QUISPAMSIS • Jacob Dunnett doesn’t want credit for Houghton College’s successful season on the soccer pitch.
“We had a really strong back line and defensive unit that made my job easy,” the goalkeeper from Quispamsis said when asked about the Highlanders’memorable 2013-14 campaign.“We had a good team and some good leaders. We were able to have good chemistry right from the beginning. That really helped us. It didn’t feel like we had older guys on the team and younger guys on the team.”
Despite all of his humility, Dunnett has already received his share of praise. The 19-year-old was his school’s male athlete of the month for September after helping the Highlanders to a 7-0-1 start.
During that span, Dunnett allowed just three goals while recording five shutouts. He was also named national student-athlete of the week twice by the National Christian College Athletic Association.
On top of that, Dunnett earned the NCCAA’s defensive player of the week honours. His efforts helped Houghton finish the season with a 15-4-1 record and a berth in the NCCAA national tournament in Kissimmee, Fla.
“It was good,” Dunnett said of his freshman season in western New York. “Houghton was really great with helping us adapt to a new environment. Everyone is friendly, so that helped. It’s a good spot to be. I got to play, and it’s a good school, too.”
Supporting that claim is the fact that the Houghton men’s side was recognized by the NCCAA with a scholar team award for its combined grade-point average of 3.51. That mark was the highest among the Highlanders’ varsity teams, which compete in the Empire 8 Conference (NCAA Division III).
In addition, five members of Hough-ton College’s men’s and women’s soccer teams were NCCAA All-America selections. Dunnett, a business major, was an honourable mention.
Dunnett said last summer’s Canada Games in Sherbrooke, Que., laid the foundation for his strong rookie season at Houghton. The Fundy Soccer Association product backstopped Team New Brunswick to an emotional win over Ontario, a contest that had to be decided on penalty kicks.
And even though New Brunswick came up short in its pursuit of a medal, the Games yielded many meaningful memories. The top-notch competition also provided Dunnett with invaluable preparation for the college ranks.
“I definitely felt game-ready,”he said. “It was really good to be able to contribute right away. It (college level) was another step for me in terms of speed of play. That’s probably where I improved the most. We had a team that could keep the ball and move it around, and we played at a fast pace.”
Dunnett is giving back to the sport by working with young FSA goalkeepers.
“I’ve had lots of experiences coaching with Fundy, and it’s definitely something I’d like to (continue),”he said.“I’d love to coach soccer long-term. I definitely like being around soccer. I can’t see myself not being around the sport.”
FSA has produced its share of players who have advanced to the college level. Dunnett credits FSA technical director Jason Brown and the association’s dedicated coaches.
“Fundy is doing a great job,”Dunnett said. “They’re definitely putting a lot of effort into developing kids, and it’s showing. I’m definitely lucky to have grown up playing for Fundy.
“They definitely encouraged me, and I know they encouraged other players and helped them develop. They never forced it on us, but they made us realize we could move up to higher levels.”
Brown said Dunnett is a good role model for FSA players, setting an example both on and off the field.
“He’s matured so much over the years,” Brown said. “He’s at a point where it’s really beneficial for the young kids to be around him. He’s such a nice guy and a good communicator. It’s nice to have an athlete who’s been successful and who’s also a nice person.”
Brown said Dunnett earned a spot on a college team by putting forth an extra effort. The FSA technical director recalls a coaching symposium involving a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ staff.
The Whitecaps’ representative said young players aspiring to compete at a higher level need to market themselves. And in the age of instant information, sending video footage is a good option.
Dunnett decided to do that, leading to opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t have unfolded.
“He took it seriously because he wanted to play at the college level,” Brown said. “He actually had to work for it and he got his reward.”
Dunnett’s summer job also has him in a coaching role. He’s working for the local kayak club, guiding kids in different age divisions. And when he isn’t playing soccer for his senior squad, you can find him watching the World Cup.
“I like the amount of games and the variety of different styles of goalkeeping,” Dunnett said. “There’s been too many upsets to make any predictions. I’d like to see Brazil win at home.”
After the beautiful game’s mega-size tournament is over, Dunnett will digest what he’s observed and use it for his sophomore season. He’s scheduled to return to Houghton in mid-August, at which point the work begins on the pitch.
“I definitely want to improve on the season we just had,” Dunnett said. “That’s definitely on my mind as a goal. It was a good experience.
“We’re losing some key players, but we still have some good players around and some good freshmen coming