Lorena Bugden – Wandering To William & Mary

With a season of W-League experience under her belt, former Western Sydney Wanderers player Lorena Bugden has decided to take her talents to Virginia to play for William & Mary. Bugden will link up with fellow Australian, assistant coach Vanessa Mann, and play in the Colonial Athletic Association, a conference that already features a pair of Australians. Emily Hulbert is entering her senior season at Hofstra, whilst Emma Heckenberg is about to start her junior year at Drexel, making for plenty of matchups between the Aussies in 2017.

The process began early for the young star from Glenmore Park in Western Sydney, who had her eye on college from day 1.

“Well, going to college in America has always been a dream of mine throughout my high school years. But, it first started to become a reality when I was in Year 9,” Bugden explained. “I was approached at a Combined High Schools tournament by a scout from Wyoming who was impressed by my game and gave my coach a business card to give to my parents. That then led to them getting in contact with me and coming to watch me play twice a year.”

The University of Wyoming is certainly one of the premier destinations for Australians looking to make the move to college. Through previous coach Danny Sanchez and current coach Pete Cuadrado, the school has lured several players with W-League experience to the United States. These names include Alisha Bass, Georgia Rowntree, Candace Sciberras, Liz O’Reilly, Loren Mahoney, and 2017 recruit Brooke Miller. Bugden would talk to Sydney University NPL teammate O’Reilly about playing in college, but the new Tribester’s journey would take a turn of its own as she began to promote herself more actively.

“In April last year, I put together a highlight video of myself playing and uploaded it to YouTube. I also forwarded the link to my friends in the USA so they could show their coaches,” Bugden revealed. “I didn’t realise my video was going to have the impact it had. It resulted in me receiving a number of offers to attend college in the US.”

Suddenly, there was competition for the Sydneysider’s signature. Several schools that have featured Australians on their roster took an interest in Bugden. Fairleigh Dickinson and Albany, two schools which currently have Australians on their rosters in the form of Samantha Roff and Claire Urquhart, both saw something in the former W-League player. Troy University in Alabama also tried to keep their link to Western Sydney alive following Alex Huynh’s graduation, but William & Mary soon had the inside running.

“[William & Mary Head Coach] John Daly got in contact with me after watching my video and we spoke over Skype. He told me he was coming to Sydney to watch me play.

“He came 2 weeks later and was impressed with how I played and asked if I wanted to be a Tribester!”

Soon after, Bugden had made the decision to make the move to Williamsburg to continue her football career, with her reasons for making the change crystal clear.

“I chose to go to the US as it is an unbelievable opportunity for me as a player and person to experience life in another country,” Bugden explained. “I will be playing football at the highest level and I will be studying at a fantastic college. I believe I will be a better player when I return to Australia.”

“My long term goals in football are to represent my country, continue to develop my game and be the best player I can be. I also want to be drafted to a professional team in the NWSL.”

Bugden spent the 2014/15 W-League season with Western Sydney Wanderers. (Photo credit: Eric Berry)

William & Mary is certainly a college that brings an excellent balance of academics and athletics, especially in non-revenue sports such as women’s soccer. The Colonial Athletic Association is one of the better mid-major conferences in the sport, and is referred to as a “public Ivy” for its academic standing and ability to attract high level students in a similar manner to the Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Bugden certainly has her sights set on securing her future beyond football, and moving to an academically elite university is one of the best ways to set about doing exactly that.

“Having a degree is very important; whilst I love football I won’t always be able to play so I need to have a degree and profession to fall back on,” Bugden explained. “I want to major in psychology.”

(Photo credit: Eric Berry)

“Off the pitch I want to be the best student I can be.”

On the field, the Tribe women’s soccer team will be looking to bounce back in 2017, having slipped from 14 wins in 2015 to just scraping by with 10 wins from their 20 games in 2016 to continue their NCAA record-equalling streak of consecutive winning seasons. It is often tough to judge just how much playing time a freshman will get, especially coming in from overseas, but Bugden believes she has a skillset that can assist her team from the outset.

“Firstly I pride myself as being a team player, I am creative and skillful and I have a style of play that is very versatile,” the Sydneysider outlined. “I believe I will be an asset for William and Mary and my goal is to be part of a team that will win their conference and the NCAA Championship.”

An NCAA Championship is an incredibly lofty goal for any mid-major side, but winning a Colonial Athletic Association title is one that is on William & Mary’s agenda every season, with ten conference titles and 25 NCAA Tournament appearances already in the books.

Bugden won’t be the only Australian in the program – former Nevada player Vanessa Mann is now assistant coach at William & Mary. Bugden is understandably happy to have another Australian around, but never let the fact cloud her judgement when choosing a school.

“[Having another Australian at the program] didn’t influence my decision to choose William and Mary but it certainly is a bonus to have a fellow Australian at the college.”

However, Bugden is certainly hopeful that William & Mary can become a destination for Australian players in the same way that programs like Wyoming, Colorado, and Nicholls State have become.

