Jaclyn Dutton has never been one to back down from challenges.
During her star-studded high school career at St. Clairsville, she was constantly chasing records, be it Ohio Valley or OHSAA.
Despite scoring what is still today a girls' all-time best 192 career goals in the Buckeye State, she wasn't recruited by any big-time Ohio school!
Thus another challenge was brought before her ... trying to prove all of those naysayers wrong.
She enrolled at Clemson University after graduating high school and started 10 of 16 games her freshman season for the Tigers, of the Atlantic Coast Conference, scoring two goals and assisting on another pair for half-a-dozen points.
However, the distance between Blaine (where she grew) and Clemson, S.C., was just a tad too far for both Dutton and her parents, Scott and Debbie, travel-wise.
After looking at a couple of different colleges in the transfer process, Jaclyn settled on Kent State, and the Golden Flashes couldn't be any happier.
In her first season of Mid-American Conference action, she tied for the team lead with six goals and and like number of assists for 18 points. That earned her first-team status on the Ohio Collegiate Soccer Association honor roll.
She wasn't finished, however. During her junior campaign last fall, she established a new school mark with 37 points on 15 net-finders and seven assists. Three of her tallies were game-winners. She now ranks third all-time in goals scored (21), tied for third in points (55) and tied for eighth in assists (13) in KSU history.
Dutton earned various post-season honors for her achievements, both on and off the field, as she was College Sports Madness MAC Offensive Player of the Year, as well as CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-District 5 second team, academic all-MAC, and National Soccer Coaches Association of America third team scholar.
Now, she is facing another challenge after undergoing back surgery in May to repair a herniated disc she suffered in March.
"Monday was my first full practice," she disclosed via telephone Wednesday morning. "The goal is for me to play Friday. It's definitely a quick turnaround for back surgery, but I'm pushing myself."
Kent State opens the 2013 season at home tomorrow when St. Bonaventure visits Zoeller Field.
"My goal is to improve upon my performance of last season, but that will definitely be a challenge," she admitted. "I'm trying to come back and play."
With Dutton, a pre-season College Sports Madness MAC first-team selection in the lineup, the Golden Flashes have a chance at making some noise in the MAC this season.
"I think it's cool that Stephanie (Haugh) got honored," Dutton said. "We work pretty well together, and it just goes to show that if you work hard, you'll get rewarded for it."
Haugh, a junior, was a pre-season College Sports Madness MAC second-team pick after finishing second to Dutton last season with 23 points on six goals and 11 assists.
"We've got a really good freshman class coming in and we've got a talented senior class returning," Dutton said. "We didn't get the end result that we wanted so badly last year, so that's pushing us even more."
Kent State is coming off a record-setting campaign in 2012 when the Golden Flashes won a school-record 13 games; set a new school winning percentage (.700, 13-5-2), netted 40 goals and charted 44 assists.
"The energy has been good," second-year head coach Rob Marinaro allowed. "This is a competitive group and they enjoy training together. Right now, the focus is to get better each day."
As for Dutton, Marinaro couldn't be any happier than to be her coach.
"She's had a fantastic career and we're looking for great things from her this season," he lauded. "She has great speed and the knack for putting the ball into the back of the net. That is hard to teach. She does whatever it takes to score goals."
As far as the team goes, Marinaro is very excited.
"We have a very good group of seniors and leadership should be one of our strong points," the coach noted. "We're also very athletic and we'll look to use that to our advantage."
Kent State traveled to Rochester, Mich., last weekend and defeated homestanding Oakland University, 1-0, in exhibition action. Oakland won the Summit League last year and qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
"We want to make a run at the MAC title," Dutton admitted. "We made it to the semifinals last year, but we want to go further this year."
Just another challenge that lies ahead.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org