Whether books, pucks or waves, Drexler keeps her balance
If an opponent derisively asks Manhattan Beach’s Kara Drexler, “Where’s the surfboard?” she’d probably tell them, “In the garage ’til summer.”
In addition to being a top-four defenseman for Yale University and a two-time ECAC Hockey All-Academic pick, the junior moonlights as a surf camp instructor during her summers at home in California.
“I like working with kids and being able to teach them something I enjoy,” she said. “It’s great seeing kids being active and having fun. I started teaching at 14 as a junior instructor and then again the past two summers.”
Her pleasant demeanor – “She has a big smile on her face all the time,” Anaheim Lady Ducks director Kathy McGarrigle said – belies an ultracompetitive streak.
And that, as much as anything, is why the 5-foot-4 economics major is making waves in college hockey.
“She experienced tremendous growth from her freshman to sophomore years and became one of our top-four defensemen,” Yale coach Joakim Flygh said. “She shows up every day and competes hard. She always has the same compete level.
“She’s a great teammate, and one who is well respected.”
Drexler began skating at the age of eight in the Toyota Sports Center in-house league. Two years later, she began playing travel hockey with the Lady Ducks. Over the next eight years, she and a host of her Lady Ducks teammates developed to the point that a majority of them now are playing college hockey.
“To be able to keep playing and pursue a great education is the best of both worlds,” she said. “I really connected with those Lady Ducks teams. We had a lot of good teams, and we became close friends.”
Hockey proved to be the perfect challenge for Drexler’s combination of drive and intellect.
“She has a lot of talent and is super smart, but she worked hard at improving her shooting and stick skills to get where she is,” said McGarrigle. “Anything she felt she was behind on, she’d work on it.”
Drexler’s work ethic was at least as apparent in the classroom, where she excelled during her four years at Mira Costa High and has continued to do at Yale.
“It takes up a lot of time, so there’s not much free time between school and hockey,” she said. “But I like what I’m doing, so it’s not a burden.”
But it can be a sacrifice. Drexler’s situation isn’t different from that thousands of other NCAA athletes face, though the ante is upped at an Ivy League school.
“(Balancing academics) is hard for any student-athlete at Yale,” Flygh said. “During midterms, we as coaches try to back off a bit. But these kids come in with great time management skills.”
Drexler was a four-time captain for the Lady Ducks, and those attributes are moving to the forefront at Yale as well.
“She’s a leader for us,” Flygh said. “Her class has eight girls in it and they are the core of our team. We expect a lot from them from a production standpoint. They’re a very tight-knit group, and one that will take us where we need to go.”
The next step for the Bulldogs is finishing in the top eight of the competitive ECAC in order to reach the conference playoffs. From there, their sights are set higher.
“Obviously, the ultimate would be a national championship,” Drexler said. “We have some steps to take before then, starting with getting into the playoffs and the NCAAs.
“We have a hard-working team, that’s one of our biggest assets, and it’s a great building block.”
And it’s one that reflects Drexler’s progression through the game.
Photo/Sam Rubin/Yale Athletics
– Chris Bayee