Jan. 31, 2001
By Jennifer Pfluke
www.collegesoccer.com Coordinating Editor
At one point in her life, Mandy Clemens was mistaken as a boy.
"I played on a boys' team in grade school, and the coach thought I was a boy, too," Clemens said. "He thought my name was `Andy'."
Looking at her career thus far, it's easy to see that Clemens has come a long way since then.
Recruited by North Carolina, Notre Dame, Stanford, and several other soccer powerhouses, Clemens chose to sign instead with Santa Clara University.
"I had a really good feeling about it, and about Jerry Smith," she said. "I was actually going to go to Stanford, but it just didn't feel right. So I called up the coach and told him I wasn't coming, and I decided on Santa Clara."
Clemens wrapped up a phenomenal career at Santa Clara last year as the Broncos' all-time leading scorer with 67 goals and 65 assists, totaling 199 points. Following her senior season, she won both the Hermann Trophy and the Missouri Athletic Conference Player of the Year, while also being recognized as the NSCAA Division I Player of the Year.
Clemens also led Santa Clara to four Final Fours, although the Broncos were never able to advance past the semi-finals.
"Never getting to that final game still comes around and slaps me in the face," she admitted.
In January of 2000, a contract dispute with the National Team veterans prompted coaches to select a group of young stars, many of them part of the U-21 National Team, to represent the United States in the Australia Cup.
Clemens picked up her first three caps during that tournament, which the U.S. won.
"It was a great opportunity for a lot of the younger players to get games in," she said. "It showed me what the game was like at the next level."
Shortly after that tournament, Clemens received a phone call that would change her life.
It seemed that a professional women's soccer league was finally being formed, and Clemens, along with Santa Clara teammate Nikki Serlenga, had been suggested as founding members along with nineteen of the players from the World Cup roster.
"Julie Foudy called me up one day and said, `Here's the situation--would you be interested?'" Clemens said. "I was like, `That's awesome!'"
Clemens was allocated to the Philadelphia Charge along with Saskia Webber and Lorrie Fair.
In the recent WUSA combine, the Charge had the opportunity to fill out its roster. Head coach Mark Krikorian opted to target mainly younger players, such as Carolina standouts Rebekah McDowell and Raven McDonald.
Clemens feels the Charge's relative youth will be a secret weapon.
"I think that many people may see (our youth) as a disadvantage, and I'm sure we'll be considered the underdogs going into games, but maybe that'll end up helping us," she said. "Because as far as the girls that I'm familiar with, we are a group of hard workers. We're going to be fun to watch."
Clemens seemed dismissive of talk from skeptics, who predict the WUSA will go the way of the MLS.
"I think the future looks bright for us, but then I'm biased," she said.
"I'd tell all those skeptics to watch and see. Literally watch and see. Because once they do, they'll be hooked."