Wildcat keeper signs with Fitchburg State

Correction: Because of a reporter’s error, the parents of Branton Abbett were incorrectly listed in the Sports Briefly section of Thursday’s Herald. Branton is the son of Keena Schnell and Phil and Lori Abbett.

JASPER — Home is where the heart is.

When Jasper senior soccer goalkeeper Branton Abbett attends Fitchburg State University in north-central Massachusetts this fall to play soccer, he’s taking that saying quite literally. Abbett is making a trek to college that amounts to 1,000 miles, yet he won’t be completely by himself at Fitchburg State, as his girlfriend Isabella Denu-Miller will be there with him. Denu-Miller, who graduated from JHS last year, is originally from the Fitchburg area and lived there for 15 years before relocating to Jasper, where she and Abbett met. Denu-Miller will begin attending Fitchburg this fall as well.

Abbett was initially looking at Indiana schools for his freshman and sophomore year of college, but later shifted his focus to Fitchburg, which he said “fit the bill of everything I was looking for, all the criteria.” He’s also fond of the school’s setup, and its enrollment of about 6,800.

“It’s very navigable, so I can easily find my classes,” said Branton, the son of Phil and Lori Abbett of Jasper. “The town is really nice. I like the people there. It’s not too far from Boston either, which is kind of an advantage, so if I want something to do I can go to Boston. It only takes 45 minutes to an hour.”

Abbett will major in exercise physiology and sports science. There should be ample opportunity for Abbett to prove himself on the field next season, since Fitchburg’s only current goalkeeper on the roster is a senior. In the 2016 season when Jasper rolled to a 16-3 record and achieved a top-10 state ranking, Abbett was named the team MVP, as well as garnering all-district and all-conference accolades. He was also first-team all-state and is the first Jasper goalkeeper to manage that feat — only five total Wildcats have made all-state. Abbett tallied eight shutouts last season in 19 starts for the Cats and notched seven of those scoreless games in September.  

Abbett mentioned the Division III Fitchburg program gets good fan support, and noted there’s more fandom for soccer on the East Coast than there is in the Midwest. In addition to those aspects, Abbett chose Fitchburg because he wanted to see how he’d fare in a completely new area.

“My theory to life is you kind of have to step out of your comfort zone,” Abbett said. “I think I’m taking the right step in my life this early, with getting out of my comfort zone by going to college out of state. And I thought a coastal place, East Coast, would be a great place to start.”

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