Ashley Clark’s “Lion Strong” Motivation

Written by: Eric Ortiz, Campbell blog contributor

Coming into the season, senior forward Ashley Clark sat third on the all-time career goals list with 29. In the home-opener, Aug. 24 against Albany, Clark performed a hat trick to tie, then pass, and then eclipse Sara Davis Moody’s mark of 30 goals.

Moody played four seasons from 2000-03 being selected to the Atlantic Sun All-Conference First Team in 2001. During her 2001 campaign, she led the Fighting Camels to their best conference finish with an 8-2 record while netting a team-high 11 goals.

Sara graduated from Campbell in 2004 and then married Chad Moody, a former Campbell cross country runner, that following year. Their family grew upon the birth of their first child, Bella, and then the birth of their second child, Cali.

“Cali started her journey, her battle with cancer, when she was twelve months old,” said Chad. “That changed our lives forever because it was a stage four malignant brain tumor. It flipped everything upside down. Life kind of stopped.”

A few days after the diagnosis, Cali went into a coma.

But eight months of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant put the cancer into remission.

The family was certain that Cali had beat the cancer until the doctors performed an MRI that showed that the cancer had unfortunately returned. Since then, the cancer has been put in remission twice more, but its growth has accelerated.

On April 1, 2009, the family was informed that the growth of the cancer had returned and doctors were unable to remove all of the tumor during surgery because it was against Cali’s brain stem. Now nine years old, Cali has continued to battle cancer.

Before a match promoting cancer awareness back in 2011, Ashley Clark’s freshman season, Sara spoke to the team about Cali’s story. From that point on, Ashley became a part of the Moody family and has grown an even stronger bond with Cali.

“It didn’t start hitting me until I started going over [to their house] for game nights seeing Cali. I usually hold her at church and she snuggles up with me,” said Clark. “Just seeing them go through all of that…has made a really big impact on my life.”

Photo Credit: Eric Ortiz
Photo Credit: Eric Ortiz

The Moody’s like to think of Cali as someone that has been “Lion Strong” because she has defeated and then had to fight cancer again multiple times. Cali’s story has left a lasting impact on Ashley’s life, and she uses it as inspiration every time she takes the field.

“Ever since I met them, they always have said ‘Lion Strong’ and that was the theme for Cali and their story,” said Clark. “Last year or the year before, I started writing it really big with permanent marker on my arm, like, I’m going to be ‘Lion Strong’ for Cali.”

After playing semi-pro soccer over the summer in Washington, Clark decided to get “Lion Strong” tattooed on her forearm.

She also decided to invite the Moody family to be with her when she got the tattoo made, but did not inform them as to what the tattoo was going to say.

“When I got back to North Carolina, I went to my mom and told her, ‘I think I know what I want my first tattoo to be. I’m getting it done before I go back to school, this is going to be my season, and I won’t have to write it on my arm anymore,’ said Clark. “I won’t ever regret it because [Cali] means so much to [me].”

Rightfully so, Clark has indeed made this season her season. She leads Campbell and the Big South Conference in goals (14), assists (8), points (36), and shots (71). With her 14 goals this season, she remains second on the all-time scoring list with 43 career goals.

Clark eclipsed the 100-point mark in her career on Oct. 7 against Gardner-Webb, and currently has 106 points overall.

She is also the first player to be named the Big South Attacking Player of the Week three times in one season.

Clark has led the Fighting Camels (9-5, 4-2) to an outstanding season so far as they are currently third in the Big South standings, behind Liberty (7-6-1) and Coastal Carolina (8-4-1). Campbell welcomes Coastal Carolina to Eakes Athletic Complex Wednesday night at 7 p.m. as they honor their eight seniors, including Clark.

“I’ve been here for five years and I’ve done a lot of things that I said I wanted to do from the start,” said Clark. “It’s crazy that it’s all over, but I am excited to see what’s next. We have to finish out the season and continue to take it one game at a time.”

The Moody’s have remained a strong support system for Clark and will be there to support her on senior night, but are positive that she will remain a part of their lives for years to come.

“It’s not going to be easy,” said Chad, “but when you develop a connection with a kid like Cali and a family like ours, you’re naturally going to stay connected somehow. We’ll still come to soccer games, but we’re going to be looking out [for Ashley].”

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