MSU roundup: Clarke steps down as soccer coach

Damian Clarke departs after four years at the helm of MSU women's soccer / Source: KAUZ
Damian Clarke departs after four years at the helm of MSU women's soccer / Source: KAUZ

WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - Midwestern State Athletic Director Kyle Williams announced the resignation of Damian Clarke following a successful four-year stint leading the women's soccer program.

Clarke is returning to Fort Lewis College where he previously led the women's soccer program of his alma mater from 2007-13.

"Midwestern State University is sorry to lose Damian Clarke as the head coach of our women's soccer program. He has done an outstanding job in his four-year stint here," Williams said. "We will miss him, his wife, Sherin, and son, Taye. We wish him the best in his new venture at Fort Lewis."

Clarke posted a 40-27-13 mark (.581) at MSU guiding the Mustangs to the NCAA Division II postseason in each of the last two seasons including a Lone Star Conference postseason tournament title in 2016.

"We didn't see this opportunity coming, but always knew that the mountains would be our end game," Clarke said. "Going back to the community of Durango, Colo. and both Serin and my alma mater is an opportunity we didn't want to let slip by."

Clarke brought a brand of athleticism and possession football to campus as his program garnered respect nationally reaching a No. 11 ranking in the United Soccer Coaches' Poll last fall after matching the program's deepest postseason advancement in 2016.

He coached a total of 11 all-region performers during his time with the Mustangs including a first-teamer in Destinee Williamson. His growing talent base included three consecutive LSC Freshmen of the Year in Williamson (2014), Imani Morlock (2015) and Hanna Mattinson (2016), while Courtney Burnette earned the league's top goalkeeper honor in 2014.

"This is a program that is set to be a regional powerhouse in the next few seasons," Clarke said. "Thank you Midwestern State University and Wichita Falls, you will be missed."

A national search for Clarke's successor begins immediately.

Fifth-inning rally helps Mustangs earn split in Mesquite

The Midwestern State softball team's offense came alive late in the day, striking for five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to earn a split at the North Texas Softball Bash. In the opener, the Mustangs dropped a 3-1 decision to Oklahoma Baptist before defeating Newman, 7-5, in the nightcap.

MSU moves to 5-2 on the young season following the split.

Against the Bison, Lauren Lindgren went 1-for-3, driving home Kelsey Eropkin who led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a double to cut the MSU deficit to 3-1. Starting pitcher Gracie Bogle was saddled with the loss, giving up three runs on six hits and three walks over 4.0 innings. Reliever Abbie Lancaster put up zeroes, going 3.0 innings of scoreless relief, scattering one hit and a walk while fanning two

OBU broke the scoring seal in the top of the third after a pair of singles from Reyes and Long put runners on the corners. With one out, the Bison went for the double steal. Amanda Thomas cut down the would-be base-stealer at second, but the throw back to the plate came in late, allowing OBU to take a 1-0 lead.

In the fourth, the Bison tacked on two more to stretch the lead to 3-0 on a leadoff single by Grimes and a Flanagan double to right center.

MSU brought the tying run to the plate in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but was unable to push across the equalizer in the 3-1 setback.

In the nightcap, Eropkin went 2-for-4 with a long ball, scoring a pair of runs while Thomas finished 2-for-3 with an RBI double. Reliever Tucker Caraway improved to 1-0, tossing 2.2 shutout innings before giving way to Lancaster with two outs and the bases-loaded in the seventh. Lancaster slammed the door, getting a flyout to center to earn her third save of the season.

Both teams went back and forth through the first five innings, with the Mustangs eventually taking the lead for good in the fifth. Eropkin got the party started, leading off the frame with a long ball to left. MSU put runners on the corners with one out when Kelcee Thompson reached on an error.

Called on to pinch-hit, Bogle came through, rifling a single through the right-side, scoring one. After a groundout, Carli Woolsey lifted a gapper to right to plate a pair and give MSU the lead.

Despite breezing through the sixth, the Jets made things interesting in the seventh, putting the tying run in scoring position with two outs. Lancaster entered and got a ground ball to short, but an error allowed Newman to extend the game. The right-hander induced a flyout to center to secure the win for the Mustangs.

The Mustangs continue play at the North Texas Softball Bash in Mesquite on Saturday, Feb. 10 against Colorado Christian and Northwestern Oklahoma State. First pitch is slated for 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., respectively. Due to the threat of inclement weather, the tournament finale on Sunday between MSU and Lubbock Christian has been cancelled.

#23 Mustangs open season with 8-1 win over Collin College

No. 23 Midwestern State opened the season with an 8-1 win over Collin County at the MSU Tennis Center on Friday afternoon.

The Mustangs started quick as senior Vasudev Vijayaraman and junior Denney Norrie rolled to an 8-0 win over sophomores Conner Golden and Thompson Tong in the number two position before sophomores Angel Palacios and Joshua Sundaram posted an 8-2 win over sophomore Claudio Quinones and freshman Abhi Venkatachalam on court three.

Midwestern State completed the sweep with junior Dillon Pineda and freshman Nolan McCaig claiming an 8-4 win over the ninth-ranked duo of sophomores Akinori Wada and James Corns at No. 1 doubles.

In singles play, Palacios struck first with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Corns at No. 3 singles just before freshman Jean Muniz clinched the match for the Mustangs with a 6-2, 6-0 win over freshman Daniel Barrios on court five.

Freshman Alex Martinez Roca extended the lead to 6-0 with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Golden in the No. 6 position. McCaig quickly followed, posting a 6-1, 6-1 win over freshman Zachary Frisbie on court four.

Vijayaraman battled back against 19th-ranked Wada to a 1-6, 6-4, 10-7 finish in the No. 1 spot.
The eighth-ranked Cougars claimed their lone point on court two as Venkatachalam outlasted Sundaram 6-2, 2-6, 10-3.

Midwestern State travels to Arlington, Texas, Saturday to take on UT Arlington at the UTA Tennis Center. First serve is set for 3 p.m.

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