El Capitan Finishes Strong

EMU�s Adam Shank
Photo by Nikki Fox

By Dustin Dopirak, Daily News Record

Junior Kamandua was putting on a clinic.

In a one-on-one, winner-stays-on drill in Thursday’s practice, the Eastern Mennonite University freshman soccer star was embarrassing people, stealing dribbles straight from their feet and crossing them up so bad on the other end, they were falling.

So it was up to senior captain Adam Shank to restore order. Though Kamandua nearly stole the ball after Shank dribbled out from his own goal, Shank fought and kept it, then dribbled past Kamandua and tucked the ball inside the left post of Kamandua’s goal.

Hailing the team leader, one of the Royals waiting for his turn yelled out, "EL CAPITAN!"

There was no posturing from Shank, who plays center midfielder, and no response to the cheer. It was the picture of quiet leadership by example, which has become the four-year starter’s trademark now that he’s the Royals’ captain.

"He’s not a very vocal person," EMU coach Roger Mast said. "He doesn’t say much on the field, but when he does say something, it’s pretty important. I think his teammates realize that when he does speak his mind, he’s going to make a good point."

Recently, the former Eastern Mennonite High School star has given the Royals plenty of reasons to honor his example. Last week, he had a goal and an assist in a 4-0 win over Emory & Henry and an assist in a 1-1 tie with Washington & Lee to earn Old Dominion Athletic Conference Player of the Week honors.

He’s fifth on the team in total points (eight) with two goals and a team-high four assists. The Royals (7-6-3 overall, 3-3-2 in the ODAC) are tied for sixth with Randolph-Macon in the 10-team conference with two regular-season games to go before the eight-team conference tournament.

Shank’s statistics have been consistent throughout his four-year career. Last year, he scored three goals and added two assists and had three assists the year before. His captaincy wasn’t based on numbers, however.

"In practice and in games, he just leaves everything on the field," senior goalie Tim Koehn said. "He just won’t stop running or working until the final whistle blows. That helps me out. Whenever I get tired, I just kind of look at Adam and see how hard he’s working, and that gets me pumped up as well."

Though Shank looks like a free spirit with his bushy, curly hair and growing facial stubble, Mast described him as introverted by nature. That complements his more vocal co-captain, Joel Shank. The two aren’t related but they’ve played soccer together since age 9, including their careers at EMHS. Even so, Adam Shank felt like he needed to be more vocal this season than in previous years.

He said he’s always been the type to allow older players to take control out of respect, even if he had more playing experience than they did. But, much like when he was voted co-captain with Joel in their senior year at EMHS, he realized that this year, he needed to make his voice heard.

"Having the guys vote you captain means a lot," he said. "It means people see you as a leader. ‘I’ve tried to be a little more outspoken this year than I usually am."

Of course, being captain and one of the older guys brings along with it the eventual end of a player’s career. For Shank, that will mean the end of a prolific eight-year run in Park View, which included four Virginia Independent Conference titles at EMHS.

An honors student with a 3.95 grade-point average as a dual major — Spanish and justice, peace and conflict studies — Shank hopes to work with local Hispanic immigrants, teaching English as a second language after he graduates. He also wants to continue playing soccer recreationally, and perhaps coach some day. Even so, he isn’t looking forward to his last EMU game.

"It’s definitely hard to think about every game you play you think, ‘Well, that’s the last time I’m going to play this team,’" Shank said. "It’s going to be sad because soccer’s been a big part of my life."

At least he’ll get to go out as "El Capitan."