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Mars High product Dunaway produces for Purdue

Mars Area High School graduate Gracie Dunaway works the ball for Purdue University’s women’s soccer team last fall. As a freshman, she helped the Boilermakers to the second-best season in program history. Submitted Photo
Making an impact

Gracie Dunaway admits she was nervous after finding out she was going to start as a freshman on the Purdue University women’s soccer team.

She had been a four-year starter for an incredibly strong high school program at Mars, playing multiple positions to help the Planets win back-to-back state titles in 2019-20.

But how would she fare at the Division I college level, playing against Big Ten competition?

Dunaway proved to be a key cog last fall for the Boilermakers, who turned in their best season in over a decade. Starting all 22 games, the forward scored a goal and tied for the team lead in assists with seven and was third on the roster with nine total points.

“The speed of the game was something I had to get used to, just trying to keep up with the physical aspect of the game,” said Dunaway, an exploratory studies major. “I found out in mid-August that I was going to start.

“Leading in assists was pretty cool. I was happy with what I was able to contribute to the team. It was the best season here since 2009 and being part of it was definitely exciting.”

Dunaway’s assists were second-most by a freshman in program history. She was ranked as the 65th-best freshman in the country.

Veteran coach Drew Roff guided the Boilermakers to a 15-4-3 record and a trip to the NCAA tournament. A heartbreaking loss on penalty kicks to Notre Dame kept Purdue from reaching the round of 16.

It is the second-best season in program history. Roff knows he has a mainstay in place with Dunaway and will look to her to help keep Purdue’s stock rising.

“She’s obviously been a really dynamic presence here as a young player,” he said in a released statement. “She’s a player that has made the transition to college soccer quickly. She is a very dynamic player on and off the ball, plays with a lot of confidence and has a really high ceiling.”

Dunaway said Roff’s coaching style is one of the reasons she chose to attend Purdue.

“He takes the time to really help everybody on the team and gives each of us a lot of confidence,” she said.

The Boilermakers went 2-2 during the recent spring season with wins coming against the University of Evansville and Illinois-Chicago.

“We focused on getting a lot of players on the field, so there was a lot of rotation,” said Dunaway, who just wrapped up a short stay with Beadling Soccer Club of the Women's Premier Soccer League.

“It’s all college-level players and gives us a chance to get some touches in while we’re home,” said Dunaway. “I was there for about a month and now, I’m headed back to Purdue to run and get some weight training in. All of the focus is on next fall.”