So it begins. Preseason is in the books, exhibition games are done and dusted, and it’s time for the competitive matches to begin. We begin the season with two simultaneous matches at 6am on Saturday morning, with Iona (Kiri Dale) taking on LIU Brooklyn and Massachusetts (Laura Johns) taking on Syracuse, before the rest of the teams start their season across a jam-packed weekend.
(All times below are in Sydney time)
Iona (Kiri Dale)
This week: v LIU Brooklyn – 6am, Saturday August 22; v Vermont – 3am, Monday August 24
Iona continue their tradition of starting the season against LIU Brooklyn, having done so last year. The Gaels won that match 3-0, and will be looking to repeat that result as they look to get off to a good start in an attempt to improve on last seasons 6-10-3 record. Vermont had an even more disappointing season last year, picking up just 3 wins, and with Iona returning 12 players from last season’s team, this could prove to be a successful weekend for the Gaels. How much playing time Kiri will get this weekend remains a bit of a mystery, but no doubt she will be given a chance during this feeling out period in the early days of the season.
Massachusetts (Laura Johns)
This week: v Syracuse – 6am, Saturday August 22; at New Hampshire – 3am, Monday August 24
Another side looking to improve on last season’s performance will be Massachusetts, who will be striving for a much better record than last year’s 5-9-5. Things don’t start easily for them, though. They face Syracuse, who also only posted 5 wins last season, but play in the ACC where the competition is a lot tougher. New Hampshire may prove to be slightly less challenging than Syracuse for the Minutewomen, but that’s not to say they would be expected to just walk in and take the victory – this week could throw up any combination of results. On a personal front, Laura Johns has been a rotational player for these last two seasons and good performances here may see her make a starting role her own as she becomes one of the more senior members of the squad.
Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)
This week: v Villanova – 6:30am, Saturday August 22; v Buffalo – 3am, Monday August 24
Two big games to start the season for Emma Heckenberg and Drexel. First, they take on local rival Villanova in a battle of two teams that both have something to prove this year. In the second game of the weekend, the Dragons take on Buffalo, who finished 16-3-3 last season and won the MAC conference tournament before losing to Penn State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulls have lost a few players to graduation, but a result here for Drexel would be one to savour. As with a lot of freshmen, it’s a bit hard to gauge how much playing time Emma Heckenberg will see straight out of the blocks, but as with any player, she can only strive to impress in these early stages.
Nicholls State (Jess Coates)
This week: v Louisiana College – 7:00am, Saturday August 22; at Louisiana-Lafayette – 4am, Monday August 24
Captain Jess Coates leads Nicholls State against two in-state opponents this week. Up first, a match against Division III school Louisiana College, a game that offers very little to gain and a whole lot to lose considering the stature of their opponents. Fortunately, the second match against Louisiana-Lafayette provides a more staunch test. This match was also meant to be played last season, but was unfortunately cancelled due to weather conditions. Expect Jess Coates to be a large part of the Colonels’ attack as she leads from the front in her senior year.
Southern (Simone Arthur)
This week: v South Carolina State – 8am, Saturday August 22; at Texas-Rio Grande Valley – 4am, Monday August 24
Southern start the season off with a tournament hosted by Texas-Rio Grande Valley, where their first match will be against South Carolina State where the Jaguars will be looking to get things off to a better start in 2014, where they lost their first 8 games straight. South Carolina State aren’t exactly a powerhouse of the sport (3-14 in 2014) but they will be no pushover, and neither will home side Texas-Rio Grande Valley, who Southern lost to 2-0 last season in their season opener. However, that side didn’t have Simone Arthur, who redshirted last season. Simone was a starter in most games in 2013 and will bring a lot to this side.
Southeast Missouri State (Jenna Collingridge, Maddy Cornell, Siena Senatore)
This week: at Missouri S&T – 9am, Saturday August 22; v Northern Iowa – 3am, Monday August 24
Despite an 11-6 mark, last season ended disappointingly for Southeast Missouri State with a first round conference tournament loss, and the Redhawks will no doubt be champing at the bit for a chance to start setting things right. This week’s games will be challenging (especially against Northern Iowa), but both are eminently winnable games. Whilst it will be fascinating to watch Siena Senatore get her first competitive playing time, it will be most interesting to see how Maddy Cornell is used in her second season after being rotated in and out of the side last year – has she done enough in practice and exhibitions to warrant a more senior role in the side?
Colgate (Dylan Holmes)
This week: at Connecticut – 9am, Saturday August 22; v Boston College – 3am, Monday August 24
One of the more highly-touted freshmen this season, former W-League midfielder Dylan Holmes starts her season against a couple of power conference sides. Colgate have really beefed up their non-conference schedule this season after a weaker schedule last season saw them just miss out on an at-large national tournament berth despite a solid season that ended with a conference final loss. Whilst this will make it harder for them to approach a mark of 14 wins like last season, wins against sides like Connecticut and Boston College could mean that it may not take that many to reach the national tournament. Players like Dylan will definitely help, though. The question now is – will she be able to turn it on from the outset in some big early matches?
Colorado (Kahlia Hogg, Alex Huynh)
This week: at Colorado State – 9am, Saturday August 22; v Colorado College – 7:30am, Monday August 24
Colorado and their pair of Aussies have plenty to play for from the outset – these games against Colorado State and Colorado College form part of the Colorado Cup, a trophy for which various Division I schools in Colorado compete for. The Buffaloes will be hot favourites to take out the trophy, and will have to get the job done in both of these games if they are to do so. Kahlia Hogg has really stepped up in preseason of her senior year, whilst Alex Huynh continues to be a major part of a solid back four that has become the basis of many of Colorado’s good performances. If this continues, expect the goals against number to be low and the win tally to be 2 this weekend.
