Spots of purple darted across the field as the Shippensburg University field hockey team gathered with alumni to honor their deceased teammate and coach, Amanda Strous.
Field hockey’s Alumni Day brings former athletes back to the Robb Sports Complex where they can play, catch up and reminisce, but today — it also brought tears.
Strous, 27, died in a fire at her apartment complex on June 18 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The autopsy, performed by the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office, revealed Strous suffered blunt force injuries, burns and strangulation, according to Fox News. Matthew Thomas Benner, 28, was arrested in Nevada and charged with first-degree arson and murder, Fox News reports.
“There’s no doubt that none of us will ever be the same. We are all changed by this, but that doesn’t mean that change has to be bad,” said Katie Shoop, who played, lived and coached with Strous.
“She is my mentor, my friend and my role model. I’m speaking in present tense because a piece of her still lives in me,” Shoop said.
Friends, family and teammates gathered at SU to celebrate Strous’ life and speak of the impact she left. Strous graduated from SU in 2011, playing field hockey from 2007 to 2010. She later returned in 2012 to pursue her master’s degree while assistant coaching the team for three years.
“Everybody trusted her and everybody loved her,” said Emily Regan, who played field hockey with Strous through their senior year.
Regan lived with Strous for two years in college, saying Strous was the best listener a friend could want.
“She always had an answer and she was always willing to help where she could and to listen to any kind of problem. She would have made a fabulous counselor and it truly was her calling,” Regan said.
At the time of her death Strous worked as a college counselor. She was also engaged to Cory McCleaf, who came to Alumni Day, along with Strous’ parents and two brothers.
Eric and Crystal Strous spoke of how their daughter loved field hockey and SU.
“She was part of something bigger,” Eric said. “She lived the Ship program…it’s all about family.”
“It’s a great honor to us to have Amanda be remembered this way,” Crystal said.
Current members of the field hockey team wore light purple T-shirts as they played against the alumni, who wore dark purple. The T-shirts said “Fly High 22,” referring to Strous’ jersey number. Some included a printed quote from Strous, “I love my best friend, Ship hockey.”
McCleaf placed a 22 sticker on the 2013 team’s championship banner at the Robb Sports Complex.
Strous’ jersey will not be worn this season and the field hockey athletes will put heart stickers on their sticks and wear purple shoulder scrunchies with Strous’ initials, A.K.S., head coach Bertie Landes said. Jersey 22 will be on the bench with the team at every home and away game. Today the team wore purple shoes and used purple grips for their sticks.
The Amanda Strous Memorial Scholarship will be established this year, kicking off Sept. 24 at SU’s home game against Seton Hill University. The details of the scholarship are still being worked out, Landes said, but it will go to a junior or senior member of the field hockey team.
“My current team is just so dedicated to live their lives with the light that Strous showed us, and with the passion that she showed and the love that she showed,” Landes said, “It has been life-changing for this team already and I just can’t wait until this season starts.”