Tessa Calabria: Gunning for personal redemption and team success in a comeback season

After injury scuppered what looked to be a promising first NCAA Division I season after an outstanding junior college career, Tessa Calabria is looking to make up for lost time in her final season at Nicholls State.

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(Feature Image Credit: Nicholls State Athletics)

Adelaide’s Tessa Calabria had enjoyed an outstanding junior college career, banging in goals and teeing up teammates for fun in her two seasons at Iowa Lakes Community College before making the step-up to NCAA Division I in 2018, joining fellow Australian, Kristy Helmers at Nicholls State. Calabria looked set to improve a Colonels attack that had struggled to score goals in the previous season, having come off a solid season for South Carolina-based Beaufort County SC in the WPSL in addition to her junior college exploits. However, there was to be an early twist in the tale.

“So, I’d just finished playing summer league so I was ready and I was pretty confident,” Calabria told College Matildas. “But at the same time, I had an injury and that was stopping me from training and it also stopped me from going to class.

“I wasn’t able to sit, so I was just skipping class. It stopped me from doing anything without being in excruciating pain. So, 2 or 3 weeks into the season, it forced me to stop playing.”

However, it wasn’t as simple as “having an injury” for Calabria. What manifested as pain in the striker’s leg was actually in a whole different class of issue – a spinal problem that would result in surgery.

“At the time they thought it was a hamstring strain, but once I came home to Adelaide, through all the MRI tests and that, [they found] I had to get a lumbar discectomy.”

“My whole right leg [was in pain], because the nerve goes down into my hamstring. So, my spine was compressing onto the nerve.”

But what is a lumbar discectomy? Essentially, it is surgery to remove part of one of the intervertebral discs in the spine to alleviate pressure on the affected nerve. As one could probably appreciate, it is not a surgery that any person, but particularly an elite athlete, simply jumps into without exhausting all of their other options, and so it was for Calabria, who returned to Australia over the Christmas break to attempt to rectify the issue.

“I went home early and I didn’t go back to America for the spring semester. For all those months we were just trying conservative treatment, from physios, chiros, doctors, and none of it worked, so the last resort was surgery.

“A lot of people were telling me not to get it done, but I was so exhausted from being in pain. I just wanted it done.”

However, the surgery is just the first part of the process. What follows is an arduous rehab process, one that Calabria is still working through as the South Australian looks to ready herself for her final season of college soccer.

“The last few weeks, I’ve been getting back into it, going to physio to do Pilates, doing core stuff, been swimming, and working on the strength again in my core and my back.

“The coach knows what I’ve been going through and that, I’ve just been starting to run in the last week. I feel like, right now, I’m just focusing on one day at a time and just being better than I was the day before. I think once the season starts I’ll be ready.”

However, the injury and recovery process has also altered Calabria’s perspective slightly, with the one-time dominator of junior college defences forced to shift her expectations in what will be her only full season of Division I play after being denied a redshirt following her shortened 2018 campaign.

“In JUCO, I just wanted to go out there, my goal in JUCO was to go out and be top goalscorer, get the most assists, be the best player in the conference. But now, with an injury happening, it’s just…I don’t know.

“I know what I’m capable of, I have confidence in my abilities, but it’s about getting back to full fitness, then I can do what I know I can.”

However, a change in perspective on a personal front hasn’t changed Calabria’s thoughts on what Nicholls State can do this season as a team. Despite finishing bottom of the Southland Conference in 2018 with just a single win to their name, the senior is taking heart from one conference foe’s rapid rise up the table just two seasons ago. With a new coach, former assistant Danny Free, taking the reins, Calabria sees a bright future for the team that now features three Australians as fellow junior college transfer Shauni Reid joins Calabria and Helmers in Thibodaux.

“I think with a new head coach, that’s a positive change, a thing that’s definitely needed. Obviously, I want to make playoffs, and win the conference. I know we can do it, I don’t see why we can’t.

“Lamar, in 2016 they were bottom of the table and the next season they won the conference, so it is possible. We just have to be on the same page and believe, really.”

However, with this also being Calabria’s last season in college after being denied a redshirt in 2018, the senior has one eye towards the future. Whilst she may be currently in the midst of completing a degree in business management, Calabria is set on ensuring her future has more of a footballing flavour. A massive Juventus fan, it comes as little surprise as to her preferred destination following college.

