Following the tragic death of the team's coach-in-training , the Waves decided to play Space Coast as planned, believing Ericka Dane would have done the same.
Three days before they were scheduled to play Space Coast in their second competitive game of the season, the Ormond Beach Soccer Club’s U18 Waves girls’ team lost their beloved coach-in-training Ericka Dane.
Dane, 18, was killed in a hit-and-run crash on Wednesday, March 24, inside the Ormond Green subdivision.
The players were shocked, then saddened by the news, but they knew they had a decision to make: Either play the game that Dane was so passionate about, or cancel due to the heavy weight of loss hanging over their team.
The players decidedly opted to play the game, believing wholeheartedly that Dane would have done the same. Once the decision was made, their coach, Alex Perez, jumped into action. Friday night before the game, he bought enough shirts for the team and had them printed with Dane’s name and her high school jersey number. Having experienced the loss of his father as a teenager, he knew the importance of community support and reached out to her parents, Tom and Penny Dane, asking if they would join them at the OBSC soccer fields on Saturday, March 27.
“I remember when my dad died," Perez said. "I was 14 and I was lost but I kept going to school to finish and play professional soccer. When that happened to me, I had a lot of support and now I need to give that back somehow.”
Perez and his players lined up while they held a banner that read, ‘Forever in our hearts Ericka Dane #9’ and walked across the soccer field to present it to Dane’s parents. Center referee Fernando Abreu gathered the players of both teams in a circle and whistled to start a minute of silence honoring Dane.
Dane played for the Seabreeze High School soccer team and moved on to play for the Daytona State College Falcons as a defender after she graduated in 2020. She had been working with Perez as an aspiring soccer coach and utilizing that knowledge to coach the U6 recreational team for the OBSC. She was looking forward to becoming an assistant soccer coach for her alma mater.
Her Falcon jersey number 14 has been retired and will be given to her sister, Nickole Dane, to be worn when she attends DSC’s home games. In a letter to the DSC faculty and staff, President Thomas LoBasso expressed grief for the loss of Dane.
“We are grieving for the loss of student-athlete Ericka Dane," LoBasso wrote. "Ericka was a freshman member of the women’s soccer team and was pursuing her Associate of Arts degree. This is a heartbreaking loss of a bright, talented and vibrant young woman. Our sincere condolences go out to her family, friends and teammates.”
The kickoff was reminiscent of many matches before it, but in an unprecedented act executed by any referee, Abreau encouraged the Waves to score during the game. There were occasional tears by the players but the Waves fought bravely, refusing to give an inch to their competitors, walking away with a 0-0 tie.
“I’m sad that we didn’t win for Ericka,” Kara Valentine said. “I’m also happy because the reason we all played so hard was for her.”
Many of the players felt her presence out on the field during the game and believed that, from here on, every time they step out on the pitch, they will take the memory of Dane with them.