After generating interest from at least four schools, Josie Coulter has chosen her collegiate destination: Fort Lewis College.
Several days before Montrose High School’s Luke Hutto signed with Fort Lewis, Coulter put pen to paper at her home on Nov. 10, committing to the Skyhawks’ women’s soccer program.
“I’ve worked really hard and it’s finally paying off,” Coulter said. “It was really awesome to get to sign that paper and have dreams of playing in college come true.”
She’ll join a program that’s coming off a 5-10-1 season this fall but has experienced success under head coach Damian Clarke, the all-time winningest women’s soccer coach at Fort Lewis.
Clarke returned to the Skyhawks in 2018 after coaching at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas for four years.
Prior to his coaching stint in Texas, Clarke was the Skyhawks’ coach from 2007 to 2013.
Coulter put herself on Clarke’s radar with just one game. He attended the match between Montrose and Durango last spring — a 3-1 Demons win — in which Coulter scored.
Coulter’s speed against Durango’s was hard to ignore.
“I remember saying, ‘man, who’s that?’” Clarke said of Coulter. “Both of my assistants actually coach the Durango High School team, and they both said ‘this kid’s good enough.’
“She’s a pretty unique athlete. You don’t get kids that are that long and lanky that often that can move as well as her. She’s a freak of an athlete, for sure.”
Coulter, a two-sport athlete who’s currently preparing for her senior basketball season at MHS, received interest from University of Northern Colorado, UC Santa Barbara in California, Colorado Mesa University and Fort Lewis.
During her visit with Clarke in Durango, Coulter said the atmosphere felt like a “whole different feel.”
“The field is beautiful and it’s all grass,” Coulter said. “That was a big factor for me — playing on grass rather than turf. And coach (Clarke) is a great guy. He’s welcoming and easy to talk to, which struck a chord with me.”
Clarke felt even more confident about recruiting Coulter after speaking with her club coaches Shaun Howe and Danny Kuta. They coach Grand Junction Fire FC, a soccer club Coulter played for since seventh grade.
During her club tenure, Coulter would travel three days a week to Grand Junction for practice.
“It really was her club experience that got her to the level that she’s at,” said Frank, Coulter’s father. “Playing on a state championship club team is rare for the Western Slope.”
Coulter was a part of the 2019 Fire team that was the Colorado Girls U17 State Cup 2019 soccer champion.
The experience of playing on club, which Coulter called “intimidating” at first, shaped Coulter’s player development and confidence.
“I came in there at 14 years old not knowing anybody,” Coulter said. “But being an outsider is what drove me to prove that I belonged there and that I belong at that level of play. It drove me to do my best at every practice, be a bother to them when I played defense, score as many goals as I could on offense and put my entire heart into it.”
Club soccer also helped cement Coulter’s work ethic.
“I’ve always been told that when you only have 50%, you put that 50% on the field and you work to your best ability that day. For me, that’s a big deal,” Coulter said. “To go to Junction almost every day — it was just a bummer if I didn’t and put in my full effort.”
Coulter’s effort has paid off at the high school level, where she’s scored 28 goals in 25 career games. She didn’t have a sophomore season after the Colorado High School Activities Association canceled the 2020 spring season due to the effects from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, Coulter scored 19 goals as a freshman, second in the Southwestern League conference to former Fruita High school standout and current Maverick at Colorado Mesa University Lila Dere, the 2021 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Women’s Soccer Player of the Year and former player on Grand Junction Fire.
Coulter’s penchant for scoring came at an early age as she scored five goals in her first game at 6 years old. Her parents were “stunned,” Coulter said, adding that it took her older sister, Emily Coulter, much longer to develop such a feel for the game. (Emily, like Josie, played girls soccer at Montrose High School.)
“Ever since I could walk I had a ball at my feet,” Josie said.
Coulter made sure to have one at her feet throughout the week during spring 2020, practicing on individual drills at Sunset Mesa in Montrose with her dad, Frank.
Coulter worked on her footwork and ball skills.
“There’s a saying that we picked up and say to each other that goes, ‘Everyone wants to be famous, but no one wants to put the time in,’” Frank said. “We would always say that when we head to practice.”
Coulter’s offseason work helped her score nine goals in a shortened 10-game season last spring. She added three assists, totaling 21 points.
Coulter, a striker for the Indians, will play one more season under head MHS girls soccer coach Cassie Snyder before heading to Fort Lewis.
In her final campaign at MHS, she expects to see action on the wing, a position she expects she might play in college. “It’s so exciting,” she said. “I love being able to run up and down that sideline.”
In Clark’s assessment, though, Coulter can “play all over the place.”
With the Skyhawks graduating eight seniors, a path for some playing time as a freshman is feasible for Coulter, who’s coming off a season in which she was a first-team all-conference selection in the Southwestern League.
“I think what’s probably going to make her unique as a college athlete is she’s confident,” Clarke said. “Not a whole lot of kids come in with the ability to pave their own path and she seems like that type of person. We’re excited.”
Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press