(Featured Image Credit: Bill Dally/ISIPhotos.com)
Demi Koulizakis (Texas Tech)
Koulizakis came on in leaps and bounds in her junior season, and with a number of spots opening up in the Texas Tech front line, the senior from Sydney now has her best opportunity yet to cement a spot in the starting lineup. Already named Texas Tech’s Most Improved Player in 2018 by her teammates, the versatile attacking player now has the chance to show that last season wasn’t simply a one-off, with three spots in the midfield and front line up for grabs.
Koulizakis’ outstanding spring form has her in the box seat to nail down a starting berth after finishing the campaign with four goals and an assist, including a hat-trick against Lubbock Christian. Furthermore, the senior’s cause will hardly have been harmed by spending her offseason playing in the NPLNSW competition for a Sydney Olympic side featuring the likes of Matildas midfielder Teresa Polias as well as a number of players with W-League experience.
Beattie Goad (Stanford)
Three seasons at Stanford playing a supporting role behind some of the most talented players to pull on a Cardinal jersey means Goad has served an unusually long apprenticeship, but the opportunity has now presented itself for the Victorian to serve as an integral part of the starting lineup. Goad has started in 24 of her 64 appearances for Stanford, and last season tallied 2 goals and 3 assists, both career highs for a single season as the Cardinal returned to the College Cup as defending champions before falling to eventual champions Florida State in the semi-finals.
What position the senior fills remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that Goad can become a mainstay of the Stanford starting eleven in her final season, and if she does indeed fill an attacking role, the Victorian will have plenty of opportunities to both tee up teammates and score goals herself.
Tessa Calabria (Nicholls State)
Injury restricted the junior college transfer to just 6 appearances in 2018, but Calabria comes into her final season of collegiate soccer looking to make up for lost time in a Nicholls State side that could really use her goalscoring prowess. Having scored 25 goals and contributed 16 assists during two years at Iowa Lakes Community College, Calabria knows not only how to find the back of the net, but tee up her teammates, which in turn could help her develop a key partnership with fellow Australian Kristy Helmers, who will be itching to return to the goalscoring form that saw the senior tally 6 goals in her freshman season.
With Western Australian senior Shauni Reid also expected to spend time up front, Calabria’s return could be the catalyst for the Australian trio to return Nicholls State to a similar level that the program found itself at in the days of Australian midfielder Jess Coates, who helped the Colonels to their last winning seasons in 2013 and 2014.
Alyssa Van Heurck (La Salle)
A defender by trade, Van Heurck made the move into a wide attacking role in her first season at La Salle and took to the change like a duck to water. Although the majority of her appearances were cameos of 15-25 minutes, Van Heurck eventually six starts in her freshman season, tallying a single goal and playing in excess of 40 minutes in the final two games of the campaign.
Whilst a couple of more experienced players are returning this season after missing 2018 due to injury, there remain a number of positions open in the La Salle starting eleven, and Van Heurck is certainly in the running for a more prominent berth in the rotation. Even if the Western Australian isn’t able to nail down a starting berth, 2019 could serve as an excellent setup year as the Explorers will again need to replace a number of seniors in 2020.
Caitlin Pickett & Indianna Asimus (Wyoming)
Pickett and Asimus both featured regularly for Wyoming in their freshman seasons in 2018, but with the loss of a couple of key pieces of the Cowgirls’ attack, the Australian duo will become even more crucial as the team from Laramie looks to turn last year’s Mountain West Conference regular season title into a conference championship and secure an NCAA Tournament berth. Both of Pickett’s goals in 2018 came in sudden death overtime, and whilst those clutch plays are always welcomed, the sophomore will be counted on to improve upon that number to keep the Cowgirls flying high in 2019.
Meanwhile, Asimus is yet to tally a goal or an assist, but having made nine starts last season and averaged 47 minutes per appearance, the Wyoming coaching staff obviously have faith in the sophomore to emerge as an offensive weapon going forward. Whether that translates into tangible returns remains to be seen, but if Asimus and Pickett both fire this season, Mountain West Conference defences are in a world of trouble.