“I do want to go to Europe and play professionally over there, but I know in order to do that I need to have a good season and perform. Especially, with Italy in the World Cup, and all their players coming from the Serie A, I think it would be good to play there.

“I haven’t really thought about [what I want to do with my degree]. I’ve just been concentrating on soccer, really. That’s what I care about at the moment.”

2019 Forward Previews

A seven-player group of forwards light on goalscoring returns but full of potential lines up in 2019, with Nicholls State’s senior trio of Tessa Calabria, Kristy Helmers, and Shauni Reid looking to improve the Colonels’ attack. Meanwhile, Demi Koulizakis will look to make an impact in her senior year after winning Texas Tech’s Most Improved Player in 2018.

Indianna Asimus (Sophomore, Wyoming, Newcastle)

A starter in 9 of her 20 appearances in her freshman year, Asimus comes into the 2019 season looking to help fill the void left by fellow Australians, Caitlin Pickett, Annika Clayton and Jessie Gentle in the Wyoming attack. Wyoming may have finished as regular season champions in the Mountain West Conference in 2018, but several players from that team have now graduated and departed the program. With multiple forwards returning, how many additional starts Asimus picks up this year remains to be seen, but there will certainly be extra minutes available for the sophomore from Newcastle. Asimus also spent her offseason playing in the Northern NSW Premier League for Merewether United, which should provide her with a leg-up in terms of match fitness upon her return to Laramie for the upcoming season.

Sophie Bui (Freshman, Alabama State, Canberra)

Shelbi Vienna-Hallam may have left Alabama State after the 2017 season after stints as both a player and coach, but the Australian presence in Montgomery has returned with the signing of Tuggeranong United forward Sophie Bui. A club teammate of Nicholls State senior Kristy Helmers, Bui has made 29 NPL Capital Football appearances over the past two seasons, having banged in goals for fun at the youth level. Bui secured the Golden Boot at both Under 16 and Under 17 level in the Capital Football Women’s Premier League, and whilst goals haven’t been quite as forthcoming at the senior level, Bui clearly has pedigree and the Alabama State faithful will be hoping the freshman can bolster an attack that has lost a little bit of its bite since the graduation of a number of star forwards over the last couple of seasons, with 2018’s production of 24 goals paling in comparison to the previous year’s output of 39.

Tessa Calabria (Senior, Nicholls State, Adelaide)

A goalscoring assassin at the junior college level, injury prevented Calabria from making any real impact in her first season at Nicholls State, but the South Australian comes into her senior season with scoring pedigree in a team that is in desperate need of goals. The Colonels finished just 3-15 last season, posting a scoring average of less than a goal per game for the second consecutive season. Although Calabria tallied just a single goal in six injury-plagued appearances, the senior averaged a goal per game in her final season of junior college soccer whilst also tallying nine assists, and it may turn out that her ability to tee up teammates proves as valuable as her goalscoring prowess as the Colonels look to atone for a fairly dismal 2018.

Sarah Clark (Senior, Chicago State, Innisfail)

Having made eight appearances, including four starts, in her first Division I season in 2018, junior college transfer Clark will be hoping to put together a season with fewer interruptions in her final year of college soccer. A scorer of 8 goals in her only full season in junior college, Clark certainly has proven her ability to put the ball in the back of the net, and with Chicago State losing very few seniors from last year’s team, a bolstered roster should hopefully be able to provide Clark with the service she requires. However, a bolstered roster also means more competition for places, so the senior will have to be at the top of her game in pre-season to maintain a starting spot.

Kristy Helmers (Senior, Nicholls State, Canberra)

A tough season for Nicholls State on the whole saw Helmers tally just two goals in 2018, but the senior has proven in the past that she can bang in the goals and, with Tessa Calabria’s assistance, will be hoping to improve the Colonels’ output. Helmers registered six goals and five assists in her freshman year in 2016 whilst playing alongside fellow Aussie, Jess Coates, but goals have hardly been as forthcoming since that time as Nicholls State have struggled across the pitch. Whilst additional goals won’t be the antidote to the defensive problems that have also plagued the Colonels in recent times, Helmers is a proven goalscorer and will no doubt want to return to the form she has shown in previous years in her final season in Thibodaux.

