With eight games this week across six schools, things are starting to kick into gear. This week, we have SIX players making their Division I college debuts, whilst Anastasia McCleary makes her debut for Creighton after her transfer from Alabama State.
Creighton (Anastasia McCleary)
This week: at Arkansas – 10am, Friday August 15; at Missouri State – 10am, Sunday August 17
Anastasia McCleary and Creighton kick off their season this week with two exhibition games, firstly against Arkansas, and then on Sunday against Missouri State. The match against Arkansas will be a solid test for the Bluejays, as Arkansas made the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA Tournament. It will also be a historic game, as it will be the first game to be shown on the new SEC Network television channel.
Missouri State will also provide a solid test for Creighton, in a matchup of ex-conference rivals, with both sides playing in the Missouri Valley Conference until Creighton’s move to the Big East this season. Last year, Missouri State were the better of the two sides, managing to qualify for the conference tournament, which Creighton were unable to do. As always with exhibition games, though, these games rarely see the full-strength first team play a majority of minutes for either side.
Kennesaw State (Nicole Calder)
This week: v Clayton State – 9am, Saturday August 16; v Middle Tennessee State – 7am, Monday August 18
Nicole Calder and Kennesaw State finish off their exhibition schedule with two games this week: firstly against Division II Clayton State, whom the Owls defeated 3-0 last year, and finally against Middle Tennessee State, once the college home of former Adelaide United defender Nenita Burgess. At this point in the season last year, Nicole Calder was out injured, and missed several games in this early part of the season. At full fitness this year, Nicole will hopefully be able to use these remaining exhibition matches as a launchpad for the rest of the season, something she was unable to do last year.
The match against Clayton State should end in a repeat of last year’s result, but the game against Middle Tennessee State should be a tight contest, although if Kennesaw State can play as well as their talents will allow, there is no reason for them not to get a win.
Alabama State (Shelbi Vienna-Hallam)
This week: v Faulkner – 7am, Sunday August 17
Same school, different Aussie. Where this was the place to write about Anastasia McCleary last year, now it’s time to write about Shelbi Vienna-Hallam, who will play her first game for a Division I team this weekend, when Alabama State take on NAIA side Faulkner University. This appears on paper to be an easing-in exercise for Alabama State, against a side that only finished in the mid-pack of its NAIA conference last year. This should, in theory, mean most players will get on the field for the Hornets, and we’ll be likely to see Shelbi play no matter the circumstances.
Wyoming (Alisha Bass, Georgia Rowntree, Candace Sciberras)
This week: at Colorado School of Mines – 11am, Sunday August 17
Wyoming and its three Aussies will go into the college season off the back of just one exhibition game, which will be played this weekend against Division II Colorado School Of Mines. Having already played the same opponent during the spring exhibition games, the Cowgirls have a fair idea of the opposition they’re facing. Alisha Bass is almost a certainty to start after some great play during the spring exhibitions and again in this week’s intra-squad scrimmage, where she picked up a goal, whilst Candace Sciberras and Georgia Rowntree should also see playing time as the squad is rotated during this game.
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
This week: at Western Kentucky – 4am, Monday August 18
With two Aussie freshmen on the scene at Murray State, this exhibition against local rivals Western Kentucky will hopefully see a pair of debuts for Australians Nyomi Devine and Harriet Withers. Western Kentucky made the championship game of the Sun Belt conference tournament last year, meaning this game is expected to be more of an easing-in for the Hilltoppers, with Murray State expected to play the role of soft opposition. Don’t expect that to be the case for a team that is looking to build on a 6-10-1 season last year, though.
UMBC (Lilly Rydon)
This week: v George Mason – 9am, Monday August 18
Lilly Rydon and UMBC get their teeth into things early, with an exhibition against George Mason, who should prove to be a tricky foe for a side that is looking to go back-to-back as America East champions. With this being Lilly Rydon’s senior year, look to see the South Australian be heavily involved in a side that has to put together a solid non-conference schedule, which hopefully will improve their seeding if they are indeed to make the national tournament. Whilst this game won’t count towards that, it will definitely show the Retrievers just where they stand on a national level.