Occasionally, defenders pinch forwards in the back, slip them an elbow or step on their ankles when referees turn away. Andrew Hoxie doesn’t mind — he enjoys retaliating, in his own style.
“I just score goals and walk away,” Hoxie said with a laugh.
“Just scoring goals” is an understatement. William and Mary’s senior forward is currently fifth in the NCAA in points per game and leads the CAA not only in goals (8) this season, but also in assists (10). And he does so despite a lingering groin injury that stems from an off-season surgery.
The limited playing time has not affected Hoxie’s approach to his on-the-field duties.
“I like to say it is my job to score goals,” Hoxie said. “And the guys expect it from me. I love the pressure situations.”
Not bad for an athlete who was cut from his eighth grade basketball team, a day he still remembers as a source of motivation. Since then, Hoxie said he has always hated not playing, whether in basketball, baseball or soccer, and has vowed to do whatever it takes to remain in action.
A decade removed from not making the basketball squad, the same drive to compete keeps Hoxie focused in spite of whatever obstacles stand in his path.
The biggest obstacle for a soccer forward, according to Head Coach Chris Norris, is overcoming the fear of taking a goal-scoring chance and not converting.
“He isn’t afraid to be the guy that takes responsibility for trying to score the goal, and that is a rare thing to see,” Norris said. “A lot of players get into good positions and at that final moment it will flash through their mind, ‘oh no what if I don’t score?’ [Andrew] gets excited and sees it as an opportunity to win the game for us, to score the goal that makes the difference, and it is almost as if he gains more composure in those situations.”
That composure has served Hoxie well in his career at the College. The fifth-year senior has netted 33 career goals, placing him tenth all-time in Tribe history. This year’s squad has high hopes, which should help Hoxie add to his impressive resume on the field late into November.
“This is the most talented squad I have played for in the five years I have been here,” Hoxie said. “Every one of our players, our coaches, know it. And we expect nothing less than to go far in the [NCAA] tournament. This is our year.”
Ironically for Hoxie, this year should never have occurred.
After earning valuable playing time as a freshman and sophomore, the Enid, Okla. native was ruled academically ineligible during his junior season.
“It was miserable,” Hoxie said. “Not being able to do anything when we were losing was the worst part. That is when I finally realized you have to be responsible and start going to class and start being an adult.”
The experience reminded him of a past one.
“It was like I was being cut from JV basketball again,” Hoxie said. “And I was so pissed off at myself for getting into that situation. It really lit a fire underneath me.”
With Hoxie gone and the team young, Norris was forced to start at least five freshmen each game and to find creative ways to score goals.
Luckily for the Tribe, Hoxie was able to re-focus on his studies and return to the pitch the following fall to join a group young but now experienced teammates.
“He loves to play,” Norris said. “For anyone who plays any sport, when it is taken away from you for a period of time I think that one, you gain a greater appreciation for it; two, it makes you that much hungrier to get back and do it again; and because of having to sit out that year, I think he definitely matured a lot and realized that his life is not just about playing, that there are a lot of other things that you have to do to make sure you are in a position to do the things you want to do.”
Hoxie put on muscle and learned the game from the sidelines. He filled out his 6’4” frame, moving from 185 lbs. to 210. For the first time, Hoxie felt as though he could use more than just his height to his advantage.
“I’ve always been tall, but I’ve always been really skinny as well,” Hoxie said. “Freshman and sophomore year I would get bodied off the ball. Now I like to be able to hit people and knock them off the ball.”
Growing up, Hoxie was used to being knocked off the ball. He has three competitive older brothers, all of whom played soccer in college. Even Hoxie’s parents thrived athletically in college. At Central College in Kansas, his father served as the football team’s quarterback and his mother excelled in volleyball and basketball.
Growing up with a father in the Air Force meant that Hoxie has called Arizona, Colorado, Washington state, Florida, Alabama, New Mexico, Virginia, Oklahoma and South Korea home. Despite the many moves, the love of soccer remained constant for the Hoxie brothers.
After he graduates from the College in December, Hoxie hopes to maintain that love and play professional soccer in either Major League Soccer (MLS) or an European league.
“He is a big target striker — very strong on the ball, holds people off well — but yet he has the brains and the technique to play make,” Norris said. “It is very rare to find guys that have that combination of skills.
And that will serve him well if he continues to play because there is certainly a market for what he does, and there are very few people that can fill that role.”
For now, Hoxie has centered his focus on the six remaining CAA games of the 2009 regular season, with aspirations for a postseason run culminating with a trip deep into the NCAA Tournament. He will look to lead the Tribe and cement himself as one of the top forwards in the country, a goal his coach thinks is within reach.
“There are definitely some good front players,” Norris said. “But I wouldn’t trade him for anybody else in college soccer right now.”