When you're the only thing standing between a ball traveling at 80 miles an hour and the back of a net, it pays to be cool under pressure, make quick decisions, and, most of all, to have an instinct for being in the right place at the right time.
For most of her time at Winona State University, Kathryn Kramer's timing was perfect. But it didn't happen without a lot of planning and preparation behind the scenes, coupled with a few smart decisions. Kramer, a native of Appleton, Wisconsin, graduated from WSU as one of the Warriors top soccer goalkeepers ever, and as one of the institution's most distinguished student athletes.
A three-time member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) All-Academic Team, Kramer validated those honors by winning the 2006 Willis R. Kelly Scholar-Athlete Award. Given to the league's top female student athlete, Kramer is Winona State's second Kelly Award selection, following Karen Darveaux, who won it in 2003.
Kramer, who majored in nursing at WSU, capped her academic career with the prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. The NCAA scholarship is awarded to the top 174 student athletes in Divisions I, II, and III. It carries a $7,500 annual stipend to fund graduate education and is renewable for up to four years.
When it came to grade-point average and honors, Kramer racked up big numbers at WSU. As a goalkeeper, it was small numbers that mattered. Over her four-year career on the pitch, Kramer allowed opponents less than a goal per game, and recorded 17 shutouts. During her final season, the opposition scored just 10 goals as the Warriors finished 20-1-2 and won the NSIC regular season and tournament championships.
The NSIC Tournament was all Kramer: she was perfect in goal over three games, and stopped three penalty shots in the shootout that decided an epic overtime battle with Northern State University in the title match.
Kramer has big plans beyond soccer. She will use the NCAA scholarship to pursue a master's degree in pediatric nursing at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She will also be working as a nurse while she earns her degree.
She'll be busy, but it won't be much of a change for Kramer. The nursing program at WSU was rigorous, requiring long hours in the lab and on clinical rotations, but she was able to combine athletics and academics. "I did a lot of studying on road trips and on the bus, and learned to sleep any time I got the chance," Kramer laughed.
"The faculty worked with me to plan classes, get labs done and schedule clinical dates. And my coaches supported my academic goals. We had to be flexible, especially in the off-season, to get in the clinical work and internships," said Kramer.
Instinct is a big part of a goalkeeper's game, and Kramer trusted hers when she was recruited to play soccer at WSU. "When I first stepped on campus, it felt right. Coming to Winona was the best decision I ever made."
"I had a plan for what I wanted to do, athletically and academically. I knew I wanted to go to graduate school before I came here. I wanted to be part of a great team. WSU gave me the experiences and opportunities. I'm prepared."
While she won't have any 80 mile per hour rockets bearing down on her, Kramer will still get the opportunity to perform under pressure. "Nursing and goalkeeping both take split-second decisions. I trust my instincts and my preparation, same as on the soccer field. I'm confident," said Kramer.