Demi Koulizakis (Senior, Texas Tech, Sydney)

An option off the bench for most of her college career until last season, Koulizakis stepped up for Texas Tech in 2018 and now has the chance to put together a senior season that can set her up for a professional career, with a starting berth for the Red Raiders beckoning. Koulizakis enjoyed a strong spring campaign before returning to Sydney to spend her offseason playing NPLNSW for Sydney Olympic, a move that the senior believes will assist her in hitting the ground running for her final college season as she maintains her match fitness. How that preparation translates come August remains to be seen, but Koulizakis has certainly put herself in position to enjoy an outstanding senior year.

Shauni Reid (Senior, Nicholls State, Perth)

A crucial member of the Tyler Junior College side that reached the NJCAA Championship in 2016 and won the title in 2017, Reid tallied 5 goals and 4 assists in their championship-winning campaign, paving the way for the Western Australian to secure a spot on a Division I roster. Reid will be one of three Australian forwards on the Nicholls State roster this season alongside Kristy Helmers and Tessa Calabria, with the trio tasked with improving the Colonels’ lacklustre offence of recent seasons. Fortunately, Reid, like Calabria and Helmers, is adept at both teeing up teammates and scoring goals herself, providing new head coach Danny Free with plenty of options up front.

2019 Midfielder Previews

A stacked midfield group featuring junior national representatives Aimee Medwin and Eliza Ammendolia, national champion Beattie Goad, and senior Matilda Rachel Lowe is set to provide plenty of excitement in 2019, with a number of players in position to make a significant impact on their teams. The continued improvement of Alyssa Van Heurck is one storyline to keep an eye on, with the sophomore having made the move from defence into a more attacking role in 2018.

(Featured Image Credit: Stanford Athletics)

Eliza Ammendolia (Freshman, Hawaii, Griffith)

With 15 W-League appearances for Western Sydney Wanderers under her belt, Ammendolia comes into her first college season as one of the more credentialed players among all Aussies in NCAA Division I. The pint-sized midfielder has represented the Young Matildas at a major tournament and has already built a solid resume at both NPL and W-League level, and will almost certainly come in and bolster a Hawaii side that will need to replace 2018 Big West Conference Player of the Year and current Utah Royals squad member Raisa Strom-Okimoto if they are to maintain their current level and make a charge at the post-season in 2019. In particular, the Rainbow Wahine will need to replace Strom-Okimoto’s goal output, but with 6 goals in her most recent NPL season, Ammendolia certainly has the scoring prowess to help atone for that loss.

Gaby Bentley (Senior, Old Dominion, Adelaide)

A regular in the Old Dominion rotation for the past two seasons, starts have been rare for Bentley but appearances have been forthcoming. But with a number of midfielders having graduated after last season, there are now additional minutes to battle for in the lead-up to the 2019 season. Bentley has certainly shown herself to be worthy of a starting berth with her appearances off the bench in 2018, tallying two goals from midfield as the Monarchs finished with an 8-7-4 record to secure a second consecutive winning season. Now, in her final season, the South Australian will be hoping to play a far more integral role as Old Dominion look to make a run at a conference championship after setting a platform with two solid seasons.

D’arne Boato (Freshman, East Tennessee State, Melbourne)

Isabel Hodgson’s scintillating college career may be over, but the Australian presence at East Tennessee State remains with the addition of freshman D’arne Boato. A teammate of Mississippi freshman Aimee Medwin at South Melbourne, Boato has been a member of three squads that have reached NPL grand finals at both senior and age group level across the last two seasons, serving as a regular member of the club’s Under 18 and Under 19 squads as well as making appearances for the first team during a highly successful period for the club. Having made the move to Johnson City in January, Boato has enjoyed a long settling-in period with her new side, something that will help to stand her in good stead in her first season in college.

Caitlin Cantrill (Senior, LSU, Canberra)

One of the senior members of the LSU roster, Cantrill will be hoping to see more playing time in 2019 after not getting on the pitch during LSU’s outstanding 2018 season which culminated in an SEC Championship and NCAA Tournament second round berth before the Tigers fell to USC. How much playing time the Canberra product sees this season will rest upon the impression she makes upon interim head coach Debbie Hensley, who replaces Brian Lee after his surprise move to Rice in the off-season. Hensley was also on LSU’s staff in Cantrill’s freshman year in 2016, a season in which the midfielder made 12 appearances and four starts, by far her most impressive season to this point. As one of just three seniors on the roster, Cantrill may not have the biggest impact on the pitch in her final season, but will certainly provide an outstanding mentor for the younger players on the roster, as evidenced by her words of advice to the graduating class of her high school alma mater, Radford College, in 2018.

