Eric Kluge has emerged as Salisbury's latest superstar

Senior midfielder has filled void created by injury to Ryan Clarke and leads No. 6 Sea Gulls in both goals and points

April 11, 2013|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

The ruptured spleen that sidelined senior midfielder Ryan Clarke for the remainder of the season just five games into 2013 may have created a vacuum among Salisbury’s stable of standout players. Fortunately, Eric Kluge has stepped in to fill the void.

The senior midfielder leads the No. 6 Sea Gulls (12-3) in goals with 32 and points with 41, and he led all scorers with four goals in the team’s 24-4 walloping of Wesley on Wednesday night. Joined by juniors Greg Korvin (11 goals and 10 assists) and Tyler Smith (14, 6), the trio make up the top five scorers on offense.

Despite his 5-foot-11 and 205-pound frame, Kluge has been tabbed by coach Jim Berkman as the fastest player on the field.

“It’s not like he’s a little fast guy,” Berkman said Thursday morning. “He’s 205 pounds, and when he gets that speed going, it’s awful hard to defend him. We knew athletically that he was a unique creature because there aren’t too many guys that are the fastest guy on the field and weigh 205 and can shoot the ball over 90 miles per hour with both hands. To his credit, he just gets better every game. It’s fun to watch some of the things that he and Smith and Korvin are doing out there. It’s exciting to see his development. We knew he had the potential, and he’s definitely leading our offense.”

Kluge’s ability was not especially evident based on his raw numbers as he finished last year with just three goals and five assists and found sporadic playing time on the second line. But Berkman said the coaching staff saw slices of the midfielder’s potential.

“He was always a talented kind, but the lax part of the equation has always been the thing that has held him back,” Berkman said. “We were thinking last year when we worked a great deal with him, how good could he really be? He’s a really hard worker and he’s always shooting and his shot just gets better and better. He’s got as good of a shot as we’ve had here in a while. He brings it 90-something with both hands. So it’s not like he can’t go to his left.”

The absence of Clarke would seem to place some of the leadership burden on Kluge, but Berkman said Kluge, Korvin and Smith have shared the responsibility of carrying the mantle for Salisbury.

“What’s really great about our team is the first line sets the bar every day,” Berkman said. “They’re by far the hardest three guys at practice. On a lot of teams, the first-line guys aren’t going hard every day. But if you watch practice, our first midfield is just getting after it every day and playing hard and playing more. It’s hard to get them off the field. So that’s why they’re getting better because they’re working so much together.”

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