2023 NCAA Division I Awards

With in excess of 40 Australians on NCAA Division I women’s soccer rosters in 2023, there were multiple contenders for just about every award this season. The Goalkeeper of the Year was awarded for the first time in three years as a trio of players made strong cases, whilst Hannah Peric and Greta Kraszula continue to be inextricably linked as Australian stars of the Atlantic 10. However, there may not be as many individual award winners as some years, as one player scooped all awards available to her, including the Rachael Doyle Medal for Player of the Year.

Meg Roden – Freshman of the Year

Meg Roden (Photo: Tim Cowie/Tim Cowie Photography)

The only Australian in NCAA Division I to be named to a conference All-Freshman team (although others may have the right to feel aggrieved at missing out), Meg Roden slotted straight in at High Point, playing 52 minutes on debut before going on to start in 10 of 17 games for the Panthers. Impressively, 9 of those 10 starts came consecutively to round out the season as the midfielder latched onto her spot in the matchday eleven and refused to relinquish that position. Roden also chipped in with the first two goals of her collegiate career and put 9 of her 16 shots on target, a number that would have been good enough for top 70 in the nation had she met the qualifying mark of two shots per game. Seven of Roden’s eight appearances in excess of 50 minutes also came during that run of starts to end the season, which can only bode well for the future.

Chantelle Symes – Goalkeeper of the Year

Chantelle Symes (Photo: Dominic Hoscher)

The Goalkeeper of the Year award was a race in three between Southern Illinois’ Chantelle Symes, Pacific’s Libby Davy, and Grambling State’s Aimee Benton, with Symes eventually prevailing. Although her side only picked up one win in 2023, Symes kept the Salukis in just about every match, finishing with a goals against average of 1.35 and a save percentage of .734. With both of those numbers leading the trio of Australians in each category, the Southern Illinois custodian emerged as the standout Aussie goalkeeper in 2023.

Hannah Peric – Defensive Player of the Year

Hannah Peric (Photo: Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics)

The Defensive Player of the Year award has rarely been an easy one to decide, and 2023 was no different. Teagan Douglas started all 18 games for Bellarmine, whilst 2022 award winner Greta Kraszula finished with eerily similar stats to Hannah Peric, and several other players weren’t too far behind. However, on this occasion Peric just edged the battle of Atlantic 10 players to pick up her second Defensive Player of the Year nod, following her 2020 selection as a freshman. Massachusetts posted nine clean sheets in the 18 games in which Peric featured, conceding fewer than a single goal per game. With Peric averaging 85 minutes per contest in those 18 games, the Manly United product only further cemented her status as a vital part of a Minutewomen side that finished fourth in the Atlantic 10 regular season.

Lara Kirkby – Breakout Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year

Photo: Maine Athletics
Lara Kirkby (Photo: Maine Athletics)

Transferring from Oregon to Maine proved to be a masterstroke for Lara Kirkby, who stepped straight into the Black Bears’ starting lineup and helped lead her team to a first NCAA Tournament bid in program history. The South Australian’s 19 appearances almost doubled her 10 appearances over the course of two seasons in Eugene, and starting in every one of those games only further strengthened her case for the Breakout Player of the Year award even before considering the multitude of awards that Kirkby picked up this season. Finishing equal top among Australians for both goals and assists also made Kirkby an indisputable choice for Offensive Player of the Year as she provided quantifiable returns as part of her midfield masterclasses.

Top Goalscorers: Lara Kirkby, Bronte Peel

Bronte Peel (Photo: Little Rock Athletics)

Lara Kirkby and Bronte Peel each finished with four goals in 2023 to top the list in a season that saw plenty of Aussies score goals, but only this duo find the back of the net more than twice. Little Rock forward Peel had to wait until her seventh appearance of the season to open her account against Alabama A&M, before scoring a brace against Eastern Illinois and another goal against Tennessee Tech late in the campaign to hold the lead heading into the final stages of the season. Kirkby had clearly been an outstanding player all season but had only a single goal, against Rhode Island in August, against her name until the very latter part of the campaign. However, a goal against title rivals Binghamton before a brace in the America East Championship Game saw the Maine midfielder earn a share of the title with her third and fourth goals.

Most Assists: Lara Kirkby, Isabella Stein, Jasmine Barry

A three-way tie for most assists came in rather unexpected fashion as UNC Asheville’s Jasmine Barry and Long Island’s Isabella Stein made a late charge to join Lara Kirkby with three for the season. Kirkby finished with a pair of assists in the regular season, including one on a crucial goal against UMBC as the Black Bears stormed back from 2-0 down to rescue a point at home in early October, with an even more crucial assist against Vermont in the conference tournament. Meanwhile, Barry had just a single assist against Davidson in August until the Bulldogs’ third-last game of the season against Winthrop. 90 minutes later, the defender had two more assists under her belt and UNC Asheville had a 4-0 win. Izzy Stein also finished with a late flurry, entering October with not a single assist to her name. However, the Long Island forward picked up her first against Chicago State before tacking on another in each of the Sharks’ final two games of the season to see the campaign end with three Australians sitting on three assists apiece.

Rachael Doyle Medallist: Lara Kirkby

Hawaii’s Eliza Ammendolia and Little Rock’s Bronte Peel each earned All-Conference Second Team selections in the Big West and Ohio Valley Conference respectively, but Lara Kirkby’s first season since her transfer from Oregon was simply on another level in leading Maine to a conference championship and NCAA Tournament bid. An America East First Team selection, the South Australian also received a United Soccer Coaches All-Atlantic Region Third Team selection and was named America East Conference Tournament Most Outstanding Player. The midfielder also finished level for most goals and most assists by an Australian in NCAA Division I as her statistical output matched her level of play throughout the campaign. Transfers may not be as prevalent among Australians in NCAA Division I women’s soccer as they are in other sports – both in terms of Australians and players overall – but Kirkby’s has been an overwhelmingly positive decision.

About Lachy 383 Articles
Founder of College Matildas. An Australian women's football fan who also happens to be a college sports fan. Often found at A-League Women or NPLW games.

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