Kiri Dale (Senior, Hawaii, Mullumbimby)

Able to slot in at just about any position on the pitch with the exception of goalkeeper, Kiri Dale serves as an integral member of the Hawaii lineup, having made 12 starts in her 16 appearances in 2018. Be it delivering balls in from out wide or controlling the centre of midfield, Dale’s presence helped Hawaii come within a final day result of reaching the Big West conference tournament for the first time before falling agonisingly short last season, and with the Rainbow Wahine losing just two players to graduation, Dale and the remainder of the team are well-positioned to go one step further and give themselves a shot at a conference title and an NCAA berth.

Laura Farrelly (Sophomore, Marshall, Central Coast)

Having not featured for Marshall in her freshman season, Farrelly comes into this season looking to play her first minutes for the Thundering Herd whilst attempting to establish herself in the midfield of a team looking to vastly improve on last season’s 5-9-2 record, their third consecutive losing season since compiling a 15-5-3 record in 2015. Should Farrelly take to the pitch this season, the sophomore is set to play an attacking midfield role for a team that was decent in the front third last season, but by no means electric, finishing almost dead in the middle of the national rankings for goals per game. Whilst the Marshall defence certainly needs more improvement than the attack, if Farrelly can help to provide a couple of unexpected goals throughout the season, they could yet turn a couple of losses into draws and draws into wins, compiling a solid season in the process.

Beattie Goad (Senior, Stanford, Melbourne)

Already a national champion in 2017 with Stanford, Goad will no doubt be looking to round out her career with a second College Cup title as the Cardinal enter a new era following the graduation of a raft of players that included Alana Cook, Tierna Davidson, Tegan McGrady, and Jordan DiBiasi after the 2018 season, all of whom now play in NWSL or the French top flight. Having come off the bench in over 60% of her appearances for Stanford, the opportunity to become a regular starter in her senior season now presents itself for Goad, who will be one of a number of experienced players expected to take on a larger role with the aim of keeping Stanford among the top teams in the nation. What position Goad will actually fill in 2019 remains to be seen though, with the two-time W-League champion being utilised as a fullback, winger, and central midfielder during her time on the Farm, and it may come to pass that that versatility is the ace up her sleeve in the hunt for more playing time in her final season.

Rachel Lowe (Freshman, UCLA, Sydney)

UCLA teammate Teagan Micah may have been to the 2019 World Cup with the Matildas, but Lowe already has a senior cap with the national team after her call-up for the 2018 Algarve Cup, and is set to become the first player to receive a Matildas cap before making their college debut since Washington State legend and current Hawaii assistant coach Rachael Doyle. An integral member of the Western Sydney Wanderers W-League side before making the move to Westwood, Lowe will certainly have a battle on her hands to slot into the UCLA lineup with the same regularity, particularly as the Bruins lost just two players to graduation after the 2018 season. However, Lowe has clearly demonstrated enough class for Bruins coach Amanda Cromwell to recruit her from the other side of the Pacific, so the opportunities will no doubt be there for the young midfielder.

Aimee Medwin (Freshman, Mississippi, Hobart)

The first Tasmanian to play NCAA Division I women’s soccer since Alabama State legend Shelbi-Vienna Hallam, Junior Matildas representative Medwin comes to Mississippi with a solid pedigree, with first team experience at South Melbourne and a W-League debut with Melbourne City in 2018 already under her belt before making the move to Oxford. The wide attacking player’s arrival at Mississippi coincides with an interesting time for the program, who find themselves at a crossroads after a solid 2018 campaign. The Rebels finished fourth in the regular season SEC standings and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but will have to replace the goalscoring output of NWSL draftee CeCe Kizer, who tallied 13 goals last season. However, Mississippi did feature one of the leakier defences in the SEC last season, and it may yet come to pass that Medwin is deployed in the back line, having been utilised as a fullback during her time in national colours.

