Hunter Kennedy’s future in soccer came down to his high school coach’s program and their arch rivals.
For Kennedy, the rivals were a better fit.
Newton head boys soccer coach Zach Jensen is a Central College alum and currently an assistant coach with the Dutch men’s soccer program.
Kennedy made things official with Wartburg College on Wednesday during his signing ceremony at the high school.
“I want all my players to pick the best school for them. I’m obviously biased toward Central, but I don’t want a player going anywhere they don’t want to be,” Jensen said. “We want him to go where it’s the right fit for him.”
Kennedy’s decision came down to the NCAA Division III schools. He took overnight visits to both places and decided the Knights were a better fit.
“I liked the campus better, and when I took overnights to both schools I felt like I got a long with the guys at Wartburg better,” Kennedy said.
Both schools were recruiting Kennedy as a striker or the attacking midfielder.
That’s where he plays at Newton. He started his career with 12 goals, two assists and 26 points his freshman year.
As a junior, he registered five goals, three assists and 13 points and he recorded a pair of assists in the first match of his senior year earlier this week.
There was no sophomore season due to COVID-19.
“I’m excited for him. I’m excited anytime any of our guys choose to continue to play in college,” Jensen said. “We could have up to three players and that’s the most we’ve ever had since I have been here. That’s fantastic to see.”
Kennedy joins teammate Derek Beiner as Cardinal soccer players who have chosen to extend their careers to the next level. Beiner will play for Jensen and the Dutch. Breyton Schwenker, another Newton senior, also is considering Central.
Kennedy said his focus right now is on the Cardinals and hopefully helping them reach the state tournament. He will begin workouts provided by Wartburg College in the summer, but the Knight coaching staff likes their future players to focus on their high schools seasons first and foremost.
“The speed of the game is incredibly faster. He’ll have to get used to that,” Jensen said. “The guys are a lot bigger. Like I tell all of our players, they’ll have to adjust to the size and speed at that level.”
Kennedy will major in Kinesiology. His long-term plan is to go into physical therapy.