Senior striker Luke Croucher scored 19 times this past season for Lakenheath, but he didn’t net one of his biggest goals for 2003 until last Sunday, two weeks after the season ended.

“I told a friend before the season started that I wanted to be first-team All-Europe and MVP in the Division I tournament,” Croucher said Wednesday. “I wanted it all.”

Croucher took care of the MVP part himself with a brilliant postseason performance that included a hat trick for the well-traveled and second-seeded Lakenheath Lancers. The selection panel of Baumholder’s David Schwab, Wiesbaden’s Steve Jewell, SHAPE’s Tony Blasio and Patch’s Todd Taylor chaired by DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore named Croucher to the All-Europe first team.

Croucher was a first-team member as a sophomore, but was named to the second team last season.

He was determined to move back up to the top unit this season and played with an English club team to prepare, hoping the panel would notice.

They did. As Dominik Ludes of the Ramstein staff put it, “We all play in the same conference, but Luke Croucher plays in a league all his own.”

Croucher even noticed the improvement himself.

“I thought I played well last year,” Croucher said, “but this year was the best year of my life.”

English club soccer “is totally different from DODDS,” Croucher said. “They play really rough.

“After being downtown,” said Croucher, who led his club team with 15 goals, “you could take it when someone knocked you down in a DODDS game. You just dusted yourself off and went on.”

But improved play was only half of Croucher’s best year. The other half was a closely knit band of Lakenheath brothers.

“The team’s my best friends,” Croucher said. “We had a great time traveling and playing together.”

And playing together, Croucher said, was the key to his return to the All-Europe first team.

“My midfield and my striking partner, Phil Morrow, did a great job of getting me the ball,” Croucher said. “They’d put the ball right where I could put it into the back of the net.”

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