WATERVILLE — You may only watch a men’s soccer goalkeeper when the action comes his way. With Thomas junior keeper Mikkail Crockwell, you can hear him before you see him.
“He’s just very vocal,” Thomas coach Chris Parsons said. “He’s pretty close to a perfectionist, I would say. But at the same time, he’s always giving information.
“He’s honest with everything that he’s giving. If something needs to be done and someone’s not doing it, he’s going to let them know. But at the same time, if somebody’s doing something good, he’s also going to let them know that.”
Crockwell is loud and keeps talking throughout the game. He’s also the glue to the defense. As Thomas (15-2-2) prepares to play Williams in a first-round NCAA Division III tournament game at 11 a.m., Saturday in Williamstown, Mass., Crockwell ranks fourth in the country with a .897 save percentage, and has a 0.58 goals-against-average.
“Last year, he slowed down, had some injuries, but this year, he’s been tremendous,” Parsons said. “It’s been his best year. He’s a true professional. Obviously, it’ll all start with him on Saturday.”
Crockwell grew up in St. David’s Bermuda, an island about 650 acres in size (about one-eighteenth the size of Waterville). He said he has been playing soccer as long as he can remember, and became a goalkeeper at about 11 years old.
“It was fun,” Crockwell said. “I came up in a small community, in St. David’s, Bermuda. I grew up with my mother and my father in the distance, but it was nice. Nice and small. Nice sunny days. It was a nice neighborhood I grew up in. In the winter in got pretty cold — which is like 40 degrees.”
Former Thomas coach Jason Higgins got in touch with Crockwell after Higgins saw him in goal while scouting another player. Once Crockwell got used to the winters, he was fine, since he came in with no knowledge of the school and no exepectations.
“Obviously, the main adjustment is the weather, but that’s just about it,” Crockwell said. “Because Bermuda’s a small country, and this school is a small society, I was able to adapt quickly to this environment. It was really just the weather that had me shivering in the morning. That’s just about it.”
Crockwell is one of six players on the Thomas roster from Bermuda. Parsons says there is a history of Bermuda natives playing soccer at Thomas, going back two or three decades.
“When I played here in ’95 and ’96, we had four Bermudians then,” Parsons said. “They come from a small island. Here at Thomas, it’s small. We have a lot of academic support. They feel comfortable here.”
As a freshman, Crockwell started on a Thomas team that won the North Atlantic Conference tournament. He’s athletic, has a balance of aggressiveness and patience, and he’s fearless enough to want the responsibility of making the big save.
“I just enjoy the adrenaline rush, and being able to see everything on the pitch,” Crockwell said. “Situations where I see an attacker going 1-on-1, it’s like a mind battle between me and the striker.”
Crockwell, who did not allow a goal in this year’s NAC tournament, missed a Thomas game last year to play for Bermuda’s national team. He said that experience helped his game.
“Emotionally more than physically — mentally as well,” he said. “It gave me the sense that other people were watching me other than inside of school. And it goes to show that even though Thomas is a small D-3 school, we do have the talent and the athletes who can go above the occasion and play at a higher level.”
Thomas is playing as well as it has all season, winning nine straight by a combined score of 25-4, and the last four by shutouts.
“We have a great coach, first of all,” Crockwell said. “Our coaching staff is wonderful. The team, it’s a very diverse team, but soccer is a universal language. And when people from all parts of the world have a passion for one thing and they come together, they’re able to harmonize a lot quicker than normal.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243