By Jake Knabel, NAIA Sports Information Intern, [email protected]
While USA women’s soccer stars Hope Solo and Abby Wambach captivated the nation with their play on the international stage at the FIFA World Cup, few soccer players dazzle on the collegiate platform quite like Lee (Tenn.) senior Jamie Achten.
“I think her career will stand the test of time as one of the best ever in the NAIA,” Lee head women’s soccer coach Matt Yelton said.
That statement is made rather obvious when one considers Achten’s accomplishments. She’s done everything there is to do on a soccer field in three seasons at Lee. The 5-foot-6 forward is a two-time NAIA All-American, a Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete and has been the rock for each of the Lady Flames’ three consecutive national championship teams. Oh yeah, there’s also that 2010 National Player of the Year award.
“Really unbelievable,” Achten said of her soccer career. “It feels like a blessing from the Lord. I always grew up admiring girls that won national championships. Being part of a team that competes for that every year has been neat. The individual awards don’t mean as much though, it’s really about the quality of the girls that I play with. I couldn’t get the individual awards without the team.”
Now Achten, a communications and advertising double-major, and her team have their sights on a fourth-straight championship in 2011. But Achten refuses to feel the pressure to make it happen again. As a team leader she has promoted an atmosphere of hard work, but also one of calmness and confidence in tight situations.
“With her you automatically recognize – not only does she say the right thing, she does the right thing,” Yelton said. “She’s the one pushing herself. When a player of that caliber works that hard, she gains the respect of her teammates. She’s a driven individual who thrives in tough situations. Over and over throughout her career, she’s scored goals in big moments.”
Producing goals is Achten’s most valuable skill on the playing field. In her college career, she has averaged more than 20 goals and 20 assists per year. She has proven deadly whenever the opposition gives her any opening and incredibly adept at setting up her teammates. She is the type of attacking forward that keeps Southern States Athletic Conference goalkeepers awake at night.
Yet Achten’s status as the most decorated current NAIA soccer player is only part of her identity. As a devoted Christian, Achten is quick to thank God for her many gifts and is an active member of her church near her hometown of Franklin, Tenn. She also is involved in Lee’s Social Service Club, which serves the school and local community. She spends most of her free time hanging out with family, painting and engaging in outdoor activities.
“I love the outdoors,” Achten said. “I would like to be outdoors all day, every day if I could. I even tried kayaking last summer. I enjoy hiking and biking and I want to learn how to swim so I can do a triathlon.”
The multi-faceted Achten is the perfect example of the ideal NAIA student-athlete. She dominates on the playing field and in the classroom, while gaining the respect of all people she encounters. She even aspires to travel to other countries as a missionary.
“Talk about a player you want to recruit,” Yelton said. “She is an exemplary student-athlete in every way. She’s a quality leader. She’s great in the classroom. She’s a leader in academic organizations. She’s an artist, very well-rounded. She’s a special individual and we’re very fortunate to have her.”
Amazingly, Achten nearly quit soccer after giving the sport up as a sophomore in high school. Even though she had followed in her older sister’s footsteps and began playing at age six, she had reached a crossroads. It was time to decide if soccer was still for her. Little did she know what lay ahead. Her decision would change the course of NAIA soccer history.
“I definitely had doubts about playing,” Achten said. “I thought I was done sophomore year in high school when I took a break, but the year away from it made me eager to get back into it.”
“Now I’m really glad I play in college. I’ve learned so much about myself from the game. I’ve developed such a passion for it.”
In the fall of 2008, Achten found her way to the Lee campus in Cleveland, Tenn., joining her sister Jenna, then a junior, on the soccer team. Together they won a pair of national titles, and as Jamie put it: “There’s nothing like winning a national championship with your sister.”
As it turned out, Jamie was the perfect complement to her sister, who was a solid goal-scorer herself.
“It’s no coincidence we won our first national title her freshman year,” Yelton said.
Whether Lee makes it four-in-a-row or not, Achten’s credentials will never be minimized. Her impact on her school and NAIA soccer has been immense. As Achten preps for her senior season and later for graduate school at a college to be determined, she can rest assured. No matter what happens this season, her name will go down with the all-time greats.
Coach Yelton knows her void will be a difficult one to fill.
“What she does on the field is great,” Yelton said. “But what she does off the field will be even tougher to replace.”
Jake Knabel is the NAIA sports information intern. He is a graduate of The University of Iowa and most recently worked in the sports information department at Clarke University in Dubuque Iowa. His favorite sport is baseball and his top sports moment dates back to 2005 when Iowa beat LSU in the Capital One Bowl. Jake will contribute to the PlayNAIA blog throughout the 2011-12 school year.