Syniah Clark: From Stranger to Standout

Syniah Clark: From Stranger to Standout

FORT MYERS, Fla. – If you take a look out into the stands at Pickering Field, there is one group that may catch your eye. About 15 people are all dressed in green shirts with a bitmoji on the front. If you don’t recognize who it is, the name “Clark” and number 29 on the back give you the answer.

Syniah Clark is a graduate student defender for the FGCU women’s soccer team from Cape Coral and she is very grateful that she can play in front of so many friends and family. It’s almost hard to believe that she nearly gave it all up four years ago.

“I wanted to play college soccer when I was younger and even up until my freshman and sophomore year of high school, but I don’t know what changed, I just thought maybe it’s not for me,” said Clark.

After not being recruited much in high school, especially during her critical junior year, she stopped trying to be recruited and stopped contacting programs. A few Division III coaches reached out, but she decided that was not the path for her.

Wanting to stay close to home, she enrolled at FGCU in Fall of 2017 and spent the entire year as just a regular student. No training, no workouts, no games. Just school.

After spending a year as a full-time student, Clark still had some soccer left in her, so she played for the Dutch Lions, a local summer league club in Fort Myers that at the time featured two Eagles, Zoey Spitzer and Kara Kyramarios.

Heading into the 2018 season, head coach Jim Blankenship was looking to fill a spot on the defense and went to watch the Lions, but at first his attention was not on Syniah. Thanks to Kyramarios and Spitzer, that changed quickly.

“Through our players, they recommended Syniah,” said Blankenship. “Hey if you like that girl, this girl is way better.”

Luckily for Blankenship, Clark’s mindset about playing college soccer had also begun to change. She had emailed the coaching staff, asking if there was a spot on the team.

“It was one of those situations where the gem falls in your lap. She’s already at school here, she wants to play, we have a spot, she play’s that position. Why not give her a chance?”

Aside from her fellow Eagles on the Dutch Lions, she only knew one other player on the team, Holly Fritz, a fellow Cape Coral native, but someone that Clark had not played with since middle school. While most student-athletes, especially in women’s soccer, commit early and build relationships with their fellow classmates and even current players, whether it be through text, social media, or recruiting visits, she returned to campus for her sophomore year having just joined the team a few weeks prior, and knew that preseason training was going to be key to building those relationships.

Day one went fine. Day two, she ended up in the hospital.

Clark collapsed on the field during training and ended up being out for a couple of weeks, unable to any soccer-related activities.

“At that point, I hadn’t built those relationships with my teammates, so it was kind of a weird time,” said Clark.

She thought that may the end of her soccer career once again, but given this second chance, she was not going to go down without a fight.

Clark was eventually cleared to get back to training and finally made her long-awaited debut in the second-to-last game of the season, playing 45 minutes and even collecting an assist against Webber International.

In the three years since, Clark has started 40 games for the Eagles, earned a scholarship, and has been one of the key reasons why FGCU has become one of the best defenses in the ASUN as they have allowed just 15 goals in 22 ASUN contests since 2019.

Looking back on the past few years, Clark has changed a lot, no longer the shy stranger she may have felt like in 2018.

“I’m more of a leader now, I’m definitely not shy anymore,” Clark said with a laugh. “I’m one of the louder ones. That just comes with getting comfortable with the team and the coaching staff.”

Clark has accomplished a lot in her career wearing the Green and Blue, including scoring her first-career goal earlier this year, but an ASUN Championship and the NCAA Tournament appearance have eluded her. She will get one more chance as the ASUN Tournament begins on Friday at Pickering Field. With her friends and family in the crowd, Clark will look to put a cap on a nearly non-existent Eagle career.

 

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