NEW PALESTINE — New Palestine’s Brad Rusche was born to be a baseball player.
It was the sport he always saw himself playing in college from the time he picked up a bat in early youth. Yet, when presented with the opportunity to play both baseball and soccer at Anderson University as a freshman, Rusche gave up baseball and turned his sights exclusively towards soccer.
“That was a hard decision for me to make because baseball had been my sport my whole life,” Rusche said.
It ended up being a really good move.
Rusche just wrapped up his junior year as the Ravens’ team captain where he led the squad in scoring with 10 goals and three assists. Those figures were also the second best at the Division III level in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference where the Ravens play.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t even start playing soccer until he was in the eighth grade.
Now, soccer has become his only sport and the one that gets his year round dedication.
“To focus all your time on one sport, you never get to do that in high school and it’s been really rewarding so far,” Rusche said.
Ravens soccer coach Scott Fridley describes Rusche as a “gym rat” always wanting to work on improving his game. That includes lifting weights and getting stronger, something Rusche had to do.
At 5 feet 7 inches and only 155 lbs, the only question mark Fridley said coaches ever had about Rusche’s game was if he could hold up physically at the collegiate level.
“The only thing we were worried about is if Brad could take the hit because it’s a very physical game,” Fridley said.
Rusche said getting used to the speed of play was also a challenge for him.
“Everything is faster and everyone is faster, and the guys are so much bigger and stronger,” he said.
With a nose for the net, Rusche proved he was also a strong player, Fridley said. He’s played all over the field for the Ravens this season, including the midfielder position, despite Rusche’s natural ability as a scorer.
“He’s definitely a better forward,” Fridley said. “But, because he’s a team player and because he’s a great kid he just does what ever we ask him to do.”
Once Rusche got into the idea of concentrating on one sport during his freshman year, that’s when he really began to show progress on the soccer field, the coach said.
“He’s such a good athlete and picks things up so quickly that it didn’t take him long to pick up all the soccer pieces.”
Now Rusche’s been asked to lead the team.
The Ravens finished third in their conference this fall and second in their season ending tournament while posting a 10-11-1 overall record.
Rusche was elected to be a team captain at the end of his sophomore season. He and his roommate Reid Martian, also a captain, are the guys responsible for getting teammates together after the fall season ended to make sure players stay on target to improve.
“We play indoor two or three times a week now and we’re on a lifting schedule getting ready for our spring season,” Rusche said.
Fridley said Rusche is an ideal team leader both on and off the field, but that his biggest asset goes beyond the game of soccer.
“The best thing about Brad Rusche is his character,” Fridley said. “He’s a great kid and is willing to help anyone who needs it.”
He’s got the ear of the team, too, the coach said. “He’s exactly the kind of kid you want as a coach to be your go between.”
Rusche currently has a 3.69 GPA and was a member of the 2011 HCAA All-Academic team. He plans to be an entrepreneur and is currently taking business classes at AU.
“The business program here is just awesome and I love it,” he said.
“I’m not exactly sure what I am going to do, but I know I am being prepared well.”
That is the case both on and off the soccer field, the coach said.
“Division III is all about the scholar athlete,” Fridley said.
“These kids are not getting paid to play. They’re playing because they love to play and want to be a part of the team.”
That definitely holds true for Rusche who made a decision a few years ago to give up his favorite sport, baseball, and delve into what would be a tougher sport for him to play. Now he says there is no place he’d rather be or any other sport he’d rather be taking part in.
“This has been just an awesome experience,” Rusche said.
“I know I’m making friendships that will last a lifetime and learning lessons that will always stay with me.”