Eden Taylor-Wineera (Freshman, North Dakota State, Sydney)

Taylor-Wineera looked set to form half of an Australian duo at North Dakota State, but with Lauren Featherstone returning home permanently, the freshman will now be the only Aussie on the Bison roster in her first season. Mostly a reserves player for Macarthur Rams, Taylor-Wineera did make five appearances for the first-grade side that won the NPLNSW Grand Final in 2018 before making the move to Fargo. With two of the team’s starting midfielders, including an All-Summit League First Team selection, graduating after the 2018 campaign, Taylor-Wineera joins the Bison at a time where the roster features a number of midfielders with no more than a season of college experience all fighting for minutes. Whether this translates into immediate playing time for the freshman remains to be seen, but there are certainly opportunities to shoot for from day one for the Sydneysider.

Alyssa Van Heurck (Sophomore, La Salle, Perth)

A defender until she arrived at La Salle, Van Heurck slotted into a spot on the wing for the Explorers and immediately found her niche, earning six starts in her 17 appearances in her first season in Philadelphia. Whilst the Explorers may not have enjoyed the same success as they had in 2017, the emergence of Van Heurck as a versatile option on either flank was one of the positives of the 2018 season, with the then-freshman also picking up her first goal in just the second game of her college career, a 5-0 win over UMBC. Now, with a number of attacking starters having graduated after the 2018 season, Van Heurck has the opportunity to assert her position in the La Salle attack, and will look to establish herself as a regular starter as the Explorers look to return to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.

2019 Defender Previews

Eight Australian defenders will take to the pitch this season, with a number of intriguing storylines emerging. The return of Siena Senatore after two years away is certainly one to follow, whilst freshman duo Abi Jordan and Teal Kilbride could form a centre-back pairing at UMBC from day one.

(Featured Image Credit: Michael Rincon)

Victoria Franklin (Freshman, SMU, Brisbane)

Franklin may be yet to lace up the boots for a competitive college soccer fixture, but the freshman has already tasted collegiate competition on the water as part of Southern Methodist’s rowing team which finished second in the AAC championships earlier this year. By far the tallest defender on the Mustangs roster, Franklin’s height will bring an aerial presence to an SMU team that had little trouble banging in the goals, averaging two per game, but had the tendency to ship multiple goals, finishing the season with five clean sheets but giving up more than one goal six times in 2018. That time with the rowing team will also have helped Franklin learn how to juggle study and athletics, giving the Queenslander a leg-up over most freshmen, who will come into their first season with little to no time to adjust to the machinations of the life of a student-athlete.

Sandra Hill (Junior, Grand Canyon, Canberra)

A regular at fullback for Grand Canyon, Hill has compiled not only 29 appearances for Grand Canyon over the last two seasons, but also a handful of outings with the Cambodian national team, including one against the Young Matildas in the 2018 AFF Women’s Championship. Adept at getting forward from her wide position in defence, Hill was rewarded with the first goal of her college career in Grand Canyon’s WAC Tournament loss to Utah Valley last season, rattling home a sublime strike from just outside the area. The Antelopes are yet to secure a winning season since their move to NCAA Division I in 2013, and Hill is now one of the senior players on a team looking to fill the gaps left by four starters who graduated after the 2018 season. The fullback will no doubt be looked to as one of the leaders, particularly in the defensive line after the loss of a starting defender and goalkeeper following last year’s campaign.

Abi Jordan (Freshman, UMBC, Wollongong)

If a teenager can also be a veteran, then that is a perfect description for Jordan, who has already racked up 50 NPLNSW appearances for Illawarra Stingrays’ first team prior to her move to UMBC. A championship winner at both NPLNSW and Futsal Premier League 2 level, Jordan has also represented both state and country at schoolgirls level, and heads to Baltimore with the kind of pedigree that could see her slot straight into the starting lineup from day one. Having finished 2-15 last season, the Retrievers do need to improve in all areas, but shoring up the defence looks to be the main priority at this point, and Jordan appears well-placed to be a major part of that rebuild as Australian head coach Vanessa Mann dips into her homeland’s stocks to bolster her roster.

Teal Kilbride (Freshman, UMBC, Central Coast)

The second of two Australians to sign for countrywoman Vanessa Mann at UMBC, Kilbride will be hoping to step in and form a new centre back pairing with fellow freshman Abi Jordan as the Retrievers look to shore up a defence that leaked the best part of three goals per game in 2018. Already a teammate of Jordan’s with the Australian Schoolgirls team that toured the United States in 2018, Kilbride is a real chance of playing alongside her fellow countrywoman from the outset, particularly given the lack of experienced defenders on the Retrievers’ roster and the team’s leakiness at the back in 2018. The UMBC attack will need to vastly improve last season’s output of 0.88 goals per game if the team is to make a significant improvement on last season’s record of 2-15, but building out from the back with an improved defence can only serve to help the team going forward, both figuratively and literally.

