Coastal uses sister act for success, family atmosphere

Coaches talk about their teams being a family, and that goal is just a bit easier this season for the Coastal Carolina women’s soccer squad. Having two sets of sisters on the roster takes family ties to a new level.

Identical twins Amanda and Alyssa Clark from Waxhaw, NC, started their junior years at Coastal this season, and sisters Kacey and Darbie Kelley from Ashburn, VA, are a couple of years a part, but soccer runs in family genes.

Not only have the sisters found time to bond on and off the field with their siblings, but they have built an extended family in the Lady Chants (5-6 overall, 2-2 Big South), who are coming back-to-back shutout wins this past week against Liberty and Longwood.

“The team is one of my favorite things about being at Coastal. I have never been so close to any other team,” said Alyssa, as all of the girls agreed. “We always hang out together. We are all friends. We are all like sisters and like family.”

Normal family time usually consists of some board games, going to the movies, sharing dinner at the table, or sharing family traditions. These four connect with each other, but they also connect on the soccer pitch leading them against Big South Conference foes all season.

The Lady Chanticleers have allowed just 11 goals all season while scoring 16. The timing and execution of the precise goals seems to have slipped by their laces on several opportunities. CCU has outshot its opponents 111-96 on the season. They have lost four games by one goal, with three of those being edge-of-your-seat, down-to-the-wire games in Conway.

Alyssa and Amanda, who played at Marvin Ridge High School where they led them to the 2010 North Carolina 3A State Championship, have identical looks, but often play on opposite sides of the field. Amanda often plays outside forward or midfield on the right. Alyssa plays on the left as one of the bookend defenders, alongside Maddie Phillips on the right, with Cami Skladany holding the middle together with Megan Wagner.

Alyssa had two shots this season in eight games played. She has started in seven of those contests. Amanda often plays forward or midfield, and has tallied one shot this season. She has played in all nine games in 2012, having started in six for the Lady Chants.

Often times, they do connect passes together on the field, and the on-field connection can in many ways be attributed to their family connection.  Amanda commented on having a chance to play alongside her twin.

“It is a blessing. She is my best friend. It is also a lot easier being with my sister. My older sister also lives down here,” said Amanda about being around family. “A lot of girls don’t even have the chance to play college soccer, so getting to play with your sister is just like a double win.”

The twins have two similar yet distinctive personalities. Alyssa tends to be more of the vocal leader. Alyssa said how she likes to cook Italian food, and she tells jokes keeping the other girls laughing. She likes to have the girls over and cooks for them. She joked that she cooks and Amanda cleans. They have a Columbian heritage that can also be found in her recipes, according to Alyssa.

“(Our favorite part) is when I tell jokes. One of the best things is that she always gets my jokes, but I am really funny,” said Alyssa. “When we are playing together, we know what each other is going to do.”

Amanda and Alyssa, the daughters of John and Soni Clark, are both exercise and sports science majors. They commented how their coaches sometimes get them mixed up. “Our coaches are always `A. Clark, A. Clark`, but we are both A. Clark,” said both Alyssa and Amanda.

CCU head women’s soccer coach Paul Hogan commented on the twins and their contributions to the team. “The twins are both best friends on and off the field. They finish each other’s sentences. That often happens with identical twins. They are both comedians and sarcastic in their own way. That is the New York personality coming out in them.”

While Amanda is glad to be back on the field after dealing with injuries for much of 2011, she has tallied one goal and one assist in 24 CCU games. She started in nine games during her career. Alyssa has totaled two goals and three assists for her career. She has played in 35 games, having started in 28 through her first three seasons. She earned second team All-Big South honors last season at Coastal.

“It is nice to have her (Amanda) back healthy,” said Hogan. “Both of them are very consistent in how they play and what they do. They are such a spark to our team. The twins are just so hard working. They lead by example and are so fit. Our team goal is to get to their work rate.”

Kacey and Darbie, the daughters of Beverly and Kevin Kelley, played high school soccer at Broad Run High School in Ashburn. Kacey helped led her high school team to 51 consecutive wins from 2008-2010. In her first season at Coastal, she played in 19 games and started in 10 games, and tied Alyssa for the team lead in 2011 with two goals. She added 15 shots, with nine of those being on frame.

During her 2011 season, Kacey finished with 1,093 minutes played, including 90 minutes when the team played North Florida. So far for the 2012 season, Kacey has played and started in seven games for Coastal. She currently leads the team with four goals scored. She has had 23 shots with 10 of those being on goal. Both totals lead the team so far this season. Kacey was named the Big South Conference Attacking Player of the Week earlier this season and was awarded the Big South Player of the Week by CollegeSportsMadness.com.

“Darbie and Kacey are very close. Kacey has taken on more of a leadership role on our team,” Hogan said about the sisters. “Darbie had a great freshmen spring. She is getting better and better each week. As long as she continues on that trend, she should have a very good four years for us.”

Kacey commented on having her sister join the rest of her Coastal soccer family. “It is a way of bringing home to your college,” said Kacey. “Whenever I start missing home, I just go over and hang out with her.”

Darbie, who has played in all nine games as a freshman so far in 2012, has totaled one assist this season. She has one shot on goal for CCU. She enjoys playing alongside Kacey and has found a home away from home with her teammates wearing the black and teal.

“It is a lot easier having a sister here with you. It is easier with family always around you. You never get homesick,” said Darbie. “It just feels more comfortable being out here with her on the sports field.”

Darbie was a two-time regional and state champion in high school helping lead her team to a 46-2-1 record. She has a drive about her to make her mark just as her sister has done in the Big South.

“Coming in being the kid sister and following what she did last year is a challenge, but it is nice getting to play alongside her,” Darbie said about Kacey.

Both of the sisters have been leaders for the team so far in 2012 in different ways, according to Hogan.
“Darbie shows more leadership through her play,” Hogan added. “Kacey has been more of a vocal leader for us this year, but she also leads through her play.”

The family traditions that these two sets of sisters possess has been carried over to their second families at Coastal, and they hope that family tree branches off into success in Big South play.

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