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Tess Dunham: A Journey to Find a Home

Jackie Ireland ‘19

Staff Writer


Tess Dunham, a member of the Women’s Soccer team for Merrimack, makes her mark on the field while battling a double torn ACL. The North Andover native receives nothing but praise and support from her fellow teammates and athletic community.  

“Soccer was my life, it was my escape from everything,” says Dunham, a former Quinnipiac University student who knows a thing or two about fresh starts. Dunham, a junior midfielder, has suffered years of physical and mental exhaustion due to the aftermath of two ACL tears. The typical recovery time for this type of injury can range anywhere between 6-10 months. Both of Dunham’s injuries resulted from sudden cuts or jolts causing the ligament to tear completely.   

Her Junior year of high school, a prime-time for young athletes to begin the recruiting process, marked the beginning of her first ACL injury. This was the starting point of both a slow and painful recovery. Unfortunately her injury generated negative reactions from many of the recruiting scouts. She began receiving feedback from coaches including, “you’ll never be the player you were before your injury,” and even had coaches retracting many of the previous scholarship offers they had given her. Luckily for Dunham, Quinnipiac still had hope for her recovery.

However, due to non-soccer related concerns, Quinnipiac was just not the right fit for Tess as many students and athletes experience in their first year. Instead, she transferred here to Merrimack as a sophomore looking to find that feeling of home.

Just two games into preseason, she does it again.

“I changed direction suddenly and went down, I knew right at that moment what had happened, I just knew I tore it again,” said Dunham.

At this time, Dunham was faced with a full plate of challenges. The biggest challenge was trying to find her role on the team without ever touching the field, on top of being a transfer. She spent countless hours retraining her knees, strengthening them to prepare for her junior season. While trying to prove to those who doubted her that she is the player she was before both of her injuries.

Shifting into the current season, Dunham has continued to make her mark on and off the field. “Sitting out with this type of injury taught me that there are a lot more important qualities in being a teammate than just being on the field. It taught me that there’s a lot more to the sport than just playing it.”

After scoring her first collegiate goal here at Merrimack against Felician University with a nifty header off a corner kick, she finally started to gain that sense of home. Dunham continues to show her determination, leadership, and work ethic in every opportunity that is presented with. She is proof that no matter what life throws at you and no matter how many people doubt you along the way, you must lead with ambition and never stop until you’ve reached your destination.