Spartan Kaleb Strawn’s soccer career is starting to soar
June 18, 2013
By Neil Pierson
Kaleb Strawn has never been able to physically dominate opponents on the soccer pitch. Instead, he uses intelligence and speed to make the other team miserable.
This spring, the 5-foot-7 Strawn led the Skyline Spartans to their first undefeated KingCo Conference season. The central midfielder supplied a single-season school record for points with his 11 goals and 13 assists, and it helped him lock up an NCAA Division II collegiate scholarship offer from Saint Martin’s University in Lacey.
Skyline coach Don Braman said Strawn acted as a magnet, pulling defenders to him and opening up spaces for his teammates to exploit.
“The things that his teammates were able to do around him made Kaleb effective in attacking through the middle of the field,” Braman said. “Kaleb was great at asserting himself in game situations when we needed him most.”
Strawn, a first-team all-league choice and a Seattle Times all-area pick, helped the Spartans win 11 consecutive games during the 2013 season. They saw that streak end with a 4-0 loss to Inglemoor in the conference-title match, and their playoff run ended prematurely with a 1-0 loss to Camas in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs, but there was plenty for the team to celebrate.
In Strawn’s mind, going 10-0 in conference play — the first time any KingCo squad had done it since 2005 — topped the list of accomplishments.
“Winning every game is tough, and not many teams can do it,” he said. “That’s probably one of the best memories, just all our teammates, working together and having a really good time and working really hard for the cause. It was really good to watch.”
A year-round player with Eastside FC, Strawn had developed a solid reputation and had options when it came to play college soccer. He had interest from multiple schools in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, but felt Saint Martin’s was the right place.
“They came and saw me through a couple games, a couple tournaments out of state and such,” Strawn said. “I was looking for a nice place to go, and I wanted to stay in-state, so the opportunity arose and I just took it.”
At Saint Martin’s, Strawn will join a rebuilding program. The Saints finished 3-15 last year, although their coach, Rob Walker, has more than 30 years of experience in the sport and led them to the 2009 conference championship.
Playing with Eastside FC helped raise Strawn’s profile, he said.
“One of the benefits is the exposure you get from going out of state — like we’re going to Hawaii in a week or two,” he said.
Perhaps the most memorable game for Skyline this spring was an April 19 date against visiting Garfield. The Bulldogs lit a fire under the Spartans — perhaps unintentionally.
“They scored the first goal and their player goes and celebrates in front of our fans,” Strawn explained. “That kind of makes everyone a little mad, so our team, they just put their head down and got to it.”
Skyline responded with five straight goals en route to a blowout victory. Strawn had a spectacular goal, Braman said, splitting two defenders before launching a 35-yard rocket.
“That’s one that all of his teammates talk about,” the coach said, “and it was really a statement that, ‘You guys might have scored first, but we are here to dominate.’”
Strawn clearly established himself as a veteran leader for Skyline, but he didn’t do it through intimidation or emotional pleas.
“He is a quiet yet assertive leader,” Braman said. “His teammates hear him when he knows he needs to be heard. He’s the kind of leader that says, ‘Play like I’m playing and, collectively, we’ll be a better team.’”
Strawn isn’t the first member of his family to don the green and white of Skyline, nor will he be the last. His older brother, Travis, was a 2011 graduate, and his younger brother, Garrett, will be a junior next season.
Both of Kaleb’s parents were soccer players as well.
“It’s kind of like a tradition,” he said. “I really just couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”