Growing up in a soccer-obsessed family, Eastern Christian’s Erin Vander Plaat doesn’t know what life without the game is even like.Unfortunately for the Eagles’ freshman sensation, she’s close to someone who knows the feeling all too well.
Erin’s sister, Meghan, 20, once was a “prolific scorer” much the same way Erin — who has 17 goals in the Eagles’ first eight games — is showing to be.
Meghan starred while playing for Erin’s current coach, Barry Veenstra, on recreational and club teams in middle school, despite dealing with cystic fibrosis — one of the most common chronic lung diseases in children and young adults — for much of her life.
Her once promising soccer career was cut short, though, prior to reaching high school.
The symptoms of the disease grew to be too much to overcome, the struggles became too much to bear.
Meghan was facing a tougher individual battle than any opposing defender could ever present.
“I felt bad for her,” Erin said of Meghan, now a junior at Rutgers. “I still do. I know how much she loved playing. We played together all the time in the back yard. It didn’t affect her as much when she was younger, but later on she started having trouble breathing when she played.”
Now it’s Erin with the same promising career that her sister once had, and she appears to be making the most of her opportunity — with Meghan always close
The youngest Vander Plaat has sparked Eastern Christian’s unexpected 7-1 start, while being among North Jersey’s leaders in goals. For the last few years, she watched now-graduated Carly Veenstra star for the Eagles en route to a 101-goal career, and has expectations of topping that mark, as well as reaching the 1,000-point milestone in basketball.
But while she admits the early barrage of goals and wins are nice, Erin, a year-round player, is thankful to be on the field playing the game she’s loved since kindergarten.
She appreciates it more after seeing it taken away from her sister far too soon, and won’t take any of her success for granted.
“That’s a disease that effects the whole family,” Barry Veenstra said. “I can imagine how tough it is on the family and the siblings like Erin. But they stay upbeat about it, they’re positive, and Meghan is an amazing human. And I’m sure that is an inspiration for Erin.
“I think Meghan might be watching and experiencing these goals and this success vicariously through Erin, and I think that’s a beautiful thing. I’m so happy Erin’s able to do that, and Meghan is such a supportive sister. It’s wonderful.”