BATON ROUGE – LSU Soccer’s head coach Brian Lee and his staff certainly strengthened each level of the squad for the 2013 season by signing a heralded recruited class on National Signing Day in February of which all five players have played at the FIFA Women’s World Cup at the Under-17 and Under-20 levels prior to their arrival in Baton Rouge.
Perhaps no recruit will make more of an impact for the Tigers during the 2013 campaign than Canadian U-17 international Summer Clarke as the striker joins the program as a record-setting goal scorer for her country at the international level.
One of the bright young stars emerging in the Canadian Women’s National Team system, Clarke is a dynamic attacker who guided Canada’s U-17 squad into the quarterfinal round at the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup as one of the Top 8 teams in the tournament held in Azerbaijan. Clarke’s tournament was highlighted by scoring the game-winning goal in the 51st minute in a 1-0 shutout of Colombia in leading Canada beyond the group stage of the championship.
Clarke proved to be a catalyst in Canada qualifying for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup last spring, while setting a U-17 national record with six goals at the 2012 Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Association Football Women’s U-17 Championships in the spring of 2012. She led Canada to a silver-medal-winning second-place team finish at the CONCACAF U-17 Championships to earn a World Cup berth.
Clarke then became one of just three members of Canada’s U-17 squad invited to train as a member of the senior Canadian Women’s National Team during its December training camp this past year.
While joining the LSU Soccer program with such an illustrious international pedigree, Clarke is surely one of the players who will drive the offensive engine for the Tigers during her rookie season. A native of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, Clarke is a product of the R.C. Palmer Secondary School and also a graduate of the U-18 Elite Girls residency program with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Clarke looks to fill the boots left by striker Carlie Banks, who ended her collegiate career with a strong senior season a year ago. In four seasons with the Tigers from 2009-12, Banks scored 16 goals and served up a total of 14 assists as the leading scorer of her graduating class.
Clarke certainly gave the LSU supporters a glimpse of her precocious talent in the team’s 4-1 victory over Nicholls State on Friday night in a preseason exhibition friendly held at the LSU Soccer Stadium.
She scored the first goal of the match in the 16th minute before assisting goals by freshman attacking midfielder Emma Fletcher in the 20th minute and junior Jodi Calloway in the 85th minute as one of the offensive stars in her first career appearance in the LSU shirt.
“We’re very excited about Summer’s potential and what she will bring to the program for years to come,” Lee said of Clarke’s signing on National Signing Day. “Our staff has rated Summer as one of the top forwards in the world at the youth level during the recruiting process, and she certainly backed that up with a strong performance for Canada at the U-17 World Cup for 2012 to really cement her place in the national team system.
“Summer has a great chance to come in and not only make an impact on our program, but also on the SEC and maybe even nationally this fall. She’s very athletic and fits in extremely well with how we like to play in terms of passing and moving. Probably the best part of her game is her ability to move without the ball and positively influence her teammates on the field in the way she plays the game. She also scores big goals, and we’re certainly excited to see that.”
If LSU’s 4-1 exhibition victory over Nicholls State on Friday night is any indication, the Tigers might have found some unexpected firepower in the attack with Calloway getting the start at center forward.
A defensive leader who has started each of LSU’s 43 matches over the past two seasons as both a defensive midfielder and center back, Calloway has made the move to the front line during the preseason and earned a start against the Colonels in their preseason friendly on Friday night. She capped the scoring with the fourth goal of the match late in the second half in the 85th minute of play.
“Jodi has had a tremendous offseason that has now put her in a position to have a strong junior season for our team,” Lee said. “It’s a big transition to make moving to the front line after playing back in defense for her entire career to this point, but she’s shown some promise there in the preseason. If the work she’s put in during the offseason is any indication, we know she’ll work very hard to get herself ready to help us more in the attack this season.”
Providing valuable senior leadership for the Tigers in the attack this season is Danielle Murphy as the Lake Charles native returns as one of the team’s key reserves for her final season wearing the purple and gold shirt. Murphy has made 31 career appearances with five starts for the Tigers since 2010 while netting two goals and recording three assists in the attack.
Also providing depth along the front line is redshirt sophomore striker Lexi Gibbs as she looks to earn her first action at the NCAA Division I level following a stellar prep career with Dutchtown High School in Prairieville, La.