A 5-foot-5 stature paired with a soft voice and gentle smile. Fearsome doesn’t exactly describe Eva Van Deursen.
On the pitch, she uses her delicate appearance to her advantage. Similar to an owl hidden in the shadows to stalk its prey, Van Deursen waits for the perfect moment to rush into the box to place her foot on the ball for a strike.
The Arizona State staff didn’t ask Van Deursen to make those runs last season, but head coach Graham Winkworth has requested more from the Dutch midfielder.
“Eva’s been really consistent,” Winkworth said. “She’s working hard on improving her defensive side of the game, but in possession of the ball she switches the point very, very well. She’s getting goals from midfield now which is something that didn’t happen last season. It’s something we wanted her to add to her game and her role has really enabled her to make those late runs into the box and it’s giving her opportunities to score now. I’m really pleased for her.”
Six games into the season, it has worked thus far. Before the Sun Devils head on a two-game trip to UCF and LSU, Van Deursen has scored three times, already more than her 2018 total and leads the team with five assists.
“I feel really good,” said Van Deursen on the switches. “I’m scoring goals and giving more assists than last year, it’s kind of my new job. It’s going pretty well.”
Van Deursen has adapted, which shouldn’t shock anyone knowing her past. First of all, she’s over 5,000 miles away from her home of Veldhoven, Netherlands. She comes from a family that is a big fan of a sport, just not soccer. In her home, the sport is water polo, neither her parents nor her two brothers played soccer. Meanwhile, Van Deursen always had a ball with her.
“I just started and I played with the boys till I was 15 years (old),” she said. “I have two brothers who I was always one of them, playing outside with the all guys.”
She believes that being one of the boys has helped her with her journey through soccer. An added toughness from a young age has translated to the battle for position in the midfield against opponents. Van Deursen encourages other girls to play with the boys for as long as they can.
For as much battling with the boys as Van Deursen has done, she’s gamed with the girls just as long.
The Netherlands national team called Van Deursen up back when she was nine, and ever since she’s been with the system. Her most shining moment for the Dutch showcased the other weapon in her arsenal.
In 2018, included on the Netherland’s 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup squad, Van Deursen nailed this long shot in the team’s opening match against New Zealand. She talked about the moment of making such a beautiful strike that won the game for the Dutch.
“That’s amazing,” Van Deursen said. “Most of the time when you hit the ball, you’re going to feel that it’s going to go in. During the ball is flying through the air, you’re already going to know like that’s going to go in. Once it hits the net, you just wow.”
There’s a few reasons behind how Van Deursen ended up in Tempe. She first came to the U.S. for a family trip to Florida in 2013, but the trip two years later through California, Utah and Arizona created her love for the country.
Then there’s her recruitment from Winkworth, who traveled to Spain while Van Deursen was on international duty. Their conversation there won her over.
“He knew a lot of information about me. Which gave me a lot of confidence because ‘hey, he knows all that stuff about me.’ You know who I am, and he wants to know who I am,” she said. “He had a big plan with me, the new team...he had this beautiful plan and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Winkworth incorporated Van Deursen’s fellow sophomores Nicole Douglas and Marleen Schimmer in that plan. Now, the three are becoming quite the trio in the Sun Devils attack. Van Deursen didn’t make quite the impact as the other two did in their freshman year, but seeing their success as pushed her to become better.
Soccer has become life for Van Deursen, and she couldn’t imagine it any other way. Although, her path to Arizona has helped her discover the thrill of hiking and other adventures she enjoys with her friends and family when they make the long excursion over.
There is one other thing that sparks her smile that she’s found in America: acai bowls. Van Deursen couldn’t stop raving over the treat and how much she enjoyed them. It’s a bit ironic though, how the dish filled with countless different items is the favorite of an all-around midfielder with so many responsibilities on the pitch.