From Female Athlete of the Year to Military World Games

To say the Langdon area has a love of volleyball is in no way an understatement. The student athletes that compete for the Cardinals have a way of making a name for themselves even beyond their time on the high school courts. One such former Lady Card has taken the accolades of former Cardinal athletes to whole new heights.

Posted 4/18/19

By Melissa Anderson

The Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) recognized the 2018 Army Athletes on March 27 with Captain Justine Stremick, formerly of Langdon, named Female Soldier-Athlete of the Year. Stremick, a member of the 2018 All-Army Women’s volleyball team, is an emergency medicine physician at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital and recently returned from a five month deployment to Afghanistan.

“Her leadership on the court was instrumental in fostering cohesion and building a winning team,” said retired Lt. Gen. Guy Swan, vice president, education, for AUSA. “Capt. Stremick was a key contributor offensively and defensively in every game during the USA Armed Forces and CISM International Volleyball Championships.”

Stremick was nominated by one of her coaches of the All Armed Forces team, Gabrielle Miller, when she played during the tournament in Canada. The nomination and winning of the award has given the women’s Army volleyball team a streak as the previous winner was also an Army volleyball soldier athlete.

“I was really surprised when they announced that I actually won, very honored and humbled that she [Gabrielle Miller] thought that I deserved to be nominated for something like that,” Stremick said.

Stremick’s journey to become the 2018 Female-Soldier Athlete of the year began when she decided to try out for the All Army volleyball team. In order to be selected for the All Army team, Stremick first had to initiate her interest and then list her accomplishments in volleyball as well as have her commander’s sign-off for applying. Some of her playing experience includes being a starter for three years during her time at the University of Notre Dame. After review of applicants,  there is a three week training period set up as a try out to determine who will make the cut for the team. This brought her one step closer to the All Armed Forces Team.

To become a part of that team, a three day tournament takes place pitting the Navy, Army, and Air Force teams against one another. The teams battle it out over six matches during those three days, which is a lot of high level volleyball in a very short time.

“Based on how you play in that, all the coaches get together in a secret room and make selections on who is going to get chosen to be on the Armed Forces team. A total of 12 women are selected from the three teams to represent all of the armed forces in volleyball.”

Since 1948, the International Military Sports Council (CISM) is one of the largest multidisciplinary organizations in the world. CISM organize various sporting events for the armed forces of its 138 member countries and is one of the global sports organizations in which the largest number of disciplines is represented.

“Soldiers, who may previously have met on the battlefield, now meet in friendship on the sports playing field,” CISM states on their website.

Stremick took part in the CISM World Military games in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in early June of 2018. The American Armed Forces volleyball team went up against six other countries at that tournament including China, Brazil, France, Germany, Canada and Kenya. It was at these games that Stremick played her way to being nominated and eventually winning the prestigious Female Soldier Athlete of the Year Award.

“It was one of the best volleyball experiences of my life. Every team has its own issues, but overall it was a really good experience. It was a good learning experience and we had a great group of girls last year,” Stremick said.

In 2019, Stremick will once again be on the All Armed Forces women’s volleyball team. Several of her teammates from the 2018 All Armed Forces team along with some new faces will travel to the 7th CISM World Games which will take place in Wuhan, China, late in 2019.

“In October, two weeks before we go to China, we will all get together for a training camp,” Stremick explained. “I’m excited to go back to China and do it again.”

Until then, Stremick will continue to practice as a board certified emergency medicine physician at the military hospital on Ft. Belvoir. Stremick credits her ability to even compete as being a result of having supportive commanders, both in the hospital’s chief of emergency department and her company commander.

“I’m very lucky with that cause not everyone in the military has people that are supportive of going off and doing these kinds of things,” Stremick said.

Stremick describes her teammates as a group of military professionals that not only love volleyball but have a passion for it. This attitude encourages Stremick to not only work harder in her career but also play harder on the court.

This will especially be true leading up to the World Games. Stremick will need her competitive spirit to help her make it through a stressful injury. During the first match of the Armed Forces tournament in March of this year, she tore her ACL. The injury occurred against the Air Force and their fast offence. As a middle blocker, Stremick was flying back and forth across the net.

“I was trying to get in front of as many people as I can to get a block up. I was going for a block against the right side, and I just  came down on it wrong. It kind of buckled back and out, and that was it,” Stremick shared.

The ACL stabilizes the knee from rotating, the motion that occurs when the foot is planted and the leg pivots. Without a normal ACL, the knee becomes unstable and can buckle, especially when the leg is planted and attempts are made to stop or turn quickly. Surgery to repair the damaged tendon took place the second week of April. Stremick now faces six months of rehab to prepare for the World Games.

“I have a tight timeline to get back and have them release me to go play,” Stremick said.

After an injury like that some would ask why Stremick would continue to play at such a high level.  For her, it’s a stress relief and a privilege to have this opportunity to represent her country.

“Obviously if you are frustrated you just go hit a ball as hard as you can at other people,” Stremick shared.  “A big part of it is that I feel like I still can play at a really high level, and I don’t think its going to be too many years, and I’m not going to be able to play at that level anymore. I feel like taking advantage of that, and I am really thankful that I’m able to do things like this.”

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