Above photo of Ethan Dacaret (No. 10) by Russell Marwitz/True To The Cru/russellmarwitz.com
BELTON- Soccer has taken Ethan Dacaret around the world.
The same young standout who is currently in a four-way tie for the team lead in goals, with five, was playing in Oman just eight weeks ago. He has only lived in the United States for three and a half years, having previously been born in Japan, and raised in Singapore.
“I feel like my story is really unique,” the sophomore said recently. “Being able to play abroad, and live abroad has actually helped me settle in.”
Dacaret, who came to UMHB from Vandegrift High School in Austin, has certainly settled into his position with Crusader men’s soccer. Tied for the team lead in goals, with five, he helped UMHB capture the program’s second straight ASC regular season title in the 3-0 win over Hardin-Simmons last Saturday. On Saturday afternoon in Round Rock, the Crusaders will aim to complete their second season without a loss in regular season ASC play.
“I think it’s just the team chemistry all around,” Dacaret said. “I was gone for a month, so I didn’t know how it was going to be but when I got back, the vibe was great. All the freshmen got along with the upperclassmen and sophomores, and all the new people adjusted really well. I think that’s been one of the key factors in us doing so well.”
His late addition to the team in mid-September was due to the fact that he was playing elsewhere overseas when both classes and the season began in Belton. Given a unique opportunity to represent the Philippines on the nation’s U-19 team, Dacaret spent the first part of his September in the middle eastern country of Oman, competing in the U-20 Asian Cup qualification tournament.
So how does a sophomore at a university in Texas get the opportunity to play for a country in southeast asia?
“It actually came through a mutual connection,” says Dacaret, who noted that his family is originally from the Philippines. “I have a friend who plays for the Singapore national team, and they had a tournament going on in Indonesia. They happened to be staying at the same hotel as the Philippines national team.
“My friend told me about it, and he gave my contact information to the coaches for the Philippines. They ended up reaching out and I had to go through an interview process, and they reviewed my film and resume. I guess they liked it, because he invited me over for national team camp.”
A few months later, he was on his way back to the region of the world where he lived from ages six to 14, and in competition with current professionals for a roster spot.
“I think there were 38 players at that camp, and only 23 spots were available,” he added. “ I was there for a whole three weeks and was thankful to earn one of those spots.”
In addition to getting the unique experience that comes with playing on an international stage, Dacaret gained something else from his time, both at the tournament and the team camp: a sense of strong friendship and cohesion within the team.
“There was one kid from Seattle, Washington, who plays professionally in Germany. There were also some kids who play professionally in Australia, and a kid from England. Being able to hang out with those guys, we definitely built friendships. We have a camp coming up in April for the Southeast Asia games, so I’m looking forward to seeing them again.”
Initially, he remembers it being a nerve-racking feeling, stepping onto the field amongst such a concentration of talented players. But as he did at UMHB as a freshman a year ago, Dacaret settled in quite well.
“Being in a completely different environment with players who had played professionally in Europe and in the Philippines, it was hard to adjust,” he recalls. “But as the camp progressed, we definitely built a chemistry, and I’ve gotten close to most of the players.
“I learned a lot. The coaches and staff were great. They gave me insight on what professional soccer looks like. It was a great experience overall and it showed me the level of where I eventually want to play at.”
The fact that the Philippines has a special place in Dacaret’s heart, although he has never permanently lived there, made representing the country that much more of an honor.
“I have family there, so when I used to live in Singapore, we would go there almost every summer and winter break. It’s only a three-hour flight between the two countries. I love the Philippines. I love the culture and being there. It just feels like home. It was nice to go back after not being there for four years.”
A little less than four years ago, he and his family left Singapore behind to move to Austin, where Dacaret quickly established himself as an All-State scorer for Vandegrift High School. Naturally, there was some culture shock involved. But it was partially due to the sport he had so much passion for that he made the transition well.
“It was a culture shock for sure,” he remembers. “But I joined the soccer program at Vandegrift, and all the guys were really nice, which helped me transition. Coming to UMHB, once again, the soccer guys really helped me transition and I got settled in pretty well.”
He came to the states as an already-polished player, having improved tremendously alongside a crop of young talent in international environments.
“We had a Serbian coach as our head coach for club, so he had a lot of connections in Europe,” Dacaret remembers. “So we would go to Spain and Portugal and play tournaments. One year we went to the Czech Republic, which was pretty cool. And we also got to play all around southeast Asia, in places like Malaysia and indonesia.
“The exposure and opportunity to get to play soccer around the world has definitely shown me new levels of playing. Even some of my teammates went on to play professionally in Europe. Being around guys on such a high level has pushed me to make it to a big stage as well.”
The next “big stage” for Dacaret is right in front of him, in the ASC Tournament. As the regular season conference champions, UMHB is the top seed, and has plenty of league rivals eager to get another shot against the Crusaders. The Cru have not reached the ASC Tournament since 2018, but that could change. Take for instance the incredible 3-2 win over Trinity (TX) in Dacaret’s season debut on Sept. 16. Down 2-0 at halftime, the Crusaders put together a fierce charge in the second half, led by two goals from Dacaret himself, and completed the comeback on his goal in the 81st minute.It takes a special team to pull off performances such as those.
“The team cohesion definitely helps because we all understand what we have to do,” Dacaret said. “Coach does a great job of explaining what the game plan is week in and week out. At the end of the day, it’s just being able to go out and execute it [that helps give us success].”