Junior defender breaks out offensively for GVSU soccer

GVL / Emily Frye    
Defender Clare Carlson brings the ball down on Sep. 20th.

GVL / Emily Frye Defender Clare Carlson brings the ball down on Sep. 20th.

Mason Tronsor

For Grand Valley State defenders, it’s not just about keeping the ball out of the back of their own net. The Lakers (8-1), a possession-oriented team, look for defenders that can advance past midfield, play the ball with skill and finish when called upon.

That’s exactly what the Lakers are uncovering in junior defender Clare Carlson.

“Our backs are more than just typical defenders,” said GVSU head coach Jeff Hosler. “Because we dominate the ball so much, they have to also be good offensively.”

Carlson started 17 games along the back line last season, and was a key piece to a lockdown defense that helped lead GVSU to a national title in 2014. During the playoff run, Carlson largely stayed away from the spotlight – a desirable characteristic for defenders. Make the right play, and the spotlight stays away. Stumble or allow a goal, and the light can blind a defender.

But Carlson has expanded her game from last year. The stage is becoming hers, and she steps out of the shadow of 2014 senior defenders Juane Odendaal and Kaely Schlosser. She has, in some ways, picked up on Odendaal’s offensive skills, and is expanding her skill set in 2015.

On the season, Carlson has scored five goals and has recorded two assists – both of which lead all GVSU defenders. Carlson is second on the team in goals, behind only Marti Corby (12), her high school teammate at Forest Hills Central.

“Since we are such good friends off the field we just click on the field,” Corby said. “She has become such a great player. She works so hard on the little things.”

Last season, Carlson played in 20 games, and scored just one goal. So where has all of this offense come from? Some of the success come from Hosler’s aggressive offensive style, but for the most part it has been the hard work and dedication from Carlson herself.

“The size of opposing players are completely different from high school,” Carlson said. “The adjustment was huge for me as I started to train in the weight room to gain the strength to compete.”

Carlson, an Ada, Michigan native, says her role on the team as a goal-scorer is new to her, but she likes when everyone on the team is attacking. The Laker coaches have stressed ball possession heavily this season, and, when they are attacking, they often have solid possession of the ball.

“Going up for the ball is very fun,” Carlson said. “But being a defender definitely requires discipline. I still need to be able to switch gears and defend at a higher level.”

GVSU’s defense has been a strong unit, allowing just six goals in nine games. The Lakers surrendered three goals to No. 3 Quincy in the season-opener, and allowed a season-high 13 shots in a 2-1 win over No. 4 Minnesota State Mankato.

Carlson has always been a defender, no matter the squad she plays for. However, during high school soccer, Carlson was asked to move around the field and play a couple of different positions, which has contributed to her versatility has a defender at GVSU.

“My high school team would sometimes have me play center midfielder,” Carlson said. “My primary position though is defense as an outside back.”

On the field, Carlson is intense, focused and in tune with the game. She is not a trash talker, but she is a vocal leader and makes sure her teammates feel her presence on the field. She has grown into the position of leadership since her freshman year.

“Clare leads by example,” Hosler said. “She works hard at whatever she does. She does not take any shortcuts to succeed.”