Erik Servin’s greatest contribution to the San Benito High boys soccer team has nothing to do with anything on the field. While his on-field impact has been immense—as a captain he organizes his teammates on the field, makes sure everyone is doing their job and exhorting his teammates to be disciplined during a match—it pales in comparison to what the senior did before the season started.
Servin said he organized a study hall-type gathering for players who needed some guidance to keep their grades up so they would be eligible to play this season. Out of the seven that was in the group, Servin said six of them stayed eligible to play after the last grading period.
“That was a great moment,” he said. “Some of the players didn’t have the grades before the season started, so I wanted to help out in that. Jake Hernandez also helped them out a lot; he’s a really smart guy.”
Servin has a 3.8 GPA and took three Advanced Placement classes as a junior and two AP courses this year. Even though he started playing soccer at an early age and comes from a soccer playing family, Servin’s parents always stressed academics as a priority.
“My parents (Jorge Servin and Teresa Hernandez) always encouraged me to stay up on my grades since I was little,” he said. “Having bad grades is not a good thing, and they would get mad at me if I wasn’t doing well in school.”
From his parents, Servin learned the meaning of hard work. He knows the sacrifices they’ve made to make sure he and his siblings had food on the table and a place to sleep comfortably.
“My parents came from Mexico, and it wasn’t easy coming over here and having a successful life,” Servin said. “But they’ve been doing it all for me, my brother and my sister.”
In addition to his brother, Servin has an uncle and two cousins who played on the San Benito High boys soccer team. A younger cousin, Alex, is currently a teammate.
“There are more coming, too,” Erik said. “I have another younger cousin who is an eighth grader and another one who is a sixth grader, all chasing the same thing.”
Haybalers coach Greg Dolan raved about Servin’s leadership qualities, noting the senior’s impact as a de facto assistant coach. Servin is Dolan’s eyes and ears on and off the field, and every coach needs a player who can help hold everyone accountable. Before tryouts, Servin was organizing some of the prospective players and letting them know the key dates on the calendar.
“After the team made cuts, we had a players only meeting,” he said. “We laid down the rules and made sure everyone agreed to follow the rules. Some of the rules included to be on time, being disciplined, which means we need to keep our mouths shut during the game, respect the coach and each other. We have a total honesty rule where we can tell anyone anything to benefit each other. Also, being on good behavior is a big part of what we’re trying to do as a team. If you’re going to have a bad attitude, you can’t be here and maybe this team isn’t for you.”
As a team captain, Servin always tries to keep a positive attitude and play hard until the final whistle. He has to set a good example; otherwise, the team can easily break into bad habits and stray from their goal to play together and remain committed all the way to the end. A center defender, Servin is making the transition from playing right wing. He now has the added responsibility of directing players in the back and making sure everyone knows their place and assignment.
“It’s been a big change for me, but you’ve got to do it for your team,” he said. “We were lacking defense at the beginning of the season. It was hard to adjust at first, but I’ve learned knowing when to step up for the offside and the communication part of organizing the players.”
Servin said his best game was probably the season-opener against Gilroy, in which he took on a lot of players 1-V-1 and either knocked the ball away, gained the possession or forced a Gilroy attacker to make an errant pass. Gilroy had a couple of odd-man rushes in the second half, but Servin stayed with them step for step.
“Erik is literally one of the fastest players in the league,” Dolan said. “I coached in travel ball in which he played numerous positions and excelled at each one. This is his first year of playing center of defense, and so far in this early season he’s arguably our most consistent player. He’s not just my captain, he’s like an assistant coach to me as I run everything by him: team lineups, disciplinary actions, etc. He is destined to do good things in the future.”
In addition to his parents, Servin said his brother, Jorge, and Dolan have been positive influences in his life. Jorge attends most of the Baler games to watch Erik in action.
“My brother has always shown me what to do, and he’s been through it all,” Servin said. “Greg Dolan also has been a good role model for me. He took us (Hollister Tremors) to Ireland to a big tournament (a couple of years ago) and has always shown me the right way to go.”
San Benito entered the week with two ties in two Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division matches. Even though their non-league results weren’t up to what they expected, the Balers feel their game is coming around, just in time for the gauntlet that is the Gabilan Division for boys soccer.
“We started off a little rocky, but we’ve been playing really well lately,” Servin said. “We have a very young team that has never played together like other teams of the past. When it comes to scoring, we’ve been inconsistent. Our touching game needs to improve a little, but as the season goes on, I think we’ll have a really good team that can go far. We need to communicate more, put balls in and be the bigger players on the field (meaning to not get penalized with yellow and red cards).”
Servin said teammates like George Molina, Jake Hernandez and Wilbert Casaca have been strong leaders on the team as well. Servin did two years of cross country and track at San Benito, but soccer has always been his No. 1 sport. He did the running sports, knowing he has a gift of running. In his middle school years at Spring Grove, Servin said he won the 2.5-mile Turkey Trot every time and also ran a 5 minute, 16 second mile.
“I did cross country and track because it was fun coming from middle school,” he said. “I was always fast, but it wasn’t the same (as time went on). I like the running, but in terms of loving the sport, it wasn’t for me. It’s not the same adrenaline rush you feel when you’re playing soccer.”
Servin said he’ll be studying criminology in college for a future career as a forensic scientist, so he’s expecting this to be his final season of organized soccer.
“I’m trying to make this my best year of playing soccer,” he said. “I’m still open to playing if I get an offer, but I’m pretty sure this is the end.”
If this is Servin’s last go-around, it’s been a good one. He made the varsity team as a freshman and has improved in each succeeding season. This season, Servin has blossomed as a leader, both on and off the field.
“Helping to keep the players together is something to be proud of,” he said. “You want to show that everything is possible. We haven’t had a great season so far, but there are more games to come. We’re confident we’re getting to where we want to be.”