Rachael Doyle, College Matildas History, and the Player of the Year Award

Hello,

My name is Lachy and I run College Matildas. Ordinarily I wouldn’t post a personal introduction to an article, but then I wouldn’t ordinarily write an article in the first-person. Anyway, onwards to the story…

If you look on the College Matildas website, you will see that under the name, it says that the site has been “Covering Aussies in NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Since 2014.”

That’s not 100% true. I mean, yes, the name College Matildas and the standalone site did come to life before the commencement of the 2014 season, but the story of the site goes back another season, to 2013. A friend’s sister was playing NCAA Division I soccer, and players such as Kahlia Hogg and Alex Huynh, players who were fairly well-known to me as a W-League fan since 2010, were either in the college ranks or preparing for their freshman season. As a long-time fan of college sports (the Heel in @lachyheel, my personal Twitter handle, is a nod to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, a team I’ve supported since the Kendall Fletcher days), I ventured to the internet to see how many Aussies were playing in the college system, and how they were doing. There were dribs and drabs about Kahlia, who was playing for a national powerhouse at Florida State, but little or nothing about anyone else.

“Bugger it,” I thought. “I’ll find this out myself.” So, with a list of NCAA Division I programs and the almighty Google to help me, I trawled through more than 300 rosters, searching for players whose hometown had ‘Australia’ in the listing. I found 20. Sydney FC championship goalkeeper Nikola Deiter was among them, as were a smattering of other former and future W-League players, but one name stood out: Rachael Doyle. Defender. Washington State. Senior. Matildas caps: 1.

With seemingly no coverage of the players to be found, I set about producing some myself. It was intermittent to say the least, and my dismal home internet connection at the time meant a choice between not watching games or burning through excess data on my phone like a supercar burning petrol on a track day. However, I carried on, and Rachael proved to be as impressive as her credentials and three previous seasons of college experience suggested. I could wax lyrical about her for ages, both as a player and a person. Instead, I’ll just present what I wrote as I named her the 2013 Aussies In NCAA Women’s Soccer Player of the Year on my general blog:

Do I really need to say anything else about Rachael Doyle? Listed at 45th in the senior pre-season rankings at allwhitekit.com, she more than proved that she deserved that ranking. Solid in holding midfield, dominant in defence, and in the end Washington State finished 2nd in a conference that they had absolutely zero right to finish second in, and it was built on the back of conceding just 11 goals in 21 games. Oh, and 4 of those came in a 4-3 overtime loss to Utah. Put that aside and they conceded just 7 goals in the other 20 games. Goalkeeper Gurveen Clair faced just 52 shots all year, which again goes to prove how strong the back line was, and Rachael was the dominant part of that backline. Hopefully she comes back to play in the W-League, because I’m more than confident she could do a job for any team in the league, either as a starter or in a rotational role, depending on the team.

NCAA women’s soccer and NWSL Draft guru Chris Henderson tabbed Doyle at #41 in his list of draft-eligible players in 2014, ahead of a number of players who eventually made the league. However, the former Central Coast Mariners (remember when they had a W-League team?) defender would not play at the top level again, moving into the coaching ranks after a brief stint in NPL New South Wales. Now an assistant coach at Oregon after stints at Eastern Kentucky and Hawaii, Rachael is back in the Pac-12 after spending four spectacular seasons in the conference as a player.

This isn’t simply a piece about the wonderful career of Rachael Doyle, though. There is a point to this. By my own admission, I’ve perhaps neglected that 2013 class throughout what is the ‘College Matildas Era’, for lack of a better term. In fact, I’ve neglected the entire history of Aussies in college pre-2014. However, that 2013 season is special to me as the first season in which I followed the Aussie players. It was a season that saw me begin to build connections and friendships, develop opportunities, and begin a journey that is now into its eighth season.

It is for those reasons, I am ecstatic to announce that the College Matildas NCAA Division I Player of the Year award will henceforth be known as the Rachael Doyle Award.

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