|Defender Leads Calvin in Wright Direction
By Bruce VanBaren
Looking over the field at the start of a Calvin soccer game, the presence of Maurice Wright was quite obvious. Standing at 6-3, Wright towered over most everyone on the field. When the whistle was blown to begin the game, Wright’s presence became even more apparent.
“He’s a quiet, confident leader and leaves everything he has on the field; the other players respect that and want to play like him and with him,” fifth-year head coach Chris Hughes said of Wright. “From a coaching standpoint, you need those types of players who can stand up in big games and get the job done.”
A native of Wauwatosa, Wis., Wright graduated from Wauwatosa East High School. He grew up accustomed to success in big soccer games, but it wasn’t necessarily at a high school level.
Wright played for a successful club team, FC Milwaukee, from age 10 to 18, winning four state championships, including three consecutively. “In Wisconsin it’s kind of different; there’s not much emphasis on high school soccer, it’s all on club soccer,” Wright said.
With Wright’s success, colleges came knocking. He became familiar with Calvin when he would visit his older sister Natalie, who graduated in 2003. For Wright, Calvin seemed like a natural choice. Hughes is grateful for his decision: “I strongly believe that Wright coming to Calvin has kind of defined the success we’ve had here at Calvin.”
And success Calvin has had. With Wright on the roster, Calvin held a 60-16-8 record as well as two MIAA titles and two NCAA tournament appearances. Wright played varsity for four years, three as a starter.
Wright originally joined the team as a forward, but not exactly built for speed, he found his true calling at defense. “This year, [Wright] was the presence in the middle of the field,” Hughes said. “At the coaches meeting, the other coaches talked about how they would build their offenses tactically where he wasn’t on the field.”
Hughes couldn’t have been happier to have Wright’s presence in the middle of the field to set up Calvin’s offense this season. Wright helped a developing Calvin offense to average 18.5 shots per game, just 1.9 fewer than the 2005 Sweet 16 team. “One of my main goals was winning every 50-50 ball that I could, knowing that I am somewhat tall,” Wright joked.
In Calvin’s 2005 NCAA tournament run, Wright stepped up for the Knights, filling in for injured sweeper Peter Malefyt for the final stretch of the season, but his most significant contribution to Calvin soccer was his leadership as a tri-captain this season in a rebuilding year.
Strong leadership was essential this season as the team suffered four frustrating ties in conference, and missed opportunities kept the Knights behind conference front-runners Hope and Albion. Wright credits much of Calvin’s success throughout his four-year career to strong leadership on past teams from soccer alums Joel VandeKoppel ’04, Joel Veldhouse ’04 and Kurt Visker ’05.
“I felt somewhat comfortable in my role this year having learned so much from them, but at the same time a little wary of filling their shoes,” he said.
Wright wasn’t the only one with big shoes to fill. Losing seven starters, many young players saw significant time on the field. Wright, who played as a freshman, wanted to see them make an immediate impact and tried to keep them fired up. “I kind of regretted how I played my freshman year,” he said. “I came out a little timid, and I didn’t want to see that coming out of these guys.”
Reflecting on his soccer experience, Wright describes it as “the best I’ve ever had. It’s something that I loved to do every day with guys who were great. It’s going to be missed.”
He finishes his defensive career with five goals and nine assists. He was named to this year’s All-MIAA first team.Wright, a physical education major and health minor, aspires to be a teacher and some day a coach at the collegiate level; he will end his schooling this spring and begin student teaching next fall. Excited his major extends his college career to four and a half years, Wright said, "Chapels, LOFT, friends, guys I live with — I’m going to miss Calvin.”
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