Alabama State (Shelbi Vienna-Hallam)
This week: v Georgia State – 9am, Saturday August 22; v Troy – 10am, Wednesday August 26
Reigining College Matildas player of the year Shelbi Vienna-Hallam and Alabama State start their season with a couple of home games that will provide a solid challenge early in the season. On the face of it, results may be hard to come by for the Hornets, but it will be the game against Georgia State that may appear to give the side more chance of a victory. The second game, against in-state foes Troy, will be one of the side’s sterner tests for the season, as the Trojans are coming off a 16-6 season that culminated in a conference tournament final loss in 2014. Shelbi Vienna-Hallam played both in defence and up front last season, but started as a holding midfielder in the side’s sole exhibition game, so it will be interesting to see where she plays this weekend and going forward.
East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson)
This week: at South Carolina Upstate – 9am, Saturday August 22; at Radford – 9am, Tuesday August 25
The second of our two Adelaide United freshmen to make their debut this weekend, Isabel Hodgson and East Tennessee State will start their campaign with a game against South Carolina Upstate which they will be heavily favoured to win, as South Carolina Upstate finished with a 3-13-1 record last season, compared to ETSU’s 15-6 mark. Radford, the one-time home of former Newcastle Jets winger Kate Hensman, will surely provide a sterner test, but the Buccaneers will be fully expected to come away with 2 wins here. Isabel has already found the back of the net in an exhibition game this season, and hopefully that is a sign of things to come for the young South Australian.
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert)
This week: at Penn State – 9:30am, Saturday August 22; v Rutgers – 4:30am, Monday August 24
Emily Hulbert and Hofstra went desperately close to reaching the NCAA Tournament last season, and a result in one of these games against two nationally ranked sides (Penn State at #6, Rutgers at #24) could be the catalyst for a season that could see them put together a CV that would see them secure an at-large bid if they were not to win their conference tournament this year. Clearly, getting a result against national championship chasing Penn State will be incredibly tough, and Rutgers won’t be much easier, but early in the year is the best time to play these teams and possibly catch them unawares. Emily Hulbert has made herself a large part of this Hofstra side, and expect her to play the majority of minutes in both games.
Wyoming (Alisha Bass, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Georgia Rowntree, Candace Sciberras)
This week: at Montana – 9:30am, Saturday August 22
Just the one game for the Aussie Fab Five and Wyoming this week – a trip to Montana for a rematch of last year’s 1-0 victory. Montana put that early loss aside to finish with 12 wins from 20 games, whilst Wyoming finished 11-9-1. Wyoming return a lot of players from last year, but it is in defence that questions will be asked, with Alisha Bass being moved into defence after playing an attacking role last year due to the loss of most members of 2014’s senior-laden defence. Expect to see Georgia Rowntree starting between the sticks, whilst Candace Sciberras will no doubt see plenty of minutes, if not start. Questions remain about the playing time for freshmen Clayton and Gentle, but these will no doubt be answered soon enough.
Albany (Claire Urquhart)
This week: at Davidson – 9:30am, Saturday August 22; at Campbell – 6am, Tuesday August 25
Albany take a trip to North Carolina to start their season, facing Davidson and Campbell in their first two games of the season. Not one of these teams posted a mark above .500 last season, so Albany and both of their opponents will all have something to prove early on this year. Claire Urquhart has been at Albany since January, which will have given her a massive leg-up over the other freshmen fighting for spots in the Great Danes side, and hopefully this will turn into minutes in these early games.
Creighton (Anastasia McCleary)
This week: v South Dakota – 10am, Saturday August 22; at UMKC – 6am, Monday August 24
It was a lacklustre season in 2014 for Creighton, but the buzz has been positive in the offseason, with a coaching change improving the atmosphere throughout the team. Their two opponents this weekend are solid if unspectacular opponents, both of which Creighton should be able to dispense with if they put together good performances. Anastasia McCleary didn’t see as much playing time as she would have liked last season, but the senior could be one of the players to really benefit from the coaching change.
Washington State (Tia Gavin)
This week: at Seattle – 12pm, Saturday August 22; v Idaho – 12pm, Monday August 24
Definitely one of the more exciting freshmen this season, Tia Gavin and Washington State start their season with a couple of in-state games, both of which the side will be heavily favoured to win. Seattle put together 15 wins last season, albeit in a weaker conference, and only went down 1-0 to the Cougars last season, so that game looks, on paper, to be the more challenging of the two. Idaho could only manage 4 wins last season, but with these sides being local rivals, the Cougars will have to be well and truly up for this game if they are to put together a two win weekend. Tia Gavin has seen some decent minutes in exhibition play, and hopefully this will continue this weekend.
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
This week: at Mississippi State – 4am, Monday August 24
Just one game for Murray State this weekend, and the first of many tough games this season in a tricky non-conference schedule for the Racers. Amongst power conference teams, Mississippi State were one of the weaker this season, going 0-11 in the SEC, but that is a higher level of competition than Murray State. Still, the Racers can’t be written off – they knocked off two SEC teams in spring exhibition play earlier this year. Harriet Withers and Nyomi Devine have both proven to be brilliant finds for Murray State, slotting straight into the starting lineup last year as freshmen, and their performances will no doubt be instrumental in any success for the side.