Reed Hunnicutt said there were a lot of days in his freshman and sophomore years at South Mecklenburg, where he would stop and watch the Sabres’ boys’ soccer practice before he left school. He said he wondered what it would be like to be on his high school team.
Hunnicutt also went to a lot of the Sabres’ soccer games, and wished he was playing on the team.
While most of his friends played for the Sabres, Hunnicutt decided to play for the Charlotte Soccer Academy U14 team (and later U16 team), which are a part of the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy.
As a CSA player, Hunnicutt made a 10-month commitment, which did not allow him to play high school soccer, according to United States’ Soccer Federation rules.
But just before his sophomore year ended, Hunnicutt made what he describes as one of his most difficult decisions. He chose to play for South Mecklenburg the following season.
“There is no question that the decision was one of the hardest decisions ... But in the end, it also ended up being one of the best decisions I have ever made. Last season with South Meck was one of the best experiences I’ve had on a soccer field.”
Charlotte Soccer Academy’s Elite Club National League director, Dan Dudley, who also coaches the Providence Day boys’ and girls’ soccer team, said he understands how tough the choice can be for high school students.
“The academy is 10-month commitment with a lot of travel and can be very tough, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity for a player to develop in the USA Soccer system and gives a player a great chance to play college soccer,” Dudley said. “I really believe for the small percentage of players who make the CSA teams, it’s a rare opportunity that you should take advantage of.
“But, I do also feel it’s a very tough decision for these players not to play for their high school, especially from a social standpoint. Ultimately, it’s a decision that individual players and their families have to make.”
‘A Dream Season’
Hunnicutt said once the South Meck season got underway and the Sabres started rolling he didn’t look back.
Last fall (2015), Hunnicutt and the South Mecklenburg soccer team enjoyed what he called “a dream season.” The team went 23-0-2 overall and won the 4A state championship for the first time since 1971. South Meck also went 13-0-1 to win the SoMeck8 conference.
The Sabres, who finished No. 1 in the state (N.C. coaches’ poll) and No. 2 in the nation, were dominant all season.
Hunnicutt played a major role, at outside midfielder and forward. He scored 10 goals and handed out 22 assists. He was one of two, Sabres named all-state, along with forward, Marco Garcia.
“It felt great to finally put on the South Meck jersey in that first game,” said Hunnicutt. “Then the season just kept getting better.”
South Meck head soccer coach, Eric White, agreed.
“What happened with Reed was definitely unique,” White said. “But I think he saw how good our team was and wanted to help us try to win a state championship. I’m really happy that it all worked out.... It’s a testament to Reed, to how hard he’s worked and that he was able to make the right decision for him.”
The Next Level
Things got even better in last May when Hunnicutt committed to play college soccer at Appalachian State.
He completed his dream of playing college soccer and will join his older sister, Lainey, 19, in college. Lainey, a former South Meck track and swimming standout, is currently a sophomore pole vaulter for the Appalachian State track team.
Reed, now a 5-foot-8, 140-pound senior says his dad, Travis, and mom, Cindy, are equally excited to see both of their children playing at the same school.
While the South Meck boys’ soccer team had a season for the ages, White says this year’s team hopes to repeat as state champions.
South Meck returns five starters, all seniors led by Hunnicutt and outside defenders, Ethan DeSilva (10 goals, 15 assists) and Alec Hartman as well as central midfielder, Fernando Garcia (15 goals, 11 assists) and forward, Collyn Carpenter (six goals, seven assists).
“This team knows that last year was last year, and we have to find a whole new identity for this years’ team,” White said. “But make no mistake, we 100 percent believe we can have the same type of success, but it’s going to be a lot tougher.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.