No. 7 Stevenson's starting attack combined for one goal on 12 shots and zero assists in Saturday's 12-4 loss to No. 8 Salisbury in a NCAA Division III tournament second-round game, and one significant factor was the play of Sea Gulls defenseman Knute Kraus.
Kraus, a senior who was a second-team All American last spring, blanketed Stephen Banick. The junior attackman, who finished the season leading the Mustangs (16-5) in assists (33) and goals (63), took three shots, but did not record a point.
"Knute has played consistently all year," Salisbury coach Jim Berkman said Monday. "He's a first-team All American, and it would be a crime if he isn't. He's shut down everybody all season long."
Kraus ranks second on Salisbury (17-4) this season in caused turnovers (26) and fourth in ground balls (47). Berkman said Kraus uses his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame to his advantage.
"He's athletic at 6-4, he's got great speed, he can get it off the deck, he has great change of direction," Berkman said. "If you could draw up the prototypical Division I defenseman you'd want on your team, it's Knute Kraus. He's the same guy that plays at [North] Carolina, he's the same guy that plays at Hopkins. That's the prototype guy that he's evolved into."
Kraus figures to be just as critical when the Sea Gulls face No. 4 Lynchburg (19-2) in a tournament quarterfinal on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Hornets are led by junior attackman Austin Stewart, who is six goals shy of tying former Whittier attackman Brad Downey's NCAA Division III record of 107 goals set in 1996.
Asked if Kraus might be assigned to marking Stewart, Berkman replied wryly, "I'd say there's a good chance."
Stewart scored four goals on 10 shots in Lynchburg's 12-7 victory over Salisbury on Feb. 14 and has registered 13 goals on 31 attempts and added three assists in two NCAA tournament contests.
"He's a great shooter," Berkman said. "We've obviously got to limit his opportunities. We can't give him 19 shots like he had in the Roanoke game [on May 3]. But it's not just him. Limiting him isn't limiting them. We can't let them get the number of opportunities they've had in the last two games as far as transition opportunities. They thrive in that chaos, and we've got to get into the hole and make them play more six-on-six. The more they play six-on-six, the fewer chances he gets. The more we stay out of the [penalty] box, the fewer chances he gets. That will be critical for us. In the first game, they went to the cage three-on-three, four-on-three and even four-on-five and scored goals. We've got to be ready to defend all those situations and limit all of those situations so that they can't get on some of the runs they like to get on."