Blast drafts Virginia defender first


The Baltimore Blast continued to seek more defensive help yesterday, making University of Virginia defender Kris Kelderman its No. 1 pick in the Major Soccer League collegiate draft in Kansas City, Mo.

Kelderman, 6 feet 1, 175 pounds, became an attacking defender late in his senior year at Virginia after starting out as a midfielder.

Kelderman, whose home is in Neenah, Wis., played in the MSL RTC College Indoor Soccer Showcase on Tuesday night at Kemper Arena in Kansas City and helped the East defeat the West, 6-5.

"Defense was a priority for us going into the draft because we've lost Angelo [Panzetta, out for seven to 12 months due to reconstructive knee surgery]," Blast coach Kenny Cooper said. "Kris stood out right away when I watched him in practice [for the Showcase]. He reads the game well, has good speed, is strong, is a good passer and has the skills to play the game."

Cooper said Kelderman has become familiar with the indoor game by playing in various leagues around his home in Neenah and the Baltimore-Washington area.

"All these kids today can play the indoor game," said Cooper. "They realize the future of the game is indoor soccer and they work hard to prepare for a chance to make it in the only true professional league in the United States."

Kelderman said he has watched the Blast play on television but has never been to a game at the Baltimore Arena.

Kelderman said he has watched the Blast play on television but has never been to a game at the Baltimore Arena.

"I'm excited about being drafted," said Kelderman. "But it's tough to say if I'll make the team."

There were four rounds in the MSL draft yesterday, with Baltimore selecting forward Tim Ernst (University of Evansville, Ind.) in the second round, defender Gary Cronin (Southern Connecticut State) in the third round and forward John Maessner (University of Virginia) in the fourth round.

Maessner is the only one of the four Blast draft picks who didn't play in the Showcase.

"We feel we have a sleeper in Maessner," said Cooper. "He wasn't invited to the Showcase, but he can play."

Cooper said Ernst is "a hard worker who is always around the ball and comes from good soccer country in St.Louis, Mo. Danny counce and Jim Pollihan both came from St. Louis and had outstanding careers with the Blast.

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