It took some convincing for Orion High School junior Cassidy Clark to give soccer a second try when she entered high school two years ago.
Then, before the current girls' season got underway, Coach Rick Cline had to do some persuading of his own to get Clark to consider a change of position, from defender to goalkeeper.
"She was most unenthusiastic,'' said Cline, "but she was willing to do what the team needed. I think deep down, she was intrigued by the challenge of it.''
After initially thinking her coach was kidding, Clark somewhat reluctantly agreed to the switch, and there's been no arguing with the results as the Orion-Sherrard soccer co-op's 11-3-2 record equals that of its new goalie. Clark's efforts in the net have earned her this week's Area Pacesetter honor for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus.
"It seemed like there was a big difference between being out on the field and being in goal, and at first I thought (Cline) was kidding, that he wasn't going to put me in goal,'' she said. "But he was serious, and although it would be a big change, I knew it'd be what was best for the team, and I worked hard to be the best I could be for the team, and I've gotten used to it.''
Taking maximum advantage of her 6-foot stature and corresponding wingspan, Clark has racked up eight shutouts among her 11 victories and has surrendered just 12 goals in 15 games, including a five-game run last week in which she allowed one goal, turned in four straight shutouts and helped Orion-Sherrard to first place at its own tournament last Saturday.
"I still get really nervous in there, but I know I have a strong defense to count on,'' said Clark. "At first, I'd get really discouraged when I didn't stop a shot, but my teammates and coaches have all been really supportive, which has helped me a lot. Now, I feel more confident.''
Clark had already established herself at Orion as a standout both in basketball -- where she earned all-state honors this past winter averaging 15.5 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shot per game -- and on the volleyball court. However, she hadn't played soccer for more than five years prior to entering high school.
"I'd planned on playing softball; I'd stopped playing (soccer) after the second grade,'' she stated. "But a couple of my best friends, Jordan Knoll and Ali Seys, play soccer, and they encouraged me and talked me into trying it again. I didn't know how it would be or what I would do, but I knew I'd be with them, so that'd be fun. Also, it was a chance to try something new.''
As a defender, Clark played her role for back-to-back Orion-Sherrard teams that broke the program's victory record twice, winning 12 games two years ago and 15 games last spring.
However, the graduation of several key scorers from last year's O-S squad meant that some changes would be in order. In particular, Cline was looking to move his 2011 goalie, Baillie McCunn, to the front line to add more scoring punch.
"Baillie was tied for fifth last year in both goals and assists, and she gives us a lot of offense and has a lot of field experience as a striker,'' Cline explained. "We felt we needed to inject Baillie into our offense, and she's taken over the center-mid role, which is our quarterback or point guard on the team. She's done a great job there, but that left a gaping hole in our defense.
"Thinking about the possibilities, it seemed Cassidy had the right tools to be a successful keeper as well. She has the height you love, good ball skills with her hands, she can knock a nice goal kick out there, and she's brave. One of the prerequisites for a successful goalkeeper is to have the heart of a lion, and Cassidy has put herself in harm's way to make some nice stops.''
As far as next year is concerned, Clark will gladly stay in the nets if that's where she's needed most. "I really like every position, so if they need me in goal next year, I'll stay there.''
For now, she hopes to keep standing tall as Orion-Sherrard looks for a third straight record-setting win total and -- most importantly -- its first piece of postseason hardware.
"Getting that first regional title is one of our goals, and winning our tournament was another,'' she said. "Doing that on Saturday was a good sign, a confidence-booster we needed. It now shows what we're capable of.''
AREA PACESETTER CASSIDY CLARK
- Favorite food: Steak and fried potatoes - Favorite movie: "17 Again" - Favorite TV show: "Desperate Housewives" - Favorite music: Mac Miller - Favorite school subject: Anatomy - Favorite sport: Basketball - Role model: ``My dad; he pushes me to do my best, to try hard and come out on top.'' - Pre-game ritual: Listening to music - Parents: Dan and Sandi Clark, Coal Valley.
IN THE RUNNING: - Skye Corken, Sherrard: Set meet records in winning the 3200- and 1600-meter races at Alleman's Phil Sailer Invitational, then won the 3200 and took second in the 1600 at the Sherrard Tiger Relays.
- Danielle Crawley, Sherrard: Made a successful comeback from a quad injury by winning the 100 and 200 and anchoring the Tigers' first-place 4x100 relay at the Sailer Invite.
- Kaitlyn Robison, Rockridge: Enjoyed a solid week at the plate with eight hits and seven RBIs in two wins over Orion and a third victory over Mercer County.
- Sam Whan, Mercer County: Swept the 3200 and 1600 meter races and also struck gold in the 800 at Mercer County's Golden Eagle Invitational.
- Devin Johnson, Erie-Prophetstown: Sprinted his way to titles in the 100, 200 and 400 to help lead the Panthers to first place at the United Relays.
- Malory Tharp, United: Her wins in the 800 and 1600 helped the Red Storm capture first place at their own United Relays.
- Trey Hannam, Annawan-Wethersfield: Took over the Lincoln Trail Conference leaders' batting lead with his four hits and five RBIs in the Titans' LTC wins over United.
- Allie Wiersema, Morrison: Knocked in nine runs and earned one of the wins in the pitching circle as the Three Rivers-leading Fillies beat Sterling Newman and Bureau Valley.
Today is Friday, May 24, the 144th day of 2013. There are 221 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: A military escort will be at the square at 9 a.m. tomorrow forthe funeral of Lieut. Joseph Eaton. The county judge is absent in Chicago, which willaccount for his not being in the procession. 1888 -- 125 years ago: Rock Island's City Council last night appropriated $95,000 forexpenses for the 1888 and 1889 fiscal year. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Mrs. F.W. Reimers last night was re-elected president of the RockIsland Musical Club at a meeting in the New Harper Hotel. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Seven members of Boy Scout Troop 21 got their Eagle badges lastnight. They were Ralph Hurt, Robert Nelson, Howard Schersten, Cecil Nelson, RobertFryxell, Clarence Stone and Rollin Hurt. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Mayor Morris Muhleman has resorted to a form letter in an effort toanswer objections to the wheel tax increase. "It was my hope that I could, in some way,restore the faith of the citizens in our city. In order to do this I knew I must face the factthat I would become very unpopular."All they are trying to do is protect the citizensproperty and build their town. 1988 -- 25 years ago: RICCA, the Rock Island County Council on Addictions, inconjunction with the Quad City Downs, will hold its annual "Night at the Races" June 2.The benefit "Night at the Races" will raise funds locally to assist in maintaining the twohalfway houses, New Hope Lodge (for women) and Beacon House (for men).