Head coach Dave Clarke: ‘We are not one system’: A behind-the-scenes look at women’s soccer’s blistering-hot start


Jack Spiegel

Quinnipiac women’s soccer has experienced tremendous success in recent years due in part to the system imposed by head coach Dave Clarke.

Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

As the calendar flipped to September, the Quinnipiac women’s soccer team continues to be a bright spot on campus. Between the team’s 4-1-1 record, the unbelievable play of junior forward Rebecca Cooke and the stellar goaltending of sophomore Sofia Lospinoso, the Bobcats have lived up to their preseason expectations so far.

You don’t even have to be a soccer fan to be amazed by the fluidity of the team, game in and game out. But like every sports team, a large amount of planning goes into Quinnipiac’s game management style.

Head coach Dave Clarke, currently in his 28th season at the helm, deserves a lot of credit for Quinnipiac’s impressive start, which includes multiple two-game win streaks. The amount of depth on the team, as well as intense practice sessions, have the Bobcats in second place in the current MAAC standings.

“We are not … one system,” Clarke said. “The principles don’t change, no matter what the formation is, it’s about how you play, how you defend all over. It’s not a rigid system. Truthfully, we overload them at times, but I’m not going to change as a coach.”

These intense practices, which are often three-hour blocks, four days a week, have built a strong sense of competitiveness between the upperclassmen and freshman class. While Clarke admitted they may be overworked, the sense in the locker room is that it is worth it.

After Quinnipiac’s 3-2 win over Maine on Sept. 3, Clarke said he wanted to make sure his team was focused on only one game at a time. While the Bobcats are “onto the MAAC,” these out-of-conference games give the team a good opportunity to try new playing styles.

The Bobcats have claimed wins over Lafayette, Stony Brook, Maine and Fordham this season. (Cameron Levasseur)

“If you want to defend man-for-man, you bring extra players back, 4-against-3, 5-against-3 … utilize it as much as we can,” Clarke said. “Every team will do game management, we do a lot of 1-nil up, 1-nil down (in practice). A lot of it is game management.”

Clarke is the one in charge, but looking past the main man, the team also has a group of assistant coaches who have helped the Bobcats get off to their strong start.

While Clarke sits back and observes during gamedays, associate head coach Steve Coxon is the vocal one on the sideline. The Connecticut Soccer Hall of Famer is in his 17th season with Quinnipiac and is an animated character during matches.

This past summer, former Binghamton coach and Connecticut native Shauny Alterisio was announced as a new hire. Alterisio has been a hands-on coach in her past experience with the Bearcats, handling everything from recruiting and sports performance, to scouting opposing teams and video analysis.

Bringing in a new face to help handle the day-to-day operations makes life a lot easier in Hamden, especially for Clarke, who raved about his new assistant back in May.

“I have known Shauny since her club days with (Connecticut Football Club) and she has a huge personality, commitment to win and a great work ethic,” Clarke said. “These qualities will make her a great addition to the staff and will earn the respect of the players.”

That earned respect was seen instantly this season. On Aug. 25, when Cooke scored her first goal, she did not run to her teammates to celebrate. She ran to Alterisio.

The respect from the players for the entire coaching staff has been a constant since Clarke’s first season back in 1999. Although the head coach has seen a lot of changes within the program, he is not afraid to switch things up on the field.

“Whether we play four in the back, five in the back, six in the back,” Clarke said. “Nothing changes in terms of both sides of the ball.”

Based on the beginning of the fall, Clarke’s game plans have been working to perfection. Mixing and matching different players, alongside changing play styles have helped the Bobcats back up their top ranking in the recent preseason Coaches’ Poll.

But don’t get too comfortable watching this team. There could be a completely different game plan the next time you watch.