The number of Australians on La Salle’s roster will double in 2018, with Western Australian freshman Alyssa Van Heurck joining sophomore goalkeeper Claudia Jenkins at the Explorers. The Football West NTC defender and Perth Glory W-League training partner is the first player from Western Australia to make the move to a Division I college in recent years, with no players from the west having played at that level since College Matildas commenced coverage of Australians in 2014.
“I was always going to go to a local university in Perth but by joining a college in the US I can play soccer at a much higher standard while also studying for my chosen degree,” Van Heurck explained. “Studying in the US gives you exposure to different cultures and ideas and provides you with an opportunity to develop skills critical for future life.”
Van Heurck received offers from a number of colleges in both Division I and Division II, but in the end La Salle provided a balance that appealed to the freshman, with both competition level and playing time proving to be vital factors in her decision.
“When looking at colleges I really wanted to play in the highest division so La Salle being in Division I was a good fit,” Van Heurck revealed. “The opportunity to play at the highest level I possibly can is good but I am really keen to be on the field as much as possible being able to contribute and make a difference. My hometown is very mild with hot summers, so a college on the East Coast with a whole different environment is something I wanted to experience.”
“From meeting the coach (Paul Royal), he is very passionate about the game and I liked what he had in mind for me fitting into the team,” Van Heurck explained. “I have enjoyed watching the team last season I like their direct style of play and how they carry themselves, they seem to be very strong and fit, and out of soccer they seem to get along really well as a team.”
“And I have found since arriving that the coaching staff, teaching staff and team have been very supportive. I was a bit worried starting out but everyone is so helpful with getting me started into college life that I feel like I really fit in already.”
Helping Van Heurck settle in has been fellow Australian, goalkeeper Claudia Jenkins, who will be heading into her sophomore year after spending her freshman year as the backup to La Salle stalwart Larisa Zambelli.
“[Having Claudia on the team] has been fantastic and made the move easier as I had already got in contact with Claudia before leaving on what to expect. It’s also really fun to joke around with her talking to the girls about Australia.”
That will certainly be something to hear more about, but more importantly it will be fascinating to keep track of Van Heurck’s progress with the Explorers in a side that will be attempting to defend their 2017 Atlantic 10 conference title and make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.