3:13 pm - Monday December 17, 3392

Head Women’s Soccer Coach Clarke Resigns‏

Fort Lewis College head women’s soccer coach Damian Clarke announced his resignation today. Clarke has accepted the head women’s soccer coach position at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

“Damian has been a large part of the Skyhawk family for 20 years and we will miss him,” said Fort Lewis College Director of Athletics Gary Hunter. “He has taken our women’s soccer program to the next level and has made us nationally competitive. We wish him and his family the best at Midwestern State.”

“My family and I are thankful for every minute of our existence in this wonderful community,” said Clarke. “This town, this community, and of course Fort Lewis College have made us who we are. All of our opportunities have come from life lessons that this place has helped us grow through. When we adopted our son Taye, the college and Durango community raised $14,000 to help us bring Taye home from Ethiopia.”

Clarke leaves the Skyhawks program as the winningest coach since the program began in 1994. In seven years at the helm, Clark posted a 106-31-17 (.744) overall record and a 67-20-11 (.740) mark in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. 

Clarke, who eclipsed the century mark on Oct. 13, 2013 at New Mexico Highlands, owns the top five overall win-loss records in school history. His 106 career victories are the most in the program’s record books, ahead of Jaymee Carozza (76 career wins), whom Clarke served as assistant coach for six years.

Clarke’s teams qualified for the NCAA Division II women’s soccer playoffs five times (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013) and hosted the regional tournament four times (2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013). In 2010, Fort Lewis won the Central Region crown and advanced to the NCAA Division II quarterfinals. Clarke’s team followed that up in 2011 by returning to the Central Region championship game.

Under his watch, the Skyhawks have also won two RMAC tournament titles (2007 and 2009) and the only regular season RMAC championship (2010) in FLC women’s soccer history.

While at the helm of FLC women’s soccer, 63 Skyhawks earned All-RMAC Academic honors, 36 All-RMAC performers, six All-Americans, three RMAC Defensive Players of the Year, one RMAC Player of the Year, and one Academic All-American.

“On the athletics side, I have had a wonderful opportunity to help build a program and a vision of greatness,” said Clarke. “From my mentors, Jaymee Carozza and Jeremy Gunn, I owe the world. Without their support and belief, I don’t know where I would be. To all the wonderful players and parents who have shared this experience, thank you. This program is on the front foot because all of them had a belief and vision to be the best. We did a lot together, and it won’t stop now.

“To all the administrators who have supported me through my maturation as a person, a chance was taken in 2007 to allow me to lead this program, and it was a dream come true. Thank you to President Thomas, Gary Hunter, Lynne Andrew and Sarah Meier. These are people who have supported and believed in my efforts to lead this program, and I will always owe a special appreciation to all of them. In this I have also had a number of fantastic assistants, who have helped build what this has become, many of them just as good or as better than me! I love Fort Lewis College and Durango. These have been the best years of my life, and they will have led me into the next chapter of Sherin, Taye and Oreo’s journey!” 

In his rookie season at the helm of the FLC women’s soccer program, Clarke’s Skyhawks won the RMAC tournament, beating the two-time and defending national champions Metro State in the conference semifinals. He also guided the women’s soccer squad to their first-ever NCAA tournament berth that year. The team’s 14-5-3 overall mark set a new school record for most wins in one season.

During his second year as head coach, Clarke’s Skyhawks again posted a winning slate, this time 12-7-2 overall and 9-4-1 in RMAC games.

The 2009 season was a record-breaking year for Clarke. His team posted the most successful women’s soccer record in school history with an 18-3-3 overall mark, a 12-2-2 RMAC slate, their highest-ever national ranking (No. 11), and an NCAA playoff bid. The team also captured its third RMAC tournament crown in four seasons. By hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Central Regionals, the 2009 squad became the first women’s soccer team in school history to host a national playoff game.

The 2010 season saw many of those records shattered. Clarke’s Skyhawks posted a best-ever record of 18-3-2 overall, 12-1-1 in league games, and climbed to No. 3 in the national rankings. They also picked up their first-ever NCAA playoff win (a 2-1 triumph over Winona State in the Central Regional championship) and reached the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.

The 2011 side brought a return trip to the Central Regional championship game, where FLC lost 1-0 to Colorado Mines, but racked up a 15-3-4 overall record, 10-2-2 in RMAC games and matched its highest-ever ranking in the NSCAA/Continental Tire national poll at No. 3 on Sept. 13.

Fort Lewis jumped out to a quick start in 2012, earning the program’s highest-ever national ranking at No. 2 on Sept. 11. FLC finished the season at 13-4-3 overall and 8-3-3 in the tough RMAC regular season campaign. The Skyhawks split their league playoff games, advancing to the league semifinals for the seventh year in a row.

This past season, Clarke coached one of the strongest defensive corps in school history. The Skyhawks set season school records for the best goals against average (.574), most shutouts (13), fewest goals allowed (13), fewest shots allowed (167), and fewest shots on goal allowed (77). Fort Lewis also recorded the second most consecutive shutouts in a season (five) and the second best start to a season (6-0-0).

Clarke was chosen as the 2009 NSCAA/Mondo Collegiate Central Region Coach of the Year and RMAC Coach of the Year, making him the first Fort Lewis women’s soccer coach to receive both honors in the same season. He also was chosen as RMAC Co-Coach of the Year in 2010 and repeated as the NSCAA Central Region Coach of the Year that same year.

Prior to being named FLC head coach in May 2007, Clarke spent four months as assistant men’s and women’s soccer coach at Mesa State from February through April 2007.

Clarke has been involved in FLC soccer longer than any other person in the history of the two programs. He had a four-year career as a player (1994-95, 1997-98), appearing in 69 games while scoring five goals and notching three assists. As someone who helped establish Skyhawk men’s soccer as a perennial regional – and, later, national – powerhouse, he was a member of three conference championships (1995 in the Colorado Athletic Conference, 1997 and ’98 in the RMAC) and played in the first two NCAA tournament games in school history (1997 and ’98).

As a coach and player, Clarke was mentored by numerous coaches who have graced the sidelines of Dirks Field. He played four years under guidance of famed Fort Lewis and current New Mexico head coach Jeremy Fishbein.

After his playing career was over, he was asked to assist women’s coach Jaymee Carozza. In 1999, their first year together, the women’s program won its first RMAC tournament title and touched the Top 25 in the national rankings for the first time in young program’s history.

Clarke completed his bachelor’s degree in history at Fort Lewis College in 2004.

He and his wife, Sherin, have a son, Taye. Sherin (Tozier) Clarke played for the Skyhawks during the 2000 season.

Clarke’s absence from Fort Lewis College will be short. The Skyhawks will open their season at home Sept. 4 and 6 against Texas Woman’s University and Midwestern State. 

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