Before he became men’s soccer coach at Washington College, Roy Dunshee owned and ran a restaurant called Acme Bar & Grill on Main Street in Annapolis. Little did he know that he was laying down the groundwork for his current occupation.

“At the restaurant, the thing that got me most excited about going to work every day was building a team of employees to carry out the mission of the restaurant, and I had several dedicated employees who stayed with me from post to post,” he recalled. “That was the most interesting part of being a restaurant owner — and that’s coaching. Even when I didn’t realize it, I was developing my coaching skills from an early stage in my profession.”

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That foundation has served Dunshee well. Now in his 12th season in Chestertown, the New Jersey transplant and Annapolis resident has guided the Shoremen to their first Final Four appearance. Washington College (14-2-6) will meet St. Olaf (18-3-3) in an NCAA Tournament Division III semifinal on Friday at 1 p.m. in Salem, Virginia.

Dunshee’s players credit him for helping them reach this stage.

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“He has guided the creation of our loving culture and gave all of us a chance to be Shoremen,” senior midfielder Harrison Malone said via email. “I believe Coach Dunshee seeks to recruit good people before recruiting good soccer players, which speaks volumes. He is a tremendous coach who cares about his players and will have our backs for life. Knowing that motivates us players to work hard in return for all Coach Dunshee does for us.”

Soccer has been a fixture in Dunshee’s life. He turned a prep career in New Jersey into an opportunity to enroll at South Carolina, where he played from 1979 to 1982 and was a member of the 1979 squad that advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

After graduating with a bachelor’s in journalism, he moved to the Washington area to earn a law degree at George Mason and practiced law for about five years. In 1994, he opened the restaurant in Annapolis and operated it until 2006.

Dunshee, who continued to play soccer in adult leagues, caught the coaching bug thanks to friend and Gamecocks teammate Tom Reilly, who have known each other since they were 14. Reilly said he asked Dunshee to serve as a guest coach for one week at a summer camp.

“He can differentiate things within the game, and with his public speaking skills, he’s able to pass that information on in a clear and concise manner, which is another key coaching skill,” Reilly said. “So it was a natural fit for him.”

Dunshee was hooked. He began as an assistant coach at St. Mary’s before serving as co-head coach but enjoyed his greatest success at Severna Park, where he led the program to a 56-10-4 record and three region championships in four years.

In 2012, Dunshee resigned to accept an assistant role at Division III Amherst. Then Drew Hoffman resigned as coach at Washington College to accept another position within the school, and Dunshee applied for the vacancy.

The 2011 squad had limped to a 3-11-2 record, and a ratings service ranked the Shoremen 251st out of 399 teams. But Dunshee joked that he was driven by “foolhardiness” to seek the job.

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“I really wanted to coach in college, and I didn’t have a lot of options,” he said. “I thought if I had enough time and through my connections in the sport in Maryland and beyond, I could build a really strong program. I was hoping to do it in five years, and it ended up taking 10.”

Adopting the old adage of getting better players, and getting his players better, Dunshee hit the recruiting trail. He admitted that his success rate was low because he was trying to convince recruits to play based on the promise that the program would compete in the Centennial Conference.

Dunshee began to reap the benefits of his labor. The 2016 squad went 10-7-2 and played in its first conference tournament. Then the 2021 team went 15-5-1, won the league tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.

“It gave us higher expectations and a comfort level for playing in the postseason,” he said of that postseason debut. ” I think the experience early on helped set the stage for what we’re going through now.”

After opening the season with four straight ties, Washington College has gone 14-2-2 in its past 18 games. Although the team lost to Johns Hopkins in the Centennial Conference Tournament semifinals, it defeated six ranked opponents, including four in four NCAA postseason games.

Senior Anthony Pinto, the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year, said the Shoremen’s success can be traced to Dunshee’s philosophy.

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“A lot of our sessions are a mix of drills compiled by both Coach Dunshee and [assistant] coach Ryan Shera,” he wrote via email. “And whenever he is the one not running the drill, he is always on the sideline, checking up on players who are resting as well as cheering on the guys who are on the field. He is passionate about coaching, and that word resonates with me whenever he runs one of our sessions.”

Dunshee is also loyal. When Washington College sought to hire a new coach for the women’s soccer program, Dunshee persuaded Reilly to apply, and he was hired in March 2017. Reilly said Dunshee’s work with men’s soccer has inspired his colleagues in the athletic department.

“It’s nothing short of amazing what he’s been able to do with the program he took over because I’m kind of living that same thing right now,” Reilly said. “He came into a program that hadn’t really won anything and was in the bottom tier of the Centennial Conference, and the fact now that they compete at the top level of not only the Centennial Conference but the entire country, it’s nothing short of unbelievable.”

Being one of the last four teams left in the NCAA Tournament has been validating for Dunshee. But he said he is more gratified that his players get a chance to revel in the success.

“I’ve been in the game a very long time, so it’s gratifying for me, too,” he said. “But what I’m grateful for is seeing our seniors, who have been such good leaders, get the respect and the reward that they deserve.”

NCAA Division III Tournament semifinal

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Washington College vs. St. Olaf

Salem, Virginia

Friday, 3 p.m.

Stream: NCAA.com

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