Nov. 29, 2001
The personalized license plate on her Grand Am says it all: "KAT ATTACK."
Washington State junior outside midfielder Katrina Stroh, or just "Kat" to family, friends, and teammates, is one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the history of Cougar soccer. The fourth, most dangerous threat to be exact.
With four goals and three assists in 11 matches this season, Stroh moved past Tina Walsh (1993-97), Robyn Smith (1991-94), and Renee Greenup (1989-90) and now has 41 career points. Vicki Day, whose 44 points represents the third-best mark, is well within Stroh's sites in 2001.
"I'm happy with that, but I haven't really looked at it that much," Stroh said of her scoring exploits.
What the Federal Way, Wash., native has been looking at the past three years is the best way to help her team reach the postseason, a goal which Stroh and the Cougars accomplished in 2000. But winning last season came at a price. That price was sticking it out during a nightmarish freshman season, which left her on a losing team for the first time in her life.
"I have always been on a winning team," Stroh said of WSU's 7-12-0 1999 record. "That was probably the most losses I have ever had. It just kept getting worse. Some of our best games, we still ended up losing. We were in a hole that we couldn't get out of. I hated losing. Everybody was frustrated with what was going on."
Despite enduring a 1-8-0 Pac-10 slate that season, the former Decatur High School Gator knocked in five goals and dished three assists while starting 13 of 19 matches.
A year later, the Cougars' fortunes turned in dramatic fashion. Stroh joined 2000 senior Deka DeWitt as the team's primary offensive force, and Washington State jumped to a 7-2-0 start. The Pac-10 schedule did not slow down WSU, as they went 5-4, including an overtime victory over No. 2 Washington, and earned the school's second trip to the NCAA Tournament in 13 years.
"I felt like we had the team (to make the NCAA Tournament) from the very beginning, but we had such a bad season my freshman year," Stroh said. "It was surprising that we came that far in one year. We had a lot of new players last year, and the core players stepped it up that much more."
In 2001, head coach Dan Tobias and the Cougars were looking for Stroh to pick up the offensive production because of the loss of DeWitt.
"She was a really good player. She is one of those outstanding offensive players," Stroh said of DeWitt. "She has a rocket shot. I didn't get to play with her up front as much... because we are both the same player in a lot of ways. I have a lot of respect for her. She is such a good player and I learned a lot from her."
But instead of picking up where DeWitt left off, Stroh struggled on the offensive end early in the season, not even attempting a shot in the first two matches against St. Mary's and UNLV.
"I didn't do anything, it was frustrating," Stroh said. "I wasn't getting in the offense at all. Then they moved me up front for a couple of games and that got me and that got me into framing the goal. When they put me back outside, I was ready to go."
Since the switch, the communications major has racked up four goals and three assists. With no DeWitt, Stroh was forced to find a new tag team-scoring partner, and she did in sophomore Rachel Rodrick, who has booted five goals and has four assists.
"She is a good player. She works well off the ball, she moves around and she is really vocal," Stroh said of Rodrick. "If I have the ball and no one is around, she will make a run to get open for me and that is helpful."
If the Cougars are to reach the 2001 NCAA Tournament, the Stroh-Rodrick combination will have to play a big part, but with 17 letterwinners returning from last season, it is much more than just a dynamic duo leading Washington State.
"I would definitely be disappointed (if we didn't make the NCAA Tournament) because this is the best team that we have had. It is the same team that we had last year except we have had a whole year to work together. I think that we should be a better team this year," Stroh said.
Despite being only one match above .500 after 11 contests, the Cougars would be tough to keep out of the NCAA Tournament with a 5-4 Pac-10 record, something that became highly possible with a win over No. 10 California on Oct. 21.
In the victory over the Golden Bears, Stroh provided the winning goal, proving that even after a slow start in 2001, this Kat is still on the prowl.