CyHawk game means more for Ames native Strohman

Iowa State senior Stella Maris Strohman tries to push the ball up the field during the first half of Iowa State’s 3-0 win over Creighton on August 18.

Noah Rohlfing

It’s 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, and at the Cyclone Sport Complex, Stella Maris Strohman is preparing for the third game of the season.

But it’s more than just another game for her. 

When Iowa State takes the field against Iowa on Friday night, it will be the final time that Strohman will play in the annual Cy-Hawk game. It’s taken a lot of hard work for her to get to this spot. 

As an Ames native and Iowa State walk-on, the Iowa game holds a special place for Strohman. It was no surprise to find out that it’s her favorite on the calendar.

“Obviously it’s a huge rivalry,” Strohman said. “This game means a lot to me, especially in my senior year. They’re going to be a tough game, so I think this is going to be a defining moment for our team. In-state rivalry games are really important, but it means a little bit more to me I think, coming from Ames and growing up around that rivalry.”

As if there wasn’t enough reason for the game to hold such importance, she gets to play against a former Ames High School teammate this year. Senior Katharine Woodruff may be a forward for the Hawkeyes, but that hasn’t stopped them from keeping in touch and encouraging each other. 

“I played with a couple of [Hawkeyes] in club soccer, and I played with [Katharine] in high school,” Strohman said. “We’ve played together like our whole lives, so it’ll be fun to see her.”

”We both obviously want to win, but I’m excited to play against them and I think it’ll be fun to see all those girls and sort of finish out our senior years together.”

Don’t expect there to be any friendly wagers on the game, though.

“No, I don’t think there will be [any bets],” Strohman said jokingly. “We have some snapchats back and forth, and I always send her good luck texts but we’re excited to see each other play.”

Strohman had an award-filled high school career. A four-year letter winner for the Little Cyclones and the team captain in her final two years, she was also named to the All-District first team in her junior year and led Ames to a conference championship.

She may have arrived at Iowa State as a lightly recruited walk-on, but the senior midfielder has become a main focus on the Cyclones’ roster for the past four seasons.

Strohman won most improved player in 2014, having grown into a larger role with the team each season. She played in every game for the Cyclones last year. 

She’ll be graduating this year with a degree in business economics and has excelled in the classroom. In 2015 and 2016, she was named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team.

Strohman was ecstatic when talking about what it means to play for the hometown team.

“I would say it’s really awesome to be playing for Iowa State,” Strohman said. “Obviously, growing up here and being a huge Iowa State fan, I think that it’s an honor to put the jersey on and be part of the program.”

But Strohman downplayed her personal trials as a walk-on student-athlete, instead heaping praise onto the Cyclone coaching staff and her teammates for helping her progress over the years.

“Obviously, that can be really scary at first, but I was just honored to be a part of the program and really valued that,” Strohman said. “The coaches were always invested in me and believed in me, and I think that’s what helped me get through and step up my game.”

Coach Tony Minatta commented on the rise of Strohman and fellow walk-on Riley Behan, and the successes that walk-ons can achieve in the program.

“You have these girls that come in and they’re not heavily recruited, but they work really hard and earn playing time,” Minatta said. “And that’s something that really helps the team and is great to see.”

Every young athlete has dreams of playing for their favorite team in their favorite sport. Very few of them actually get to realize that dream, and fewer still get to play against their biggest rivals. Stella Maris Strohman has realized her dream, but she’s not done living it just yet.