Texas Tech soccer's Paige Strahan comfortable as ‘underdog’
It was Texas Tech or nothing.
Four years ago, Paige Strahan's sights were set on playing soccer for the Red Raiders and no one else, despite the offers coming in from Division II schools.
But nothing came from Tech.
So, the midfielder called Red Raiders coach Tom Stone herself. He told her to come to an overnight camp.
"I remember that I was super nervous," said Strahan, who is now a senior. "I guess he saw a little spark in me. It was kind of a struggle for me, but I knew I wanted to be something more."
Only 137 miles from her hometown of Odessa, Texas, Strahan applied to Texas Tech once the soccer team accepted her as a walk-on.
However, as she entered preseason workouts, Strahan wasn't sure how her new teammates were going react to her determination. She didn't care if she was a walk-on.
She was going to start.
"I kind of like that challenge of being the underdog, the girl from West Texas who didn't have the national championship background," Strahan said. "So, I really came in with a chip on my shoulder. It was definitely hard, especially during the preseason and the upperclassmen for me to come in and say I want to be a starter. That was a little difficult for me, but it was a challenge and I liked it. I continue to challenge myself in that way."
Stone said Strahan earned her spot on the team during the second week of preseason that first year, but she's not sure it was her skills that caught his attention.
"I don't think they were at all where they should have been," Strahan said. "But my attitude was, 'I'm not going down without a fight. I want to be on this team, and I want to start.' I think that's really what set me over the edge and made me different from other walk-ons at that time."
She started the first game of her freshman season against Rice. Less than a month later, Strahan recorded her first goal at Arizona State.
Once her sophomore year rolled around, Strahan had earned a partial scholarship.
"I got a little bit of it each year starting then," she said. "It was good for my family. I knew they really liked it, and it made me feel like a different part of the team in a way."
That season, Strahan played like a scholarship player as she led the Big 12, alongside teammate Janine Beckie, with five game-winning goals. She added to her success last year as she received all-Big 12 second team honors after logging the second-most minutes for the Red Raiders.
"Paige is one of those players we won't forget around here," Stone said. "Her picture will be up in the facility hopefully forever. She's a franchise player as they would say in the pros. [She's] somebody we couldn't do without the past four years."
And Strahan couldn't have done it without her coach.
"I think Tom continues to believe in me, and he continues to believe there's so much more than I can even really see," Strahan said. "He's always pushing me. At times, I didn't even believe in myself as much as he believed in me."
The senior human development and family studies major plans on going to nursing school after her final season with Texas Tech.
But she's trying not to focus on the end drawing near.
"It's hit me that it's my last season," she said. "But I don't want that to be my mentality because I don't want to constantly be in that sadness. But I do want to embrace that moment. I think that I have. It's weird to think that four years have gone by so fast."
Since her first game, Texas Tech soccer has set school records in wins per season as well as advanced to the NCAA tournament the past two years and Strahan has been a big part of that.
As Stone put it, Strahan's not an unknown anymore.