LOUISVILLE -- Sports -- almost any sport, just pick one -- were a way of life for Andrea Strauss in high school.
But what role would they play for her in college? That was the question she faced as the end of her senior year approached, and it forced a major life decision. She knew that she wanted to go into speech-language pathology, and she knew that those kinds of degrees don’t come easily. Which school would she attend in order to pursue that kind of career? Michigan State maybe? Grand Valley State?She came to a conclusion, difficult though it might have been. Strauss enrolled at Grand Valley, and while she could possibly continue to play both volleyball and soccer at the club level, but that would be the extent of her athletic career in college. A two-time Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association Division 2 All-State First Team honoree, she was all but through with the game for all intents and purposes.
She missed competition at an elite level, the kind only a varsity sport could offer. Strauss, a Troy, Michigan native, had been recruited as a goalie for the school’s soccer team out of high school, and with two years of college already behind her, she went to the coaching staff to see if their offer might still be on the table. It was, and she joined the Lakers women’s soccer squad early last season.
“Part of me, when I got to college, just kind of said, ‘I’m not sure if I’m ready for the commitment,’” Strauss said. “I enjoyed still playing, but part of me still kind of missed the really, really competitive nature of [varsity soccer]. The club team was still competitive and girls wanted to do well, but it definitely doesn’t have that same push and that same drive as playing a varsity sport.”
Turns out, Strauss’ timing was impeccable. Although she wound up playing sparingly, Grand Valley State won its third NCAA Division II national championship. As the starter this year, Strauss has helped power the Lakers to a 21-2-1 record.
Only once all season did an opponent score as many as two goals on Strauss, and that was back on September 20 against Ferris State. In every other contest this year, Grand Valley foes managed either a lone tally or a goose egg.
Best of all, Grand Valley stands just two wins removed from a second consecutive national championship and fourth in the last six years. Theschool also won titles in 2009 and 2010.
“Hopefully, the new girls on the team get to experience what we all got to go through last year,” Strauss continued. “Having ultimate success and winning it all, it definitely is a very exciting moment in time in our lives.
“Just trying to get everyone to understand that we’re one of the top four teams in the country that are still playing is really important, to get everybody to know what’s at stake. It helps with the good amount of girls that are returning to know what we’re playing for.”
A senior, Strauss is busily applying to graduate schools. Her studies never suffered once she began varsity competition, as evidenced by the fact that she was recently named to this season’s prestigious Capital One Academic All-America team. It was an honor also afforded to teammate Marti Corby.
Things sometimes just have a way of working out, and that’s definitely been the case for Strauss. A question from an assistant coach following Grand Valley’s Nov. 23 victory against Central Missouri -- a win that put the Lakers into the semifinals here this week -- put her career into perspective.
“We were getting ready to leave the hotel, and he just said to me, ‘Could you ever have pictured yourself a year ago in this position, winning one national championship and competing for another?’” Strauss concluded. “Absolutely not. I would’ve never expected to get another chance to play a varsity sport.
“To get that second opportunity and fulfill something I’ve always really wanted, I think, is a neat story. Definitely, it’s been worthwhile. I’m excited about the opportunity to compete this weekend.”