Carlson making impact on both sides of the ball for GVSU soccer
Carlson has started at both center-mid and defensive outside back this season
In early October, the Grand Valley State women’s soccer team was looking for answers. After the team’s first loss of the season against Florida Tech, followed by an uncharacteristic 1-0 win over Walsh—a middle-of-the-pack team in the GLIAC—the Lakers needed to mix up the lineup in order to generate more offense.
GVSU head coach Jeff Hosler turned to one of the most versatile players on the team, Clare Carlson, to find the spark the team needed.
“We knew we needed some players in the attacking-mid position that would penetrate and get themselves in front of goal more often through combinations and through our wingers,” Hosler said. “Clare does that arguably the best on our team.”
Carlson started the next game at Lake Erie at the center-mid position and had an immediate impact on the Lakers' offense. She scored two goals while dishing out an assist in the team’s 8-0 win.
“Scoring the two goals and having the assist definitely built up my confidence,” Carlson said. “It let me know that I am capable of playing there and being effective in that spot.”
A defensive outside back by trade, Carlson has played multiple positions during her high school and collegiate career. In her freshman year at GVSU, she started the season as an outside back, but once one of the center midfielders suffered an injury, Carlson quickly became acclimated with the center mid position.
“It’s definitely fun getting into attacking center-mid and being higher up the field,” Carlson said. “I like to be involved in those situations, but I find myself in those situations as an outside back too.”
She returned to her natural position as an outside back for the majority of the next three seasons, but Carlson always has her mind on attacking, even more so now that she is seeing time at center mid again.
“I see myself as an attacking-minded defender,” Carlson said. “I’m always ready to defend, but when we have possession, I want to be involved in that attack.”
Carlson’s move to the midfield position has been a seamless transition not only because of her versatility, but her chemistry with the other midfielders, especially Marti Corby.
“She brings explosiveness,” Corby said. “She’s really good at playing a ball and then getting all the way into the box. She’s got that extra effort where she’ll get off her player and explode all the way up to continue to be in the play.”
Carlson and Corby have been playing together since they were freshmen at Forest Hills Central High School. Their history together makes them a dynamic threat on the field.
“We’ve played with each other for so long and we’re honestly like sisters so it’s easy to understand one another (on the field),” Corby said. “You just know what she’s going to do and you know she will always do the right thing. We just have that trust in each other.”
Corby is not the only player on the offensive side of the ball that has benefited from the position change. The scoring opportunities for the other forwards have increased now that Carlson is manning the center mid position.
“She sees the field really well so she is good at distributing,” forward Jayma Martin said. “She communicates a lot, makes sure we know where our runs are. That’s definitely helped me a lot in and around the box.”
At this point in the season, Carlson is splitting time between outside back and center mid depending on the matchup with the opposing team. No matter which position, she is having an effect on both sides of the ball.
“Clare is versatile enough to play as a back and play in the midfield,” Hosler said. “I would even feel comfortable playing her as a winger too. Having that player that can give you something different at times is huge for us to keep our opponents off-balance.”
Carlson does not have a preference in position, but she is more concerned with the team’s success before her own.
“I think my role at this point is playing wherever I’m needed, whether it’s outside back or center-mid,” Carlson said. “Whatever is going to help our team click and stay on the same page.”
Whether she is stopping the opposing team’s attack, or starting an attack of her own, Carlson will be an integral part of the Lakers' success this season, especially if they plan to make another run at a national championship.