“I can only speak for myself but I will definitely be promoting the college every chance I get. So hopefully in the future other Australian players will have the opportunity to attend William and Mary.”

Slightly ironically, Lorena has another university program to thank for helping her get to college in the US. Having moved to NPL NSW club Sydney University in recent seasons, it was this club that assisted Lorena in bouncing back after suffering a knee injury last season.

Bugden was a member of the championship winning Sydney University NPL side in 2016.

“I sustained a contact ACL injury last year in June which has been the only major injury I have had in my career. My ACL rehab is being managed here by highly qualified surgeon, physiotherapists and also by a great strength and conditioning coach and team from Sydney University,” Lorena explained. However, she also has full confidence in the William & Mary program to ensure she returns to her best.

“The facilities at William and Mary are world class and I am sure they will manage my return to full fitness.”

Many players who have played in the W-League have found success at the college level, and Bugden is well placed to become another, with many coaches of high pedigree in her corner to this point providing her with outstanding guidance, including Australian football legend Heather Garriock and former Matildas player Catherine Cannuli.

“I would like to thank Catherine Cannuli, [Sydney University coach] Heather Garriock and [Westfield Sports High School coach] Rob Bradshaw for their ongoing mentorship and support,” Bugden revealed. “And to thank everyone else involved in this process as this is truly a dream come true.”

Lauren Featherstone becomes CCSU’s newest Aussie

Following a year without an Australian, Central Connecticut State has reignited the connection to Australia with the announcement that Australian Schoolgirls representative Lauren Featherstone has signed on with the program. Lauren becomes the latest name in a list of Blue Devils that includes Matildas representative Leah Blayney and W-League goalkeepers Nikola Deiter and Erin Herd.

Featherstone was picked as a replacement member of the Australian Schoolgirls team which toured the UK and Ireland in 2017 after competing at the national tournament as a member of the title-winning New South Wales side. Featherstone also played for Macarthur Rams in NPL New South Wales in 2016. In a team featuring names such as Leena Khamis, Nicola Bolger, Renee Rollason, Kylie Ledbrook, and Elizabeth Ralston, Featherstone played in 16 of the side’s 19 games  as the Rams reached the semi-finals before going down to Manly United. Former Blue Devil Leah Blayney is also involved with the Rams, meaning that Lauren should already have plenty of insight into the Central Connecticut State program.

Women’s World Cup winning coach Tony DiCicco has also been involved at times with Central Connecticut State in recent years, and if he chooses to reprise this role going forward, that will also be of great benefit to both Lauren and the entire Blue Devils squad.

Canberra’s Sandra Hill signs on with Grand Canyon

The recent influx of Canberra-based players to US colleges has continued with the news that Tuggeranong United defender Sandra Hill will make the move to Arizona to play for Grand Canyon University. Hill joins Nicholls State striker and 2016 College Matildas Freshman of the Year Kristy Helmers as Tuggeranong United products to move to college in recent seasons.

Primarily a defender but with the ability to chip in a goal or assist on occasion, Hill has been involved with Tuggeranong United at an ACT Women’s Premier League level since 2013 and most recently played 13 of the team’s 16 matches in 2016 as the side featuring both Kristy Helmers and former Sydney FC and Canberra United squad member Meg McLaughlin reached the semi-finals. Hill also had the privilege of being coached by Canberra United coach Rae Dower during her junior development, which no doubt had a positive impact.

Grand Canyon have already found success with an Australian in another sport with Jess Gajewski forming an integral part of the women’s basketball program, and the Lopes’ faithful will be hoping that Sandra can do the same for the women’s soccer program at a school with big ambitions as the only for-profit college currently participating in NCAA Division I. The Lopes finished the last two seasons 7-9-2 and 7-9-3, so the base appears to have been built and it is surely time for the team to press on this season.

Newcastle pair Miller and House join Wyoming

The Australian pipeline to Wyoming continues to deliver with today’s announcement that Newcastle Jets W-League defender Brooke Miller and former Jets striker Jemma House have put pen to paper on National Letters of Intent and will link up with the Cowgirls for the 2017 season and beyond. The addition of the pair means that there will continue to be five Australians on Wyoming’s roster, with Miller and House joining Alisha Bass, Georgia Rowntree, Annika Clayton, and Jessie Gentle in Laramie.

Brooke Miller has been part of the Newcastle Jets W-League squad for the last three seasons. The centre back made her debut in October 2014, playing 24 minutes off the bench in a 5-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers, and has gone on to make 11 appearances for the Jets in her three seasons with the club, including three starts.

Brooke has also featured for the Emerging Jets side in the NPL New South Wales women’s league, making 25 appearances in two seasons in between commitments with the Under 17 and Under 20 national teams, with whom the defender has featured at a number of AFC tournaments, including the 2016 AFF Championship and 2015 AFC Under 19 Championship. Miller will not be the only player from that 2015 side to play in college, with UCLA’s Teagan Micah and Stanford’s Beattie Goad also part of that side which missed out on the knockout stages following defeats to Japan and China in the group stage.

