When the Spring sports season as cancelled, and the volleyball season pushed back from Fall 2020 to Spring 2021, Grace Strickfaden kept pushing herself for when she would once again represent the Central Raiders on the court or on the track, not letting the uncertainty get her down.
“It was really hard not hearing that we were going to get a season, but that didn’t stop me from working hard on my summer workouts,” she said. “I kept those along and was waiting for the moment that we would get to play again.”
And when the new came down that the volleyball season would start up in late Fall, Strickfaden’s hard work paid off, when she became the school’s all-time assist leader on the volleyball court.
“It’s really cool that I’m holding the assist record right now, I worked really hard to achieve that goal of mine and I’m really satisfied with the hard work I put in,” the senior setter said. “But also, I couldn’t have gotten those assists without my teammates. Without my passers getting me that pass or my hitters getting me that kill, I wouldn’t have achieved this goal and I’m super grateful for my coaches pushing me and my other teammates pushing me to get this goal. I couldn’t thank them enough.”
The daughter of Kyle and Sara Strickfaden was well on her way of becoming the all-time leader when she surpassed the 1,000 assists milestone last year, but COVID-19 would throw a wrench in her plans to make it to the top. Her senior volleyball season was postponed until Spring 2021, then moved back to late Fall in 2020. And though she would get a season, the schedule had half as many games. But Strickfaden and her teammates saw this as a blessing, as any time on the court together was time well spent.
“I was super grateful to have the opportunity to play this season, even though it was shorter,” she said. “I just had so much fun with my team and I know that the games that we played, we didn’t take for granted. We worked hard and were there for each other this season.”
Strickfaden took over the top spot on the leader board for assists with just three games left in her career, eventually finishing with 1,434. Though her senior season was shortened, her career started early, helping Strickfaden reach that mark.
“I am super grateful that my sophomore year, [coach Sarah] Hammers took a chance on me and put me as the second setter,” she said.
Hammers saw Strickfaden’s potential early, pulling her up to play varsity minutes with a talented senior class that won 26 games on the volleyball court in 2018.
“She is one of the most well-rounded setters I have ever coached, she knows her hitters, is able to get them a hittable ball with almost every pass,” said Hammers. “She makes athletic plays to set the ball. Not only is she a solid setter she can play defense, and read the hitters, along with being one of the top servers on the team. One of my favorite things is watching her place the serve short just out of reach of the passer or driving it deep out of their reach.”
As a sophomore, Strickfaden played the role of second setter in a 6-2 rotation behind Auna Hallquist, who helped Strickfaden along the way.
“I was very nervous, but I also had such a great role model,” said Strickfaden. “Auna was the best supporter and just having that senior group my sophomore year helped boost my confidence for my junior and senior year.”
With that graduating class leaving behind big shoes to fill, Strickfaden took over the leadership role, becoming a captain for the next 2 years.
“I stepped up as the leader and just tried to push my team to be the best players they could be,” Strickfaden said. “I knew that I worked hard, and if they saw me working hard, it would push them in that way.”
As a multi-sport athlete, Strickfaden has seen success on the basketball court and track as well. She hopes to get a senior season on the court with a team loaded with potential that was derailed by injuries last season. But with the break, the Raiders have been working to get stronger and return to the top of the conference. As for track, Strickfaden specializes in the sprints and hopes to get a shot at being a conference champion like she was in eighth grade.
Her hard work extends outside of sports, where she is a member of the National Honor Society and PEERS. She also is taking all post-secondary classes during her senior year, getting a head start on her plans to attend a 4 year university and play volleyball while working to become a nurse. Strickfaden said she has wanted to become a nurse since she was little, taking care of her grandmother Mary Jo Kurka.
“I want to be there for people and take care of them and make sure that they are getting the best care they need,” Strickfaden said.
Dealing with schooling and athletics during such an unprecedented time, Strickfaden has worked hard to achieve her goals and put herself in good position for the future. And while she has achieved a lot, Strickfaden is just happy she got to enjoy her senior year of volleyball with her teammates.
“I was so happy and so excited because it was the last time this group of seniors would get to play with each other,” she said. “We’ve been playing with each other since we were like 12 years old, so getting to play with them was the most exciting part of it all.”