Jessica Clarke guards the net, hunting one more NJAC title

Senior Jessica Clarke is in her third season as goalkeeper. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Desk)
Senior Jessica Clarke is in her third season as goalkeeper. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Desk)

The goalkeeper is the anchor of the soccer team. If the defenders falter, they can relax if they know they have a dominant defender guarding the net. For the Lions, Jessica Clarke has been that anchor.

The 5’10” senior goalkeeper, in her fourth and final season as a Lion, has set the standard in recent years as a top-notch player in net.  The 2007 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Goalkeeper of the Year has an impressive 52-10-5 career record entering the 2009 campaign. Clarke also has a career goals against average of 0.46.

Nevertheless, Clarke still sees room to grow.

“There is always room for improvement,” Clarke said. “Over the past three years, I have tried to improve my game and this year my leadership skills from the backline will be tested.”

Clarke looks to polish her game this season. Despite posting a solid 13-7-1 personal record and a goals against average of 0.77, both were career lows for the two-time NJAC All-Conference member.

The Lions also fell short of their ultimate goal. The team failed to win the NJAC for the first time since 2004 after winning the conference three straight years from 2005 to 2007.

“Even though last year we posted a winning record, in our eyes it was unacceptable,” Clarke said. “We would like to regain the title of the NJAC and we believe we have the potential to do so this season.”

This season, Clarke will have to take full control of a new role.  As a senior, team captain and goalkeeper, she will need to be one of the clear-cut leaders on the squad both vocally and through her on-field play.

“The goalkeeper position has always been acknowledged as a position that requires leadership, regardless of what grade the player is in,” Clarke said. “The entire field is visible from the position so it would be detrimental to the team if I was not vocal.”

With 17 new players on the team this season, Clarke also feels strongly that she is one of those on the team who has an obligation to carry the College’s prestige as a soccer school.

“It is crucial that the returning players exhibit the proper way to maintain the reputation as one of the most respected programs in the country,” Clarke said.

Clarke traps the ball for one of her 53 saves last season. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)
Clarke traps the ball for one of her 53 saves last season. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)

“Each player on our team contributes in their own specific way to the team and that is what makes our team such a cohesive and productive group.”

Clarke is not only an all-conference athlete and team captain, however.  Her leadership also extends off the field, as she worked as a liaison between the College athletic department and an autism fundraiser this past year.

The Wayne, N.J. native hopes to one day run a community outreach program for a professional sports organization. This past summer, she interned with the New York Jets. Clarke is a communication studies major and studies marketing as her minor.

Despite her busy schedule, there is only one thing on her mind — preparing for the next game.

“Even though that is something we would like to accomplish, (winning the NJAC) we understand that the next upcoming game is the most important. We have a lot of new faces this year on the team but I believe if we continue to work hard we can have a very successful and exciting year,” she said.

The College will look to start that success and excitement in their second game of the season at the Misericordia University tournament.  They will go head-to-head with Lycoming College on Friday at 4 p.m.