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Rece Buckmaster one of IU’s unsung heroes in run to College Cup



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Junior defender Rece Buckmaster dribbles the ball against Rutgers at Bill Armstrong Stadium. IU defeated Rutgers, 5-0, earning their first Big Ten home win of the season. Bobby Goddin Buy Photos

It’s hard to take a player off the field who plays nearly every position. That’s junior defender Rece Buckmaster for No. 2 IU.

When senior defender Grant Lillard was forced out of the game during the first overtime against Michigan State last Friday in the NCAA Quarterfinals, Buckmaster even slid into the center back role. Basically, the junior plays everywhere.

He started out his career as a winger in the midfield, but due to the other right backs' injuries the last two seasons, Buckmaster has been able to slide into the backline, a place where he has flourished.

“He’s been as valuable to our team as anyone in the roles he’s played,” IU Coach Todd Yeagley said. “He is as quick and good defender as you’ll find on our team. His versatility is why we’ve used him at just about every position but up front and goalkeeper.”

The junior is an in-state player hailing from Auburn, Indiana, just north of Fort Wayne. He has scored just one goal in his career, which was in 2015, but this season, his six assists are three times his assist total from a season ago.

“The kid is really talented," Lillard said. "He understands the game pretty well, he has the unique ability to play any position we throw him in. Sometimes he plays in the middle for us, sometimes he plays out wide.”

That versatility helps a lot especially when injuries occur. 

Last season, starting senior right back Billy McConnell was injured for a few games. Buckmaster was able to step up and fill that void. This year, sophomore right back Jordan Kleyn has been in and out of the lineup with a groin issue, while junior midfielder Jeremiah Gutjahr has been out since late September.

But luckily for IU, the team have a good amount of depth. Having a player like Buckmaster can help fill some of those voids, which is very convenient for Yeagley and staff.

“He just is really a complete player. I can’t say enough about him,” Yeagley said. “That’s why we’ve moved him into center back. We use him everywhere and he’s been very good.”

But even with all of the movement, Buckmaster has carved out a spot in the right back position the past two seasons. He’s had short terms in the midfield, but the backline has been his spot.

“I prefer the midfield,” Buckmaster said. “But I’m a team player, so if coach needs me at right back, center back, anywhere in the midfield, out wide, I’m down to do anything.”

With the style IU plays, he still gets some time in the midfield. The junior plays opposite junior left back Andrew Gutman who gets up the flanks more than your average full back. Buckmaster has also adapted to that role quite well.

Friday against North Carolina will be one of Buckmaster’s most interesting matchups, as he will be going up against a fierce Tar Heels attack. Yeagley said he thinks his right back and the rest of the backline will be up to the task.

“Most importantly against a team like UNC, where the attackers are very dynamic, is a lot of confidence that Rece and our other defenders can handle those 1 v. 1 situations, which are often the key moments in the game," Yeagley said.

Buckmaster may not be the most intimidating figure, standing at just 5-foot-8, but what he brings to the table helps IU in so many facets.

“Rece has been a talented player, we all know that and have a lot of confidence in him,” Lillard said. “He’s done a fantastic job everywhere we’ve put him.”

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