Since the start of the 21st century, CMS women’s soccer has had only two coaches – Jennifer Clark from 2000 to 2003, and Keri Sanchez from 2004 to 2016.
It’s only fitting that Clark, the 2002 SCIAC Coach of the Year, would return to bookend Sanchez’s tenure.
“A lot is the same as when I left,” Clark said. “I think what has changed is the general athletic environment. Obviously we have this fantastic building [Roberts Pavilion] to work out of, and that has kind of raised expectations – self-expectations.”
In her time between stints, Clark served as an assistant soccer coach at Middlebury College, followed by head soccer coach at Castleton University. While Middlebury’s athletic program is reminiscent of CMS’s, Castleton was a different experience.
The biggest difference between Middlebury and CMS? “Worse weather,” Clark joked.
With her return to the Sunshine State, the Dartmouth College grad inherited an undeniably awkward situation: a handful of recruits who she had never met – and potentially needed to cut – and a team of players who had seen their beloved coach unexpectedly quit midway through their careers.
For the players, the transition has proved easy. “Jen has been amazing, and coming off Keri who was also amazing, it hasn’t been that difficult,” junior midfielder and defender Sydney Talmi CM '19 said.
Though Keri left detailed and unbiased notes about each player’s strengths and weaknesses, everyone entered the season with a blank slate, increasing the opportunity for walk-on players, Clark said.
“Watching video is so much different than seeing people play in person,” she said. “I kind of gave everyone their tryout.”
One of the biggest challenges this year could prove to be the number of players that made the cut, Clark admitted. While everyone has seen playing time early in the season, as competition elevates there will be a need to narrow down the player roster.
“Everyone just clicking together, I think, will take a little bit of time. But once we come together I think we’ll be great,” Talmi said.
Clark’s coaching staff consists of assistant coach Rosalie Wright-Lapin and goalie coach Jordan Sanguedolce, who also works with the men’s team. Wright-Lapin played for Clark in high school and at Middlebury, earning her the position known to the team as 'translator.'
“Jen definitely likes to get creative with her drills. … She says a lot of things where we have to look at our assistant coach and kind of ask ‘what does that mean?’ Talmi said. “Rosalie has to decode for us.”
Clark confirmed her player's comment. “I always say [Rosalie] can translate ‘Jen speak.’”
In addition to her staff, Clark said she has connected with men’s coach, Matt Edwards, for support. Edwards is entering his third season with CMS and also serves as a faculty representative for the Student Athletic Advisory Committee in addition to his coaching duties.
“He’s been good about helping me keep up to speed with what’s happening,” Clark said.
As for what is to come this season, Clark noted that while she and the players are looking forward to the Pomona-Pitzer rivalry game, it is important not to overlook other teams while on the quest for another SCIAC championship.