While she has already clocked in more than 500 minutes at the senior level with the U.S. women’s national team, University of North Carolina star Crystal Dunn is preparing for her first professional season in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).
Hailing from Rockville Centre, N.Y., the 21-year-old South Side High School alumna is no stranger to winning.
Leading her high school to New York state championships in 2006, 2007 and 2009—with the 2007 and 2009 teams having gone undefeated—Dunn racked up 46 goals and 35 assists during her high school campaign and was named the 2009-10 Gatorade New York Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
Dunn’s accolades impressed players, scouts and coaches across the country, including Bruce Stegner, head coach of rival Massapequa High School.
“She’s the quickest player I’ve ever seen—in high school, college, or professionally,” Stegner told reporters after Dunn picked up her award from Gatorade.
Someone else who was impressed with Dunn? Longtime University of North Carolina women’s soccer head coach Anson Dorrance.
Dorrance, who coached the Tar Heels to 21 NCAA national championships, brought the New York native to Chapel Hill in 2010.
Having previously coached the likes of Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Tisha Venturini and Heather O’Reilly, Dunn still managed to find ways to separate herself on the field.
“She is one of the greatest dribblers I’ve ever seen in my life,” Dorrance said. “She just says, ‘Come at me, I’m going to carve you off the dribble and bash this thing into the goal.’”
Under Dorrance, Dunn excelled immediately, finding the back of the net for the first time in Carolina Blue on Sept. 23, 2010 against Boston College. The game, in which Dunn scored a brace, helped her finish her first collegiate season with nine goals and eight assists.
As her time in Chapel Hill went on, Dunn received more mainstream praise for her achievements on the field.
In 2012, Dunn helped bring the Tar Heels its 21st national championship with a 4-1 over Penn State. That same year, Dunn led the Under-20 U.S. women’s national team to a World Cup win in Japan.
Dunn played every minute of all six matches and even provided the assist to Kealia Ohai’s championship-winning goal against Germany in the final match.
These impressive feats helped Dunn win the prestigious Hermann Trophy following her 2012 collegiate season. The trophy, presented by the Missouri Athletic Club, is awarded to the nation’s top male and female college soccer players of the year.
“The Hermann Trophy is basically the highest honor you can receive in college soccer and I think anyone knows even being accepted as a finalist is an amazing achievement,” Dunn said.
In 2013, the ESPYS named Dunn a nominee for the ‘Best Female College Athlete’ award. Though Dunn didn’t take home the honor, her talent finally became visible to those who had missed her extraordinary past.
2013 was also the year that Dunn broke onto the senior U.S. women’s national team under coach Tom Sermanni.
Sermanni, who is no stranger to integrating young talent on the field, gave Dunn her first senior cap on Feb. 13 in the 69th minute of a 3-1 win over Scotland in Nashville, Tenn.
Teammate, and fellow defender, Rachel Buehler commented on Dunn’s early national team success after her first start in March 2013.
“[Crystal is] a dynamic outside back,” Buehler said. “She gets up and down the flank really well and it’s great to see such a young player doing so well.”
Dunn has now racked up eight appearances—six being starts—with the national team in 2013 as a defender.
With experience as a defender at the international level and a notable collegiate career in the midfield, Dunn’s range of talent is an asset any NWSL team could use.