Welcome To The Nation
There are a slew of new faces but some of the familiar ones remain for head coach Brie Smith and the Clark University women's soccer program. Smith who will enter her third season at the helm of her alma mater, will field a squad that has a roster of 13 newcomers – meaning more than half of the 2016 team will be made up of first-time Cougars.
I've Been Where You Are
Smith played four years of soccer during her time as an undergraduate at Clark (1997-00), helping the Scarlet and White to the program's only NCAA Tournament berth in 1998. As a senior, she scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Tufts in the quarterfinal round of the ECAC Tournament, catapulting the Cougars to the program's first-ever postseason victory.
"We have to win the games we are supposed to win," said Smith. "Last year we came up short too many times in games we feel we could have and should have won. This group is determined to prove we are better than last year's results."
A Hole To Fill
After playing nearly every minute of her four years in goal, Gabby Paolini has now moved to the sidelines as a graduate assistant coach. That leaves a hole in between the pipes for the Cougars. None of Clark's three goalkeepers – sophomore Emma Russell (Portland, Maine) and freshmen Alison Carroll (Douglas, Mass.) and Julianna Christy (Plainville, Conn.) – have played a single minute of collegiate soccer.
Strength In Numbers
Where the Cougars do have experience is at spots all over the field. They return eight student-athletes who started at least nine matches a season ago. Chief among them are four – Emma Deneault (Holden, Mass.), Kara Fischer (Belmont, Mass.), Macy Golman (Dallas, Texas) and Rylee Simons (Weston, Fla.) – who started all 18 games.
Show And Prove
Kara Fischer had a breakout junior campaign in 2015, leading the team in goals (six) and points (15) while finishing second on the squad in assists (three). She made a name for herself as a sophomore when she scored the lone goal in the Scarlet and White's dramatic 1-0 win at Babson in 2015. Now Smith feels Fischer is ready to take on the challenge of leading an incredibly young squad. "As a senior, she knows this is her last chance to leave her mark on the program, and she is playing like she has something to prove," said Smith.
Since their arrival in 2014, the defensive trio of Emma Deneault, Caitland Baxter (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) and Simone McGuinness (Chevy Chase, Md.) have anchored an extremely stingy backline. Deneault has started all 36 games of her career, Baxter has started 30 of her 34 career contests and McGuinness has played in all but one of the 36 and started 28 of those contests.
The Cougars start off the season with five of their first nine matches at home but the rubber meets the road in the early part of October when they take on the teams the NEWMAC coaches consider the cream of the crop according to the preseason poll. Clark will host the league's top two teams – MIT and Springfield – and then hit the road for trips to Babson and Wellesley before coming back home to host Wheaton and WPI.
Oh, So Close
The Cougars were snake bitten a season ago, losing six matches by one goal, including a season-ending overtime loss to Emerson on Senior Day. In fact, over the last two seasons, 13 matches have been decided by one goal – and that doesn't include two other matches that ended in ties.