CHATHAM, NJ – There is game intensity, and then there is the Sophie Straka level, which deserves a demarcation of its own.
The story goes that the Chatham senior started her hard-charging athletic career at the age of five when her father, Joel, offered her a scoop of ice cream for every goal she scored in rec soccer. She’s been eating up the competition ever since.
“Sophie is a phenomenal athlete,” Chatham lacrosse coach Helen Oliver said. “She has been since she stepped into the Chatham realm of high school sports. She’s the most competitive kid on our team.
“I like to bust her a little bit by calling fouls that aren’t there in practice. She’s definitely a rule follower, and she brings a lot of intensity to practices and games. You can see on the field that there is just like an aura around her. She’s come to play this year.”
Midfielder Straka opened the lacrosse season with six goals and an assist vs. Mountain Lakes and followed with two goals and three assists in the 8-7 upset of Oak Knoll. In just three games, she has collected 11 goals, five assists and nine draw controls.
Sophie Straka is the Chatham Wealth Management Athlete of the Week.
For all of her athletic ability, Straka has grown to appreciate the importance of her role as a leader. She captained the 2020 Chatham girls soccer team to a 14-1 record and an NJSIAA state regional championship, ending her varsity career with totals of 20 goals and 18 assists.
“One thing I’ve learned is the attitude of the captain can change the dynamic of the team,” she said. “Soccer was great. That was the best possible outcome we could have had. I want to go as far as we can as a team. We want to win states.
“I just don’t want us to get ahead of ourselves this season. There is so much lacrosse to be played. We need to keep that in our minds and not feel like we’re invincible after beating Oak Knoll. Every game is a new game. They do all think I’m intense. I have an obligation as the captain to make sure everyone is getting better in practice.”
Straka’s competitiveness has spread to her academics as well. The Yale commit was recruited by seven of the eight Ivy League lacrosse programs.
“I never really expected that to happen,” Straka said of the Ivy League interest. “I hold myself to a certain standard when it comes to grades. I always focus on what my standard for each class is and what I can do. I just always knew I wanted to push myself to do the best that I could with athletics and academics.”
Chatham girls lacrosse followers might be surprised to hear that Straka didn’t much like lacrosse when she was younger and wanted to quit playing the sport.
“My dad forced me to keep playing,” the 17-year-old said. “I felt like I was the worst one on my club team. The reason why I didn’t like it was that I was playing at a higher level than I was trained to play at, so I ended up not making the BBL team that a lot of the Chatham girls made. I looked at that as a confidence destroyer. As I got better, it was more enjoyable. I played with STEPS since fifth grade.”
Straka inherited the competitive gene from her parents. Her father wrestled at Harvard and there already is a Harvard-Yale rivalry brewing in the house. She said her mother is the “underrated” one when it comes to being competitive.
“I can’t imagine going to college and not playing a sport,” Straka said. “It’s just helped me become a more rounded person. Being on a team has made me a better person. That two hours of my day is a stress reliever or relaxer. I just love playing.”
Sophie is the oldest of five kids, with freshman Stella joining her older sister on both the varsity soccer and lacrosse teams.
“Sophie’s always been tenacious,” her mother, Darryl, said. “She was always the kid going 150 percent. I would say that’s the theme of her life. There is a competitive atmosphere in the house and she definitely drives the bus. She’s setting the tone.”
Editor’s note: The Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Chatham Wealth Management in recognition of the commitment a Chatham athlete has made to their sport, their school and their community. For over twenty years, Chatham Wealth Management has been committed to putting our clients first by crafting customized investment solutions. Call us at 973-635-4275 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss how we can help meet your financial goals. To learn more about our products and team, visit us at www.chathamwealth.com.