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Marcus Byeman quietly tops MIAA
By Nate Bierma

Marcus Byeman is jogging toward the sideline where a teammate aims a throw-in. At first the teammate fakes his throw towards Byeman, but Byeman, with a quick fling of his arm, indicates a teammate open farther up the field. The teammate completes the suggested pass, and the Knights promptly go on the attack.

The brief, silent exchange shows the type of captain of the men's varsity soccer team Marcus Byeman is: not vocal, not demonstrative, but nonetheless automatically respected for his ability to see the field and direct the team. On the field, he's one of the few people not shouting or frowning with determination. Yet you can't watch the Knights for more than a few minutes without seeing that Byeman is the anchor of the team, an air traffic controller of sorts who keeps things running smoothly.

It's a role that is comes both naturally and unnaturally to Byeman. On the one hand, he plays so fluidly and unhurried that his leadership seems effortless. On the other, he doesn't relish being the center of teammates' attention. "I try to lead more by example," Byeman said. "I'll get excited, but the most I'll do is smile. The emotion's there, I just don't show it."

His lack of histrionics should not be construed as a lack of passion for the game. Byeman's background is full of soccer, ever since he grew up playing the game in Redmond, Washington. He would go on to star at Eastlake High School in Redmond and notch a pair of state championships. Soon he found himself on the wanted list of schools like Santa Clara, Air Force and Wheaton. Byeman said only Calvin could offer the right blend of soccer, faith and the engineering program he was looking for. About the only drawback was it wasn't out West, which Byeman clearly considers home. "Grand Rapids makes me appreciate home a little more," Byeman said. "We have a lot of rain [back home], so when it rains here, it makes me feel at home."

Byeman, after maintaining a 3.4 GPA in Calvin's rigorous engineering regime, though undecided about whether to go to graduate school or get a job right after graduation in May, has a hunch he may end up back on the west coast. For now though, he's putting the finishing touches on a fine Calvin career. In his four years starting on the varsity, three as the team's captain, he's made the All-MIAA first team twice and was named the league's Most Valuable Player.

"Marcus is one of the most complete soccer players I have seen since I have been at Calvin," said Calvin men's soccer coach Dave VerMerris. "He has leadership, soccer skills and a keen knowledge of the game. He's got the whole package and it's been like that all three years that I have been coach."

Byeman has served as a team captain since his sophomore year, a fact not unnoticed by VerMerris. "The fact that he has been voted team captain since he was a sophomore really said something about his leadership and what his teammates think of him," said VerMerris. "He is also respected by other teams and coaches that we play. He is respected not only for his soccer skills but what kind of person he is."

Early this season Byeman was named the league's player of the week for the third time in his career. The team has steadily improved to mirror the fruition of Byeman's career. Last season the Knights finished 16-3-1, the second-best record in team history, and tied for the league title, its first piece of the MIAA crown in eight years. This year, key losses and ties hampered the Knights, putting them in fourth place.

Despite the disappointing finish, Byeman is proud that the Knights' Christian character shows up on the field. "I used to think you could be a different person on the soccer field," Byeman said. "Now I think people are more the same. I don't think your character changes." Byeman said being "Christ-oriented" has to do with "the way you conduct yourself on the field . not tackling someone cheaply, watching your language. In a pressure situation, are you going to screw up or play composed?"

His actions on the field speak volumes about the type of person he is according to VerMerris. "Marcus is a young man who is very committed to his Christian faith," said VerMerris.

If Byeman's quiet but warm personality and strong faith have anything to do with his steady play on the field, he seems to prove his own point. Byeman seems to be the only player who doesn't run at full throttle; he doesn't need to. He plays the game at the perfect pace; never in a rush, yet instantly appearing behind startled opponents.

His feet don't stray far beyond shoulder width when he kicks, and while the majority of fellow players grimace with every long kick, Byeman must have one of the least-strained hamstrings in the league. Handling the ball, Byeman is in full control. Passing, he is precise. When he's ganged up on by two defenders, you get the feeling that's what it takes to make it a fair fight, and still Byeman typically finds a way to zip a pass upfield anyway.

Given this rhythm of the game that has made him one of Division III's best ball controllers, it's not surprising to hear him say the game will always be a part of him.

"I'll always be able to kick the ball around with my friends," Byeman said. "If I don't play for a while, soccer balls start to spin in my head."

 

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