Former Hart midfielder Erin Misaki has quite the resume on and off the pitch.
Misaki is a former pro, NCAA champion, and a CIF champion on top of being a highly decorated club soccer executive.
The midfielder was re-inducted into the University of Portland Hall of Fame on Friday, Oct. 7. Misaki was previously inducted as part of the 2002 National Championship team but is now honored as a standout individual athlete.
Misaki started playing soccer when she was 4 years old. She was very active and played several different sports but nothing stuck with her as much as soccer.
“I’ve always thrived with being part of a team and being able to work together to achieve something,” said Misaki. “Then having the role models, seeing the U.S. National team, having the dream of being there one day, only 8-9 years old of representing my country and playing at the highest level playing as a professional soccer player.”
Misaki led Hart to two CIF championship games during her high school career. The Indians were turned away in her sophomore year but defeated Los Alamitos in 1999 to hoist the CIF crown.
Misaki’s No. 2 jersey was promptly retired after her final game. She went out on a bang and left Hart alongside former head coach Oliver Germond.
“I’ve known Erin since she was a little kid,” said Germond. “I knew her family really well. Everything fell into place; I was able to get the job at Hart. Erin made so many sacrifices for soccer. Played for the Blues in Mission Viejo three times a week with practice. She made a lot of sacrifices to get to where she’s at. She’s super skilled, crafty. Never lost the ball, could shoot from outside. She’d always want to try and get better and improve.”
Germond gave a ton of credit to Misaki’s father, Art, who had a great AYSO team and made a club with the players.
Misaki would also play for youth USA teams and club soccer before heading to Portland. She and her family would make regular trips from Santa Clarita to Mission Viejo for club practices as well as missing time to be with the national team.
Similar to her high school career, Misaki would come inches away from an NCAA title in her sophomore and junior season. She was turned away in the Final Four by UCLA in 2000 and then by North Carolina in 2001.
The team would go on a tear the next year, finishing the regular season 14-4-2 thanks to outstanding play from Misaki and Canadian soccer star Christine Sinclair. The Pilots’ defense was excellent and opened up the NCAA tournament with five straight shutouts. Portland would go on to win its first national championship over Santa Clara in a double overtime thriller.
Sinclair was named Offensive Player of the Tournament, while Misaki, Lauren Arase and Lauren Orlandos were named to the All-Tournament team.
The Pilots got to hoist the trophy alongside legendary coach Clive Charles. Charles was battling prostate cancer for two years but remained the Portland coach until his death in 2003.
The now-Hall of Famer then was drafted in the 2003 WUSA draft to the Philadelphia Charge. She was the club’s only second-round pick after the Charge selected Hope Solo in the first round. She was able to play one year there professionally before the league folded.
Misaki played professionally overseas in Japan. The half-Japanese Misaki was able to learn about her heritage and meet distant family.
“I learned a lot about myself and I was pretty young,” said Misaki. “I don’t know if I grasped how lucky I was to be able to do that.”
The Hart legend kept training, patiently waiting for professional women’s soccer to potentially return to the U.S. However, a knee injury would end her hopes of returning to the field and Misaki decided to call it a career.
Opportunities arose for Misaki to keep her soccer mind moving. She had been coaching on the side since graduating from Hart but was able to move into a director role under her role model. Misaki got the call for a job with Saddleback United in San Diego, where she’d work under former USWNT defender Joy Fawcett.
“My biggest role model was Joy Fawcett,” said Misaki. “As a kid watching the national team, she was always so gracious. Not a flashy player but so consistent. When I got to work for the club and work with her it was a dream come true. She was my childhood idol.”
Misaki would need a few major surgeries before taking the job. It was tough mentally but she was blessed to have a great support system in her friends and family. It took some time but she fully recovered and was mentally able to solely focus on things in her control.
The former midfielder would eventually move on to another director role with the Del Mar Sharks, again working under a national teamer in Shannon MacMillan.
Through her years of administrative work, Misaki has been named the 2015 Cal South Administrator of the Year, 2020 West Regional Administrator of the Year and the 2019 U.S. Youth Soccer Administrator of the Year.
The Pilot Hall of Famer found out a few years ago that she was to be inducted. However, she was equally surprised to see the ceremony postponed four times due to COVID-19.
“It was totally out of the blue,” said Misaki. “I was shocked and honored. I’ve had some great accomplishments in my career as a player winning awards but also after being a player passing on what I’ve learned from some of the best coaches in the country. I’m still a little bit shocked that I’m joining the ranks of these incredible athletes and these people who have been inducted.”
Misaki’s future is unclear at the moment. The former pro is returning home to the Santa Clarita Valley but is unsure what’s next for her. However, with the booming popularity of soccer in the valley, Misaki should have plenty of options upon her return.
She returns home a CIF champion, NCAA champion, NCAA All-Tournament selection and a highly admired administrator in club soccer.
“To be totally honest, I’m not sure but I know planning to move back to Valencia to be closer to my family is important to me,” said Misaki. “I know I’ll be involved with soccer, coaching and teaching in some capacity. It’s a huge part of my joy and just feels really purposeful.”