Ashleigh Lefevre (Sophomore, Illinois, Melbourne)

The most credentialed member of last year’s freshman class, Lefevre came in with Young Matildas experience under her belt, and managed to compile 15 appearances off the bench for Illinois last season, most of which came as cameos of 10-20 minutes. The Illinois defence this year returns three seniors but no juniors, meaning that Lefevre will be among the most experienced players in the Illini backline in 2020. This makes 2019 a year for Lefevre to turn those brief cameos into extended stints or even starts, and consolidate her position in the rotation. With nine defenders in the squad, minutes won’t just be handed to the sophomore, but given that Lefevre made 15 appearances in 2018, the Illinois coaching staff do appear to see the fullback as a member of the rotation going forward.

Sam Roff (Senior, Fairleigh Dickinson, Canberra)

A permanent fixture in the All-Northeast Conference selections during her time at Fairleigh Dickinson, Sam Roff has but one thing to achieve in her final season with the Knights: a conference championship and the NCAA Tournament berth that comes with it. Whilst Roff may not be the kind of defender that gets forward to put up assist and scoring numbers, the fact that Fairleigh Dickinson are yet to concede more than nine goals in their eight conference games in a season during her time with the team speaks volumes about the senior’s defensive ability, and the Knights will once again be leaning on their captain to lead the defence. Whether that translates into silverware remains to be seen, but in Roff the Knights have one player that they know will bring it each and every night.

Siena Senatore (Senior, Southeast Missouri State, Canberra)

Senatore played 29 games across two seasons for Southeast Missouri State in 2015 and 2016, but since that time, the Redhawks defence has been deprived of their rock at the back from Canberra. Whilst the Southeast Missouri State side has featured a solid defence throughout the last few years, there is no doubting that Senatore’s presence made them even better, with the major question now surrounding whether the redshirt senior can return to the form that she showed prior to her injury problems. If she can, and the Redhawks’ attack can find a few more goals after a down year in 2018, it could spell a remarkable turnaround for a team that had won at least eight games in each of the last five seasons before finishing 4-8-5 in 2018.

Kate Swartwout (Senior, Western Carolina, Gold Coast)

A rock at the back when employed in defence for Western Carolina, Swartwout is able to fill a number of positions and has done so with aplomb in her three seasons in Cullowhee. Born in Australia but raised just a two-hour drive from Western Carolina’s campus, Swartwout is in the unique position of being the only Australian currently in Division I to have also played her junior football in the US. Although the Catamounts are yet to win more than nine games in a season in Swartwout’s time with the team, the senior has been part of a defence that has improved over the last couple of seasons, and now features a number of upperclassmen that can set the platform for a more successful 2019 campaign. Whether Swartwout slots into the defence or higher up the pitch remains to be seen, but with a skillset that belies her imposing physical presence, the senior is set to have another impactful year in her final college season.

2019 Goalkeeper Previews

Once the domain of Wyoming legend Georgia Rowntree, the Australian goalkeeping stocks in NCAA Division I are now four deep as freshman Teresa Morrissey joins Claudia Jenkins, Teagan Micah, and Grace Watson Carr in the US, with all four either the incumbent starter or a reasonable chance of securing the berth.

(Featured Image Credit: Rand Bleimeister/UCLA)

Claudia Jenkins (Junior, La Salle, Adelaide)

Having served her apprenticeship as a freshman, Jenkins stepped into the starting role between the sticks in 2018 and immediately became one of the most crucial members of the La Salle squad. Jenkins finished the 2018 season with an impressive save percentage of 0.788 and a goals against average of 1.248, a number that was skewed significantly by a number of penalties and own goals that also contributed to La Salle finishing with a middling 8-8-1 record after finishing 17-4-2 in 2017 and reaching the NCAA Tournament. However, with Jenkins back between the sticks for 2019, the Explorers can remain certain that there will always be at least one player on the pitch that they can rely on, with the South Australian remaining assured in goal throughout the 2018 season.

