Sophomore striker keys Knights' offense

By Ross Weener

Sports Editor

Located in the southern Pacific Ocean is a small group of seven islands. The group, known as the American Samoan Islands, consists of 77 sq. miles and only 55,000 people. These unincorporated territories of the United States are commonly associated with volcanic mountains and tourist resorts--not soccer. So how is it that Grosse Point native Eric Krauss' love for soccer blossomed after a meeting with a group of Samoan natives when he was only six years old?

Krauss, a Calvin College sophomore, lived in Hawaii for three years until he was seven years old, working with his family for an organization known as YMAM (Youth With A Mission). ``My mom used to take me to see these Samoan guys play soccer and they could kick the ball the whole length of the field,'' Krauss said. ``And for me being such a little guy, I thought that was pretty big, so when I moved back to the States I just started playing soccer.''

Eric's love for soccer has brought him up through the ranks to the collegiate level. He has played on travel teams since he was 10, and also earned a class D state soccer championship with Grosse Point University-Liggett High School when he was a senior.

``Winning a state championship and having the team that we did senior year gave me a lot of confidence and momentum to come and play college soccer,'' Krauss said. ``When I first started to look for a college I was mostly concerned with soccer, but the more and more I looked around I realized the importance of also going to a school that offered good academic programs, and I am happy with my decision to play soccer and study at Calvin.''

Although Krauss is the team leader in both goals scored and total points, he is not a starter. This is a role he enjoys and actually asked for. ``I let coach know that I was comfortable starting, but I did not want to start. I feel that I am more dangerous if I come on after the defense is worn down a bit. They won't know what kind of player I am, and I can give them a little bit of a surprise attack.''

Head soccer coach Dave VerMerris agrees. ``I think that some guys put a lot of stock into being a starter and I think that Eric likes to spend a little time checking out the defense, so when he gets in the game he has a little bit of a feel for what the defense is going to do. I really appreciate guys who come off the bench like that. In some ways it is a great contribution to have someone like that sitting on your bench.''

Currently 9-5 overall and 6-3 in the MIAA, the Knights are having a hard time putting the ball in the back of the net. Calvin is missing last year's solid front line of Jason DeJonge, Marcus Byeman and Jon VerMerris. Although Eric has 5 goals and 4 assists on the year he says he definitely feels the pressure to score. ``I do feel the pressure of being up front, and I think that the offense has the responsibility to score. If we win and I don't score I feel like I haven't contributed to the team as much as I could have.''

Coach VerMerris was quick to talk about Krauss' effectiveness on the field. ``Eric has really stepped up into the goal-scoring role. If you watch him play he is a very crafty player and he is always looking for a way to take you. He is always looking for the spots to do something sneaky or tricky. He does a good job of throwing the defense off balance, and by doing this Eric has become very effective.''

Although undecided in his choice of career, Krauss noted that he wishes that Calvin had a culinary arts program. ``I like to cook, but unfortunately Calvin doesn't offer anything in that field. To me to spend the rest of your life doing something that you didn't love would be very difficult. I am considering a business major just because it has so many possibilities.''

Krauss notes the support that he has received from his family as a catalyst for his success. ``My family has always been right behind me when it comes to soccer, and I get a lot of support from my younger brother and sister who are very interested and come to my games.''