Clarke embracing new challenge


The Clarke girls’ soccer team is tackling a higher league this fall after conquering Conference A-IV in the spring.

The Rams moved up to Conference A-IV after a league title last season and are embracing the tougher competition. A 2-1 season-opening loss to Mineola, however, leaves little room for error the rest of the way however if Clarke wants to grab the league’s one available playoff spot putting plenty on the line for its Oct. 4 rematch. 

“We basically have to win out if we want to make the playoffs,” said longtime Clarke head coach Becky Mattia. “I tell them one game at a time and just keep getting better with each game.” 

Junior forward Alyssa Fasce is off to a straight start as a scoring threat upfront. Fasce scored two goals in Clarke’s 4-0 win at Valley Stream North on Sept. 18 and then netted four goals along with an assist in a 5-1 victory against Great Neck North five days later. 

Sophomore forward Valerie Cisneros is another force near the net, who tallied a goal in the Great Neck North win. The offense is also driven by sophomore central midfielder Avika Mehta offense along with senior outsider midfielder Taylor Merget and Julian Cronin. 

The defense is anchored by junior goalie Kaitlyn Vo, who recorded 10 saves in a 3-0 shutout against Glen Cove on Sept. 21. Vo captured Conference A-V goalkeeper of the year honors as a sophomore in the spring after registering six clean sheets. 

“She understands the game very well,” said Mattia, a former standout collegiate goalie at Hofstra who has trained Vo since she was eight years old. “She has the ability to play somewhere in college.” 

The defense in front of Vo is led by juniors Kiera Heavy and Ashley Tighe. The backline has only allowed three goals through its first four matches. 

“The defense is super organized and they cover well,” Mattia said. “I would say that is the strength of our team.” 

Clarke returns to the pitch on Saturday at Carey for a 2 p.m. kickoff before a big road test at Mineola Monday at 4:30 p.m. where the Rams will likely need at least a tie with the Conference AV championship contender to maintain hopes for a postseason berth. The busy stretch continues Wednesday at home versus Valley Steam North at 4:45 p.m. with another road match then on tap Friday at Glen Cove starting at 4:30 p.m. 

While Clarke’s quest for a return playoff visit will be more challenging, Mattia welcomes the enhanced competition in Conference A-IV and is eyeing the program moving up to county’s top leagues in the near future to better position it for championship goals.

“At this very moment this conference is a good fit for us,” said Mattia, whose team fell to New Hyde Park in the second round of the spring 2021 Class A playoffs. “I think we stack up pretty well here.”