Taking a young roster coming off of a 3-8 season, Strassner accomplished his goal by leading the Knights to a 9-9 record — the first .500 mark in the program’s brief history — and their first state playoff berth.
For moving River Ridge in a winning direction, Strassner is the 2012 Cherokee Tribune boys soccer coach of the year.
“We’re a young team with no seniors and we just wanted to develop and get better and we did that,” Strassner said. “It was a good year.”
When Strassner — the wrestling coach at Woodstock the previous five years and a high school soccer coach in North Carolina before that — took over, the first thing he did was change his new team’s style of play.
“I watched film from last year and I decided to alter our style of play,” Strassner said. “We became a more possession-style team. I thought that would fit this team a lot more.”
Above all, Strassner wanted to create a more cohesive unit on the field.
“A lot of the team during the offseason play with different club teams and I wanted to create a kind of bonding on the field,” Strassner said. “I wanted us to be a closer-knit team.”
It took a little while for things to come together for Strassner and his River Ridge squad as the Knights lost seven of their first eight games in a tough early non-region schedule that featured a number of Class AAAAA teams.
River Ridge was able to pull it together as they proceeed to win eight on their last 10 regular season games to secure their first state playoff berth with the No. 3 seed in Region 7AA.
The Knights went on to lose to East Hall 4-0 in the first round.
Even during his team’s early-season struggles, Strassner saw improvement as River Ridge .
“Obviously, we had a tough non-region schedule,” Strassner said. “Even in our losses, I could see we were making progress. Last year, we lost to (Class AAAAA) Campbell 10-0 and this year, we lost to them 5-1. It did take us awhile to get going, but after awhile, we started to turn it around.”
The Knights were boosted by the presence of forward Brennan Ross, who led the team with 19 goals and 3 assists.
“He was definitely our goal scoring threat for us,” Strassner said.
It doesn’t get any easier for Strassner and his River Ridge squad as they try to build on their success in 2012 next season as the Knights move up two classifications to AAAA.
In addition to playing in a competitive Region 7AAAA that includes AAA state quarterfinalist Dalton, River Ridge will be facing another challenging non-region slate that includes AAAAAA teams Roswell and Marietta.
“Next year, we’re moving up to AAAA and it’s going to be tougher,” Strassner said. “But, we have everyone coming back and I don’t see why we can’t get back to the state playoffs. We got better and better this year and I’m confident that will continue next year.”