Clemmer excited about Jags’ soccer prospects


Now that Kim Clemmer has given a verbal commitment to accept a soccer scholarship package to NCAA Division I Monmouth University, West Long Branch, she can concentrate on playing for Jackson Memorial High School’s two Shore Conference A South Division defending championship teams.

Kim Clemmer Kim Clemmer Clemmer recently decided to join Dana Costello, her former Jackson Memorial soccer and basketball teammate who will embark on a college soccer career at Monmouth next month.

“I love the coaches and love that it’s close to home,” Clemmer said of Monmouth. “It’s a beautiful campus, and Dana and I will be playing together. It’s a family team atmosphere there.”

But that reunion with Costello will have to wait a year as Clemmer prepares for her fourth season starting as a sweeper for Jackson Memorial’s soccer team that reached the 2009 NJSIAA Group IV state semifinals, ending a 21-4 season with a 3-2 loss to Lenape. The Jaguars also reached the Shore Conference Tournament finals, losing to Red Bank Catholic.

Clemmer also started as a forward on the Jackson Memorial basketball team that won a second straight Shore Conference A South Division championship in an unbeaten league run. On both teams, Clemmer was a defensive enforcer.

“I’m definitely excited [for soccer]. We have a lot of high goals and want to do it again,” the rising senior said. “It’s a good feeling to have [two division championships to defend] coming into my senior year. Now it’s my turn to lead everyone.”

That leadership becomes important on a soccer team that was relatively young but must replace some integral players, particularly Costello, the catalyst with 28 goals (55 for her career) and 21 assists as a forward, and center midfielder Mikie Bradley, a force offensively and defensively who scored five goals and had 13 assists and is leaning toward a college career at Bloomfield.

Also departed are outside midfielder Nicole Sullivan, who will play at William Paterson this fall, and outside fullback Marissa Fisher, who is heading to Lafayette to play lacrosse.

Jaguars coach Drew Gibson said Costello and Bradley were also “very good leaders who kept everyone focused and positive,” but he also hailed the work ethic and determination of Clemmer, who won many 50/50 balls and balls in the air with her 5-10 height and got the counterattack moving quickly.

Clemmer said the success of last year’s Central Jersey Group IV state sectional championship team “definitely affects us in a positive way. We had a taste of it, and the other seniors and I want to get to that.”

The Jaguar standout said she is “focusing on fitness a lot; I don’t want to miss any time,” after she was sidelined briefly with a hamstring injury and also played through some nagging ankle and leg injuries.

Clemmer remembers her first two seasons when Jackson Memorial won the Shore Conference Tournament title when she was a freshman and reached the state tournament sectional finals before losing, and then struggled through a .500 season in her sophomore year.

“We didn’t finish off our shots and we made mistakes defensively,” Clemmer said of her sophomore season.

She does not see a danger of that happening again and believes the 2010 team is “very committed” to doing well.

The Jaguars began their summer workouts on their own as a group on July 14 and they will play in a one-day tournament at Monmouth University at the end of the month. The Jaguars will participate in a competitive Brick Memorial tournament in Brick Township on Aug. 7-8.

“We’re not doing any team camps, but a lot of the girls have been playing club soccer and going individually to college-run camps,” said Gibson. “All of the girls are very committed. Last year was the most success we have had, and I want to see them come out, not cocky, but to realize it’s not easy. I’ll be interested in seeing their work habits and if they are focused. There are a lot of questions for me.”

Clemmer agrees and said, “The key is we can’t rely on last year and that things will be handed to us, but that we have to go out and work hard for it.”

Clemmer said starting her fourth and final season means “a little more pressure. It’s my last year to do something. I know the other senior players feel the same way. We want to do good things. We are all on the same page and we want to show everything we have.”

But there are not many rising seniors on this team that continues to mix young players in the lineup. Three players who will be seniors this fall are expected back in the starting lineup — center midfielder Dani Andreas, outside midfielder Chelsea Eccles and outside defender Ariana Smith. Andreas started many big scoring plays, and all three will be expected to play expanded roles.

“I have confidence the returning players will step in there and we have the support system,” said Clemmer, since there also are some good young players and prospects from a junior varsity team that lost only two games.

Gibson agreed after the Lenape loss when he said, “They’ll all be motivated for next season. They want to get back to this part of the states again.”

One question Gibson has is whether junior Kelly Folk can move from forward, where she scored 10 goals last season, to midfield.

He also has questions in goal. Sydney Lavan played the second half of the 2009 season as a freshman last fall after Ashleigh Uhl, who will be a junior this fall, sustained a serious concussion. Lavan posted six shutouts. There also are some younger players in the mix for that position.

“Lavan made some great saves. She’s athletic and aggressive and was not afraid to make the play,” said Gibson. “She was decent in the air, better in that area than Uhl, who needs to get better there. But Uhl was consistent and made the saves she was supposed to make.”

Gibson said he also is looking to returning starter Sam Schlageter, a rising junior who played outside back last season, as well as midfielder/forward Maura Peters and fullback Elizabeth Navas, who saw ample action as freshmen last season.

Lacey and Brick Township were moved out of the Shore Conference A South Division for the 2010 season, and Gibson said the smaller division schedule has allowed him to add games against some strong teams, including a Sept. 11 opener at defending South Jersey Group III state sectional champion Point Pleasant Borough, as well as contests against Freehold, Wall, Freehold Township and Jackson Liberty.