2015 has been a fairly successful year for the Australians in NCAA Division I college women’s soccer. Four teams reached the NCAA Tournament, with two of those being sides that won their conference tournaments: Murray State and Albany. There have been many success stories, such as the brilliant season that Harriet Withers enjoyed as she picked up the Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player Of The Year award, through to players such as Siena Senatore and Isabel Hodgson establishing themselves as starters in their freshman year. At the end of the day, only so many players can receive awards though, so here they are: the 2015 College Matildas End Of Season Awards.
Freshman Of The Year: Tia Gavin (Washington State)
Restoring the Australian presence at Washington State after Rachael Doyle’s graduation after the 2013 season, Tia saw playing time from the outset at Pullman and made an impact immediately, notching a goal and an assist in her first weekend of college play. The former Western Sydney Wanderers striker was not afforded as much playing time in conference play as she had seen during the early parts of the year, but was still able to tack on a second goal later in the year, a sublime curling strike from the edge of the area. By the end of the season, Tia had almost become known as an impact player for the Cougars, providing a solid backup option to allow starters to be rotated out and rest for longer periods, especially in the dying embers of the first half, where Tia’s presence was almost a guarantee from about the 35 minute mark.
Goalkeeper Of The Year: Georgia Rowntree (Wyoming)
As the only Australian goalkeeper in Division I, this award was never really in doubt. However, Georgia was the starting goalkeeper for much of the season for Wyoming, as coach Pete Cuadrado continued to rotate his goalkeepers as he has done for many seasons. Sharing minutes with local player Cassidy Entsminger, the pair became a solid presence between the posts for the Cowgirls throughout the season.
Defender Of The Year: Emily Hulbert (Hofstra)
Emily had her minutes slightly reduced from last season, but that didn’t stop the former Melbourne Victory player from making an impact as she was used more in a cameo role off the bench, providing half an hour or so of support in many games. None of these cameos was more important than her goal just before halftime in the side’s last regular season conference game which proved to be the game winner and proved to be the goal that secured Hofstra the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title, and definitely helped to improve the side’s seeding in the NCAA Tournament, in which Hofstra were the only side featuring Australians to win their opening round game.
Midfielder Of The Year, Senior Of The Year: Shelbi Vienna-Hallam (Alabama State)
Originally listed as a defender/forward for Alabama State, Shelbi reverted to a deep-lying midfield role for much of the season for the Hornets, providing experience in front of the back four in a side that went all the way to the SWAC championship game. Whilst this meant her output on the stat sheet diminished in comparison to 2014, in which the Tasmanian won Player Of The Year, Shelbi was still a vital cog in the Alabama State machine. Shelbi was also utilised in various other positions throughout the season, spending time in defence, midfield, and leading the line up front.
Junior Of The Year, Breakout Player Of The Year: Laura Johns (Massachusetts)
After two seasons spent mainly coming off the bench for Massachusetts, Laura was finally able to secure a starting spot for a significant amount of games this season. The Adelaide junior became a regular in the starting frontline, playing around 50 minutes a game and increasing her minutes markedly. The South Australian junior was also able to tee up teammates for goals at some crucial moments as Massachusetts went within a whisker of reaching the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Player Of The Year, Forward Of The Year, Sophomore Of The Year, Top Goalscorer (11 goals), Top Assists (7 assists): Harriet Withers (Murray State)
Having been named Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player Of The Year, it is hardly unusual that Harriet Withers is also our player of the year. Harriet led the line for a Murray State team that finished a perfect 10-0 in conference league play, before winning the conference tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament, where the side unfortunately went down 1-0 to heavily favoured Ole Miss. The sophomore out of Palm Beach scored 11 goals this season, and also tacked on 7 assists, including one on the winning goal in the Ohio Valley Conference championship game which sent Murray State to the NCAA Tournament and secured a perfect conference season.
Player Of The Year Votes:
1st: Harriet Withers (24 votes)
2nd: Shelbi Vienna-Hallam (9 votes)
3rd: Emily Hulbert (6 votes)