday and Thursday By Email