Welcome to the inaugural season of College Matildas! This year, 17 Australians will be playing in NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer, slightly down on the 20 that played in 2013. Of these 17, 5 players are completely new to the US college scene: Ellie Papalexiou (Pacific), Harriet Withers (Murray State), Nyomi Devine (Murray State), Maddy Cornell (Southeast Missouri State), and Georgia Rowntree (Wyoming). Of these five, Papalexiou, Withers, and Devine have all moved from the same club in Australia: Palm Beach Sharks on the Gold Coast. A further two, Alisha Bass and Candace Sciberras (both Wyoming) will play their first college games this season after redshirting in 2013, whilst Shelbi Vienna-Hallam (Alabama State) will move up from the junior college ranks after two seasons at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington.
At the other end of the scale, we have three seniors looking to go out with a bang in their final seasons in the college game. Lilly Rydon and her UMBC side will be looking to emulate last season’s heroic performance which saw them dominate the America East conference on their way to a national tournament berth. Down in Georgia, Nicole Calder and Kennesaw State will be looking to take that next step and earn a tournament berth of their own after last season’s semifinal appearance in the Atlantic Sun tournament.
Simone Arthur’s final season in college soccer will be her second at Southern University after spending her first two seasons in Division II and junior college, and whilst their have been some severe administrative issues surrounding Southern lately which have culminated in a postseason ban for all sports at the university, these should be cleared up in time for the women’s soccer team to play in the postseason and hopefully do better than last year’s SWAC tournament semifinal loss to Jackson State.
But it’s not all freshmen and seniors in the College Matildas ranks. At Colorado, former Western Sydney Wanderers defender Alexandra Huynh enjoyed a stellar freshman year in 2013, and this year will be joined by junior transfer Kahlia Hogg, who moves to Boulder in search of more playing time after two seasons at Florida State.
At Southeast Missouri State, freshman Maddy Cornell should be able to slot right in as there are two other Australians already at the Redhawks: Jenna Collingridge, a junior who has enjoyed a starting role for much of her time in the team, and sophomore Bridget Sankey, who will be looking to break into the starting side after playing in just three games in 2013.
Jess Coates has been a solid player in her first two seasons at Nicholls State, establishing herself as an integral part of the side’s attack. The Colonels won 9 of their first 11 games last season, but fell away slightly in conference play and a postseason loss to Sam Houston State ended their season after they looked as if they might be a contender for the Southland title earlier in the year.
Anastasia McCleary has been a dominant force in the SWAC for her first two seasons, so it’s not altogether surprising to see her transferring to a bigger school, in the form of Creighton University in Omaha. Creighton became a member of the “new” Big East last season, a major step-up from their former home, the Missouri Valley Conference. McCleary will be fresh off a season playing WPSL club soccer for Issaquah SC, an affiliate club of the NWSL’s Seattle Reign. This should see Anastasia come into the season fully fit and ready to make her mark on both Creighton and the conference.
We do unfortunately have one player leaving Division I early this year. Loren Mahoney has left Wyoming and will be spending her senior year at University of Mary in North Dakota. Good luck to Loren, and we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on her in her final season of college soccer.
The season starts on August 11, with Nicole Calder and Kennesaw State travelling to South Carolina to take on Wofford College to kick off a four month adventure that hopefully culminates in a stack of Aussies playing in the NCAA tournament!