STORY WRITTEN BY SETH PRINGLE, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS - AUG. 26, 2023
BOULDER—Only three games into the 2023 season, Ally Clark's decision to journey West seems to be paying off.
Clark graduated from Columbia University in 2023 with remaining eligibility. She started all three seasons for the Lions and accumulated 26 points (8 G, 10 A) in her 39 games. Clark came off the bench for the Buffaloes on opening weekend but was slotted into the starting XI against Colorado College, picking up her first goal in the Black & Gold.
"It was really exciting when I saw that the ball went in," Clark said in the postgame. "I'm just happy to be able to help out my team in any way possible. I was happy to get that first goal under my belt and hopefully, there will be more."
The Jamison, Pa., native, has spent all her life out East. Jamison is right in the heart of the tri-state area adjacent to Trenton, N.J., and just a hop, skip and jump away from Philadelphia. Having spent four years in NYC, Clark knew she wanted to change it up a bit.
"When I was looking where I wanted to play for my fifth year, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone," Clark recalled. "For me, that meant going someplace that I've never lived or visited before. I had never been to Colorado before coming out here. I wanted to switch up the scenery. It's obviously very different from New York City. I wanted that for my last year of soccer and I wanted to be playing at a really high level. I think the Pac-12 is as good as it gets."
Playing at Columbia and against the rest of the Ivy League might make CU and the Pac-12 seem like quite the jump for Clark. But the Ivy League had two schools represented in the 2022 NCAA Tournament, Brown and Harvard, and both schools are on the outside edge of this week's top 25 rankings.
"I think every year the Ivy League is getting better and better," Clark commented. "The competition is getting really good. I think these past few years in the Ivy League have prepared me to play in the Pac-12. I think it will be a different style of play and a different kind of game but like I said, I'm excited for that challenge."
Clark isn't the average graduate transfer who has gone through the four-year grind that most fifth-year players have experienced. When COVID hit in 2020 the Ivy League ceased all sports, so while all the major conferences delayed the season until the spring of 2021, Clark and the rest of the Ivy League's student-athletes were left watching.
"It was really difficult not playing my sophomore year," Clark admitted. "I was really excited for the season and then the Ivy League announced we wouldn't be playing at all. It was devastating. Soccer means so much to me and not having that as an outlet was difficult. I think that was definitely motivation for my fifth year. I definitely see this year as an opportunity to kind of get that year I missed back. It's a chance to leave it all on the field and play at my full potential."
The Buffs have 14 new players for 2023, turning over half of the roster from last season. Head coach Danny Sanchez brought in four Division I transfers, including Clark, to help build up some of the roster's veteran presence.
"What we see from her [Clark] is kind of what we thought – she's a very mature soccer player who has great work ethic and is very versatile," Sanchez noted. "She's still finding her place and her role within the group but her training habits, her level of professionalism and her approach to the game are off the charts. We're pleased with what she's brought to the program."
Clark and the Buffs have their biggest test of the young season upcoming, hosting No. 14 Michigan State (3-0-0) on Sunday (Noon/Pac-12 Networks). The Spartans got the better of CU in last season's rain-soaked meeting in East Lansing. MSU has been in Colorado all week, opening the weekend with a 7-0 win over Northern Colorado.