Teagan Micah (Senior, UCLA, Brisbane)

Not many college players can say they’re coming off a World Cup campaign, but Micah is one of two players on the UCLA roster to have travelled to France in June, alongside Canadian midfield sensation Jessie Fleming. Whilst Micah may have not made an appearance as the third goalkeeper in the Matildas World Cup squad, the experience will nonetheless done the UCLA custodian the world of good and helped to prepare her for leading the Bruins in their quest to return to the College Cup after reaching the national championship game in 2017. Micah has finished in the top 50 in the nation for clean sheets in all three of her college seasons to date, and has also improved her goals against average from 0.96 in her freshman year to 0.74 in her junior year. Whilst the senior will no doubt be aided by a rock-solid UCLA defence, Micah’s own ability helps to make the Bruins an incredibly tough proposition for any opposing forward line.

Teresa Morrissey (Freshman, Rhode Island, Melbourne) 

A member of the Young Matildas’ squad in 2018, Rhode Island have picked up a player with not only potential but the ability to step in immediately if need be in Morrissey. The Victorian has suffered injury troubles in the past, but clearly has class between the sticks and will surely compete for the starting spot at Rhode Island, even if her only competition for the position, junior Julia Freeman, started in five games last season. As well as her experience with the Young Matildas, Morrissey has also made over 40 appearances for the Senior NTC side in NPL Victoria, and despite playing in a young side that often found themselves overmatched against more experienced opposition, demonstrated her class on a regular basis to earn national honours.

Grace Watson-Carr (Freshman, Hofstra, Sydney)

Watson-Carr may not have featured in 2018 as part of a roster that featured five goalkeepers and included two seniors, but the starting berth will now go to one of three players, none of whom have seen any playing time at the college level. An occasional member of a Sydney Olympic side that reached two NPL 2 NSW grand finals in 2017 and 2018, picking up a championship in the latter, Watson-Carr does possess high-level experience, and also helped Sydney Olympic to a reserve grade title in 2018 alongside their first grade success. Being an underclassman goalkeeper on a roster that includes a redshirt junior in the same position rarely bodes well for a player’s minutes, but Watson-Carr will come into this season on level pegging with her rivals for the starting berth as all three goalkeepers on the roster look to make their first appearance in 2019.

Hawaii reels in another Aussie with signing of Eliza Ammendolia

The Australian presence at Hawaii continues to grow, and the Rainbow Wahine have pulled off a massive coup with the signing of former Western Sydney Wanderers W-League and Young Matildas midfielder Eliza Ammendolia. The newest member of the Hawaii roster joins fellow midfielder Kiri Dale and assistant coach Rachael Doyle, and comes in with a glowing resume.

Ammendolia compiled 15 appearances in the W-League from 2015-17, including 9 starts for Western Sydney Wanderers, making the midfielder the third-most experienced W-League player currently in college behind Beattie Goad’s 35 appearances for Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City and Rachel Lowe’s 27 appearances for Western Sydney Wanderers. Ammendolia also represented the Young Matildas at the 2016 AFF Women’s Championship alongside former Oregon State defender Olivia Ellis and Illinois defender Ashleigh Lefevre, banging home a hat-trick in the team’s 20-0 demolition of East Timor on their way to a fourth-place finish.

Ammendolia has also made 58 appearances in NPLNSW over the last four years, firstly for Macarthur Rams, with whom the Griffith-born midfielder reached the 2015 Grand Final. Ammendolia then made the move to the Football NSW Institute for 2016 before switching to Blacktown Spartans for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, scoring six goals in 18 appearances in her most recent campaign. Interestingly, Ammendolia was also a member of the same Australian Schoolgirls side as recent UMBC signings Abi Jordan and Teal Kilbride that toured the US in 2018.

With Hawaii finishing a final-day result away from reaching the Big West Conference tournament in 2018, the addition of a player of Ammendolia’s class could certainly provide the spark that the Rainbow Wahine need to get over the hump in 2019 and reach the post-season for the first time since making the switch from the Mountain West in 2012.

Reloading: Six Aussie attackers set for breakout seasons

Australians in NCAA Division I women’s soccer scored 22 goals and tallied 26 assists in 2018. However, 11 of those goals and 16 of those assists came via players who will not be returning to college in 2019, either due to graduation or other reasons. Despite a comparative lack of attacking output among the returning players, there are a number of players who are yet to regularly add their names to the scoresheet that could yet have breakout seasons and provide memorable moments this year. College Matildas takes a look at four players and one duo that could all make significant impacts for their teams in 2019.

