Coaches Spotlight: Erika Vargas - Viking women's water polo/swimming

Vargas

Few, if any, California community college coaches, in any sport, have gone undefeated in their first three years of conference competition. West Valley women's water polo coach Erika Vargas has done just that.

Vargas capped off her third season at the helm of the Viking polo with an unprecedented third place finish at the 2019 CCCAA State Water Polo Championships. Her 2019 team won the NorCal championship with a 13-7 over defending champion Sierra. For the third straight year, West Valley went undefeated in the Coast Conference in both the regular season and the post-season tournament. Vargas was named the NorCal Coach of the Year and picked up her third-consecutive Coast Coach of the Year award.

In her brief WVC career, Vargas has an overall record of 70-21 and a Coast mark of 29-0. Her Vikings have outscored opponents 1167-368 overall, and 519-66 in Coast competition. She has mentored 10 All-Americans (and many more in swimming), 10 All-NorCal players, 22 All-Coast players, three consecutive Coast MVPs (Kendall McCarrick - 2017, Sabrina Estevez - 2018, Raquel de Pinho - 2019), and a NorCal MVP (Nadja Novakovic 2019). West Valley All-America swimmer Sayeh Faridnia captured three state titles in 2017 and 2018 under Vargas's guidance.

Prior to West Valley, Vargas was the head women's and assistant men's polo coach at her alma mater, the University of La Verne in suburban Los Angeles. She played four years of water polo and two of swimming at Mt. San Antonio College and La Verne. She was an All-American at Mt. SAC and led the ULV women to a second-place NCAA DIII finish in 2016 and a third-place NCAA finish in 2017.

Her favorite Viking moment was winning NorCals in 2019. After finishing a dissapointing fourth in 2018, the 2019 Vikings, "trained every day as if we were playing for first place. It definitely paid off as we defeated, hands down, the defending state champ. It was surreal, a breathtaking moment I will forever cherish." 

Vargas believes West Valley is the perfect stepping stone for a student athlete. "Playing at West Valley prepares a player athletically for the next level. We are the Viking Family and we preach positivity and hard work in and out of the classroom." An athlete who chooses West Valley will get, "a championship environment without the huge pressure of a four-year school. She will acquire all the tools needed for the next level athletically AND academically."

In her three years in Saratoga, she has come to appreciate the camaraderie and support of the campus. "I can truly say I've never been a part of an institution where I can look up in the stands at a game and see the chancellor, the president and multiple deans in the crowd."

Her late father, Albert, was a huge influence on her life and coaching style. A former water polo player and swimmer, her dad, "always encouraged me to keep sports in my life no matter the adversity that came my way. He watched me grow as an athlete and coach and always gave me pointers and life lessons." Albert's influence has led Vargas to, "expect positivity, honesty and grit the moment they step on the pool deck, day in and day out. I give my players tough love, and the motivation to power through anything. With that comes wins and fun." She wants her athletes to leave WVC with great time management skills because, "with good time management skills, they can accomplish anything."

Her success, in only three years, foretells of an unlimited future for her and the West Valley women's water polo program. Vargas looks forward to building her "Viking Family". For her, Viking water polo is, "not just a sport, we are building an extended family, and I hope our players want to come back and see that what they've helped build is still going strong."

For more information on West Valley women's water polo and swimming, please contact Coach Vargas at erika.vargas@westvalley.edu.

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