Welcome to the 2015 season of College Matildas! This season will see 24 players represent themselves and Australia in the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer ranks, an increase of 6 players on 2014. This increase comes from the 9 freshmen joining teams, replacing the 3 seniors who graduated after the 2014 season. Of those 9 freshmen, two come from the Adelaide United W-League side: Dylan Holmes (Colgate) and Isabel Hodgson (East Tennessee State), whilst Washington State recruit Tia Gavin has a season’s W-League experience under her belt with Western Sydney Wanderers.
Once again, Wyoming and Southeast Missouri State have added to their Australian contingents, with Wyoming signing Jessie Gentle and Annika Clayton, both from New South Wales, whilst the Redhawks have signed Canberra’s Siena Senatore.
After providing three freshmen last year, Palm Beach have yet another player heading to college, with Kiri Dale joining Iona this season, whilst another Queensland-based player, Claire Urquhart, has been at Albany since early in the year.
Our final freshman also has a connection to other College Matildas, with new Drexel recruit Emma Heckenberg being a former club teammate of Hofstra sophomore Emily Hulbert, where the two will face off in conference play in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Whilst on the subject of Emily Hulbert, the young Victorian will be looking to help Hofstra to a national tournament berth in her sophomore year after the side barely missed out last season.
Most of this season’s sophomores come in groups, with Georgia Rowntree, Alisha Bass, and Candace Sciberras all continuing on with Wyoming, whilst Nyomi Devine and Harriet Withers will look to continue to establish themselves as starters for Murray State.
Our final sophomore for this season is also part of a squad that features multiple Australians, and that is Maddy Cornell of Southeast Missouri State, who will hope to feature in more than the 9 games that she saw time in last season.
The junior class is a little smaller, with just two players: Laura Johns of Massachusetts, who has progressed significantly since her freshman year, and Alexandra Huynh of Colorado, whose stellar defence helped the Buffaloes to go within an overtime loss to UNC of reaching the Sweet 16 in last season’s NCAA Tournament.
Also at Colorado is senior Kahlia Hogg, who transferred from Florida State last season and slotted straight into the Colorado side, proving herself to be one of the hardest workers in the side, as well as one of the most skilled players
Returning to Alabama State this season is reigning College Matildas Player Of The Year, Shelbi Vienna-Hallam, where she will be looking to bang home the goals with even more regularity than last year, whilst former Alabama State player Anastasia McCleary will return to Creighton for her senior year under a new coach with the hope that she will see more playing time than in her junior year.
Alongside two other Aussies is senior and team leader at Southeast Missouri State, Jenna Collingridge. Jenna has played in most games every season of her college career, but started every game in which she played last season and has firmly established herself as a vital cog of the team.
Our final senior is Nicholls State captain, Jess Coates. A player who has shown herself to be a leader throughout her time with the Colonels, Jess has popped up with goals and assists with regularity in a team that has improved along with her over the last 3 seasons.
Unfortunately, there are two players we won’t be seeing this season – Ellie Papalexiou of Pacific will miss this season through injury, whilst Bridget Sankey has left Southeast Missouri State.
The season is just around the corner, with exhibition games starting in the next couple of weeks before the competitive action starts in mid-August. Good luck to all the Aussies this season!