'Dre' earns starting goalie job for GVSU
Strauss goes from club to varsity, backs Laker defense
Minutes before the Grand Valley State University women’s soccer team kicked off its 2014 season opener, head coach Jeff Hosler announced the starting lineup to his squad. It started on the back end, and Hosler called for senior Andrea Strauss to undertake the goalkeeping duties for the evening.
The decision, although seemingly mundane, was one of the most difficult ones Hosler and Co. had to make prior to the season opener. The Lakers had four highly skilled goaltenders battling for one position, and it took until minutes before game one for a starter to be named.
Strauss, the lone senior of the four, proved to be a good choice. GVSU blanked No. 13 Quincy University 4-0 on Friday before doing the same to Truman State University in a 3-0 victory two days later. Strauss faced just seven shots, but came up big in separate occasions each game.
For now, the job is hers.
“It’ll always be a constant battle and there’s always an opportunity for the other three to earn that starting spot,” said graduate assistant and goalkeeper coach Annette Stromberg. “Much like our field players, if they’re having a great week and deserve a start, that will happen.
“But for now, Dre has solidified herself as that number one.”
Strauss’ path to the number one goalie on the No. 1 team in NCAA Division II has been a tad out of the ordinary, however. Coming out of high school, Strauss was a three-sport varsity athlete with 11 years of total varsity experience under her belt at Auburn Hills Avondale High School. As do many Michigan high school athletic standouts, she chose to attend GVSU.
GVSU, however, was “pretty much an academic decision” for Strauss. Now in her fourth year of studies, Strauss is in the allied health sciences program studying to be a speech language pathologist.
She anticipated a difficult class rigor when she came to college, and opted not to play varsity soccer. Instead, Strauss chose club soccer in hopes that she would be able to tend to the academic side of college when the need arose.
In 2013, things changed for Strauss. Then-assistant coach Erica Demers approached her after a club practice and mentioned that the varsity squad needed another goaltender. After mulling it over, Strauss accepted and joined the DII titans three weeks into an eventual national championship-winning season.
As a junior, part of Strauss' initiation into the team was a sort of identity change. Sports call for communication, often as quickly as possible. With this need for instantaneous conversation often comes nicknames, and the case is no different with Strauss. Andrea became Dre, and it stuck.
When she's in uniform for the Lakers, she is called by nothing else.
Despite being a senior this year, Strauss’ varsity experience didn’t separate her from the group of 2014 goalie candidates as much as it would seem. The 21-year-old played in parts of just three games last season, and, before last Friday’s season opener, was yet to start a varsity game in net.
What set her apart from the rest, however, was a refined polishing that comes over time.
“As the preseason progressed, she became a clear candidate in terms of her being well-rounded,” Hosler said. “She was the leading candidate in the majority of categories.”
Hosler pinpoints Strauss’ hands as her top skill – a forte made clear by her ability to pluck nearly every high ball out of a sea of opponents. Some goaltenders at the DII level struggle to make high saves, but Hosler says Strauss’ ability to locate a ball at its high point, and react, sets her apart from others.
Strauss’ mentality, on multiple levels, separates her from many athletes as well. She stresses that college is her first concern, a statement made apparent by her early-year decisions to put school over saves. Her love for her position in net comes from a lifelong desire to lead whenever possible.
“I love being a leader,” Strauss said. “I love making big plays and saving the team and being a stability player in the back. I love being vocal and knowing my teammates have confidence in me.”
What truly sets Strauss apart from many high quality athletes, however, is her perspective on the game. Despite being the only senior of GVSU’s four goaltenders, she doesn’t feel any sense of entitlement or importance. Her focus is helping the team win – regardless of whether she’s on the pitch. She stresses that the player in the net should be, “the one who is doing the best at that time, who can lead the team and who can contribute in a big way.”
So far, that player has been Strauss, and – with the way she has been playing up to this point – it doesn't seem that will change.