(Featured Image Credit: Bill Dally/ISIPhotos.com)

Demi Koulizakis (Texas Tech)

Koulizakis came on in leaps and bounds in her junior season, and with a number of spots opening up in the Texas Tech front line, the senior from Sydney now has her best opportunity yet to cement a spot in the starting lineup. Already named Texas Tech’s Most Improved Player in 2018 by her teammates, the versatile attacking player now has the chance to show that last season wasn’t simply a one-off, with three spots in the midfield and front line up for grabs.

Koulizakis’ outstanding spring form has her in the box seat to nail down a starting berth after finishing the campaign with four goals and an assist, including a hat-trick against Lubbock Christian. Furthermore, the senior’s cause will hardly have been harmed by spending her offseason playing in the NPLNSW competition for a Sydney Olympic side featuring the likes of Matildas midfielder Teresa Polias as well as a number of players with W-League experience.

Beattie Goad (Stanford)

Three seasons at Stanford playing a supporting role behind some of the most talented players to pull on a Cardinal jersey means Goad has served an unusually long apprenticeship, but the opportunity has now presented itself for the Victorian to serve as an integral part of the starting lineup. Goad has started in 24 of her 64 appearances for Stanford, and last season tallied 2 goals and 3 assists, both career highs for a single season as the Cardinal returned to the College Cup as defending champions before falling to eventual champions Florida State in the semi-finals.

What position the senior fills remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that Goad can become a mainstay of the Stanford starting eleven in her final season, and if she does indeed fill an attacking role, the Victorian will have plenty of opportunities to both tee up teammates and score goals herself.

Tessa Calabria (Nicholls State)

Injury restricted the junior college transfer to just 6 appearances in 2018, but Calabria comes into her final season of collegiate soccer looking to make up for lost time in a Nicholls State side that could really use her goalscoring prowess. Having scored 25 goals and contributed 16 assists during two years at Iowa Lakes Community College, Calabria knows not only how to find the back of the net, but tee up her teammates, which in turn could help her develop a key partnership with fellow Australian Kristy Helmers, who will be itching to return to the goalscoring form that saw the senior tally 6 goals in her freshman season.

With Western Australian senior Shauni Reid also expected to spend time up front, Calabria’s return could be the catalyst for the Australian trio to return Nicholls State to a similar level that the program found itself at in the days of Australian midfielder Jess Coates, who helped the Colonels to their last winning seasons in 2013 and 2014.

Alyssa Van Heurck (La Salle)

A defender by trade, Van Heurck made the move into a wide attacking role in her first season at La Salle and took to the change like a duck to water. Although the majority of her appearances were cameos of 15-25 minutes, Van Heurck eventually six starts in her freshman season, tallying a single goal and playing in excess of 40 minutes in the final two games of the campaign.

Whilst a couple of more experienced players are returning this season after missing 2018 due to injury, there remain a number of positions open in the La Salle starting eleven, and Van Heurck is certainly in the running for a more prominent berth in the rotation. Even if the Western Australian isn’t able to nail down a starting berth, 2019 could serve as an excellent setup year as the Explorers will again need to replace a number of seniors in 2020.

Caitlin Pickett & Indianna Asimus (Wyoming) 

Pickett and Asimus both featured regularly for Wyoming in their freshman seasons in 2018, but with the loss of a couple of key pieces of the Cowgirls’ attack, the Australian duo will become even more crucial as the team from Laramie looks to turn last year’s Mountain West Conference regular season title into a conference championship and secure an NCAA Tournament berth. Both of Pickett’s goals in 2018 came in sudden death overtime, and whilst those clutch plays are always welcomed, the sophomore will be counted on to improve upon that number to keep the Cowgirls flying high in 2019.

Meanwhile, Asimus is yet to tally a goal or an assist, but having made nine starts last season and averaged 47 minutes per appearance, the Wyoming coaching staff obviously have faith in the sophomore to emerge as an offensive weapon going forward. Whether that translates into tangible returns remains to be seen, but if Asimus and Pickett both fire this season, Mountain West Conference defences are in a world of trouble.