New Waterville boys soccer coach Colby Clarke, right, talks with his players during practice Tuesday morning in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — His playing days are now done, but Colby Clarke hasn’t lost a step.

Clarke, the new head coach of the Waterville boys soccer team, briefly stepped in as goalkeeper Tuesday toward the end of the Purple Panthers’ second practice of the fall season. The 23-year-old ex-Ellsworth High School and Maine Maritime Academy standout — though traditionally an attacking player — put on a show as he made multiple saves that drew oohs and ahs from his players.

“I knew I couldn’t stay away from the game very long,” Clarke said. “I’m not used to being in goal, but both of our keepers were away (Tuesday), so I went and stepped in for us. I’ve played for years, so it’s fun to be out here and kick the ball around with the kids.”

There have been coaching changes for both Waterville soccer programs with Clarke taking over the boys team and a familiar face, Ed Worcester, stepping in to lead the girls. It’s a brand-new era for one Purple Panther team — and a renewal of sorts for another.

For more than a decade, you could count on at least one member of the Serdjenian family roaming the sidelines at Webber Field. Kerry Serdjenian coached the boys team from 2009-20, and his father, Mark, coached the girls from 2016-21 after spending 40 seasons as coach of the Colby College men’s team.

Members of the Waterville boys soccer team run during practice Tuesday morning in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

After Kerry Serdjenian stepped down as boys coach following the 2020 pandemic season, fellow Waterville alum Dakota Gendreau stepped into the role. Gendreau would leave the post after just one season, paving the way for Clarke, who had been out of the game for three years after starring at Ellsworth and MMA, to get back into soccer via coaching.


“I’ve really been missing it ever since COVID took away my senior year in college,” Clarke said. “I wasn’t ready to give it up just yet because I knew I wanted to stay involved with it. I waited a little bit, this opportunity came up, and they really welcomed me and wanted to have me.”

At Ellsworth, Clarke was a key player on teams that made back-to-back Northern Maine championships his sophomore and junior years before playing through a leg injury that hampered his senior campaign. He then went on to play at MMA, where he was again a three-year starter before COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 North Atlantic Conference season.

“It’s so much different to be coaching rather than on the field,” Clarke said. “I’d obviously love to be on the field if I could, but this is a dream come true, and I love coaching these kids. … We have a lot of young talent, and I’m super excited to play a couple games and see what we can do. I think we can make a lot of noise this year.”

On the girls side, Waterville begins the year with a “new” head coach who is quite a familiar face to the current group of players. Worcester, who has been around the local soccer scene in various capacities for more than two decades, was an assistant coach under former head coaches Gendreau, Mark Serdjenian and Ian Wilson.

Waterville boys soccer player work on a conditioning drill during practice Tuesday morning in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

There’s some continuity, then, for a program that’s been a mainstay in Maine high school soccer since winning the first five Class A state championships in the early 1980s. Although the win totals vary from year to year, the Panthers always find themselves in the upper echelon of the Northern Maine ranks.

“I’ve been here forever, so the girls all know who I am,” said Worcester, who previously spent one year as Waterville head coach amid staff turnover in 2006. “It’s not like there’s someone brand-new they don’t know. We’re playing the same formation we’ve played in the past, so the girls know positionally where to be.”

There’s some turnover for the Waterville girls with Coltrane McRae, an All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference first-teamer as a senior a year ago, no longer available. But Worcester will still have at his disposal one of the region’s top players in Sadie Williams, as well as another player whom the new head coach thinks will produce in Allie Anich.

“As long as we can stay healthy, we will definitely compete in every game,” Worcester said. “I feel that we’re strong enough that we can win every game we’re going into. I think that’s something we’re capable of.”

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