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04/27/2022 12:00 AM

Strebel Loves Protecting the Hornets’ Net

Aidan Strebel is in his fourth year as the starting goalie for the Hornets’ boys’ lacrosse team is also leading the squad as a senior captain this season. Photo courtesy of Aidan Strebel

Aidan Strebel has been the starting varsity goalie for the Hornets’ boys’ lacrosse team from the first day the he stepped foot on Branford’s campus. As he’s improved his skill set in the net, Aidan has also improved as a leader, helping him became a senior captain and a pivotal player in his team’s success.

Aidan started playing lacrosse when he was in 3rd grade. Aidan had grown up as a baseball player, but as he watched his older brother Brendan play lacrosse, Aidan grew more interested in the sport. Aidan spent hours facing shots from his brother in net, and that experience jumpstarted his career as a goalkeeper.

“Watching his games, I really wanted to try it out. Growing up having him around, always passing or getting shots off on me, it was huge,” said Aidan of his brother. “He was the reason I played lacrosse. A lot of my success goes to him.”

Aidan played in Branford’s youth league during his 3rd-grade season. He started off as a midfielder, but when his team needed a goalie after a few games, Aidan was the first one to raise his hand. Once he felt that first shot bounce off his body for that first save, Aidan knew that he was going to be in the goal for the long haul.

However, over time, Aidan realized that being an effective goaltender goes far beyond the shots that you block. Since he can see the entire field, Aidan came to understand that it’s also his responsibility to organize this team’s defense. Furthermore, Aidan realized the importance of the mental game and that, even if he lets up a goal, he needs to focus on the next play. After learning the fundamentals in net, Aidan was determined to become much more well-rounded player at that position.

“Being a goalie, you have to be a coach on the field. You can see the whole field. You have to run your defense the way you want it. A lot of the responsibility for where the defense is on the field is on you,” Aidan says. “Transitioning to goalie was something I had to learn how to do, but it definitely helped me learn people skills and helped me get good at it.”

During the summer of his 4th-grade year, Aidan joined the Connecticut Crabs Lacrosse Club. In 6th grade, he joined Team Connecticut and competed for the team until the summer of his junior year. As he started playing for other teams, Aidan had an opportunity to face clubs from around the country. While experiencing a higher level of competition, Aidan focused more on improving every aspect of his game.

“As a goalie, when you jump up to a new level, the first thing you notice are the shots coming a lot faster. For a young kid, playing at the highest level possible is what you really want to do,” says Aidan. “Being a goalie is dependent on the other team. You’re seeing faster shots, and it forces you to become better. It helps you understand the game better and have a higher game IQ.”

As a freshman, Aidan joined the Hornets and took on the role as the starting varsity goalie. Aidan still remembers how nervous he was going into his first practice. However, the seniors on the team embraced Aidan, making him feel more comfortable on the field.

“There was definitely a lot of pressure in the beginning, but a lot of the seniors really welcomed me in,” Aidan says. “Back then, it was tough to be loud and coach people around as a freshman. That pressure was relieved when all those seniors welcomed me.”

Now a senior, Aidan has held on to his starting goalkeeper role for the Hornets, who are now a co-op team that features athletes from Branford and East Haven. The Hornets improved their record to 4-5 on the year by winning two of their three games last week.

Aidan feels that a big difference in his game of late is that he isn’t putting unnecessary pressure on himself. As a freshman, Aidan felt nervous about being on the field and didn’t want to mess up. Now that he understands that the Hornets’ defense is one collective unit, Aidan knows that they will only succeed if everyone is working together.

Aidan prides himself on serving as a coach on the field. Heading into his senior season, Aidan knew that he was going to take on a bigger role and was ready for everything that Head Coach Jim May threw at him. For Aidan, that mentality of wanting to be more of a leader stemmed from the seniors who came before him. In his senior campaign, Aidan has had an opportunity to follow in their footsteps as he leads the Hornets as a captain fellow seniors Cam Paleski, Kevin Lee, and Dylan Dupree.

“It’s huge. I always looked up to the captains, and to be one now means a lot,” says Aidan. “I think I’m doing my best to really fill that role and do my best to help the team and coaches. I want to help the guys do what they’re supposed to and be a support system for them. I’m just doing my best to be there for my team and my coaches.”

After watching Aidan in net for the past four years, Coach May refers to the senior goalie as the most valuable player on the team. May says that Aidan’s play does the talking for him and that the Hornets’ lacrosse program is in a better place with Aidan in the fold.

“Aidan is a player who works hard in silence and lets success make all the noise,” says May. “Branford lacrosse is blessed to have him.”

Aidan has embraced playing the goalkeeper’s position throughout his time at Branford High School. Aidan says that competing for the Hornets is an honor and provides him with a reminder of why he loves lacrosse so much.

“I’ve always loved playing lacrosse, and I’ve always loved being a goalie. I love wearing the Hornets across my chest. There’s so much tradition at this school. It helps me play better, honestly,” Aidan says. “I’m not just doing it for me. I’m doing it for the people around me, the people in the past, and the people who have sacrificed for it. It really motivates me on the field.”