Carter Dunn of Hustonville has never forgotten the disappointment he felt four years ago after failing to make the Kentucky U13 Youth Soccer Team of the Olympic Development Program (ODP).
Dunn has come far since that fateful day. Hard work and lots of practice have paid off for Dunn as he made the Lincoln County High School varsity roster and began play in club soccer.
But, most importantly, he redeemed himself by making the 2012 Kentucky U17 Soccer Team in the Olympic Development Program.
“I think not making the U13 team was kind of a motivator for me,” said Dunn, 16. It think it pushed me to get better so I would get an invitation. I finally did get one this year so I was excited.”
And getting an invitation was a must. Lower level ODP state teams are chosen through open tryouts, however, it’s invitation only for the upper levels.
Only 35 invitations were sent out statewide for the U17 Kentucky Youth Soccer tryouts and Dunn was one of the talented athletes to be honored.
But making the team was no easy task. Dunn went through a number of practices with the ODP, which led to more and more boys getting cut from the program until the final roster was reached.
“The 35 invitations went out and then 22 were chosen from those and then, when you get to regionals, the 22 is cut to 18,” said Dunn, a junior at LCHS.
Dunn and the other U17 Kentucky players endured tryouts March 3 and 10 in Owensboro and training sessions in Bowling Green before beginning tournament play in Memphis, Tenn. and Dayton, Ohio. Then the final 18 took the floor for the Region 2 Championships in Rockford, Ill.
Dunn’s determination to make the team never waned, despite the grueling tryouts.
“I wasn’t going to be satisfied until I made the team and we’d gotten to Rockford (Illinois),”¿he said. “I was really excited (to make the team). I had worked hard and was just really excited.”
Dunn and the Kentucky ODP U17 team, which was coached by University of Louisville assistant Dale Helfrich, competed against teams from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin at Rockford in the Region 2 Championships.
The Kentucky squad fared well in the ODP regional tournament, despite limited playing time together, entering the semifinals as the only undefeated team.
“We’re at the stage in our soccer where we’re supposed to be fundamentally sound and able to work as a group. And we did that,” said Dunn.
However, Dunn and Kentucky’s hopes of a regional title were squashed in the Final Four round as defending national champion Michigan knocked out Kentucky in a semifinal shootout.
“The score was 1-1. We scored kind of early and they scored in the last 10 minutes to tie the game. Then it went to penalty kicks and their keeper stopped two penalty kicks and ours didn’t,” Dunn said.
While disappointed with the loss, Dunn said the experience was rewarding.
“It was hard for us, but we were satisfied with how we’d played before then (semifinals) and glad for the experience,” he said. “We’d just given up a really bad goal (for tie), it was a rebound goal. Michigan ended up just crushing Nebraska to win the tournament. They beat them like 6-1.”
After having competed on an ODP¿team, does Dunn have aspirations of someday possibly being a member of the United States Olympic soccer team?
“It’s everyone’s dream to make that, but you’ve got to set your goals at what you can reach,” he said. “I know I’m not going to be the best player in the United States but I’m going to be the best player I can be – wherever that takes me.”
And there’s no lack of trying to “be the best player” from Dunn, who does have hopes of playing college soccer, with high school soccer, club soccer and soccer camps keeping him on the run.
“After (ODP) I went to a Georgetown College camp, Kentucky’s camp and Lindsey Wilson’s camp back-to-back-to-back,” he said. “I just love soccer.”