Brooke’s commitment should also serve to ensure that Alisha Bass can return to her favoured attacking midfield role on a permanent basis. Despite the loss of senior defenders Katie Marcheso and Sammi Dunda, the addition of Miller will help improve the defensive depth in the Wyoming squad and give coach Pete Cuadrado the freedom to play the Australian senior higher up the park more often.

Jemma House has spent the last two seasons playing at nearby Laramie County Community College, where the striker has been one of the stars of the squad. A two-time all American, Jemma was also awarded the regional player of the year in 2016 and regional freshman of the year award in 2015 as part of a junior college career that saw the Kurri Kurri junior score 47 goals and tally 14 assists in 44 games. Jemma has also featured in Young Matildas training camp squads before making the move to Laramie. Having played two seasons in junior college, Jemma will have two seasons of eligibility remaining at Wyoming.

Kahlia Hogg Returns To Canberra United

Recent Colorado graduate and 2013 NCAA Tournament runner-up Kahlia Hogg has signed for W-League club Canberra United for the remainder of the 2016/17 season, returning to the club with which the fullback rose to prominence before making the move to college, and will be available for selection immediately.

Kahlia made 24 appearances for Canberra United between 2009 and 2011, chipping in a solitary goal in her time with the club prior to commencing her college career at Florida State. Opportunities were hard to come by in Tallahassee for the fullback, and although her time with the Seminoles provided Kahlia with a chance to be part of a national runner-up squad, the Young Matilda featured in just 10 games across two seasons. Kahlia then decided to transfer to Colorado after her sophomore year, teaming up with fellow Australian Alex Huynh in Boulder.

Kahlia played in 22 games in her first season at Colorado, playing in a variety of positions but finding plenty of success in a wide attacking role. Kahlia scored four goals and also chipped in four assists as Colorado caused a first round boilover in the NCAA Tournament by defeating BYU 2-0 before going down in overtime to perennial powerhouse North Carolina.

Kahlia’s first attempt at a senior season in 2015 was cut short after just six appearances due to injury, but her request for a medical redshirt was granted and 2016 was a far more productive year. Moved into a central defensive role, ironically after Alex Huynh’s transfer to Troy, Kahlia’s attacking output diminished, as was to be expected, as the defender contributed just one goal and one assist in 16 appearances. However, the Colorado defence conceded just 12 goals in Kahlia’s 16 appearances as the team punched well above its weight all season to earn another NCAA Tournament berth, where they went down 1-0 to South Carolina in the second round despite a valiant effort against one of the top sides in the country.

Whilst in the US, Kahlia spent time playing in the now-defunct USL W-League. Kahlia spent the 2012 season playing with Pali Blues, a club which at the time featured the likes of Matildas World Cup representative Servet Uzunlar, US national team player Whitney Engen, former Melbourne City player Anisa Guajardo, former Canberra United player Nikki Washington, and former Western Sydney Wanderers player Camille Levin. Unfortunately for Kahlia, the Blues were defeated on penalties by Katrina Gorry and Ottawa Fury in the championship game after conceding a 94th minute equaliser.

Kahlia also spent the 2014 season playing for Colorado Rush in a team that included the likes of Carson Pickett and Janine Beckie, and suited up for Colorado Storm for 3 games in United Women’s Soccer’s inaugural season in 2016.

Kahlia returns to Canberra United with a bevy of program and conference awards for both academic and athletic achievement, but most importantly, a degree in Mechanical Engineering in her back pocket. Canberra United fans will be fervently hoping that she can keep opposition attackers in her back pocket as she looks to help the team in green make a late charge for the title after last week’s 6-1 setback against Sydney FC.

Kahlia’s return swells the number of Australian college players playing in the W-League to no fewer than six, alongside Melbourne City pair Aivi Luik (Nevada) and Amy Jackson (Florida International), Newcastle Jets’ Liz O’Reilly (Wyoming), Melbourne Victory’s Selin Kuralay (Florida State), and Perth Glory midfielder Jaymee Gibbons (Lander).

2016 Season Wrap

A season that started in the early hours of Friday, August 12 with a clash between Caitlin Cantrill’s LSU side and Louisiana-Lafayette has culminated in the finest way possible for one Australian as Lulu Pullar and USC lifted the national championship trophy following a 3-1 win over hot favourite West Virginia in the title game in San Jose. In that time, we saw 34 Aussies across 25 schools in Division I ply their trade in one of the most successful college seasons Australians have enjoyed in recent times.

We saw ten freshmen join the college ranks this season, with no less than four of those bringing W-League experience to the ranks. Two of those players, Teagan Micah and Beattie Goad, were eventually ranked in Top Drawer Soccer’s Top 100 Freshmen of the season, with Beattie being ranked #91 and Teagan picking up the Freshman Goalkeeper of the Year award and being ranked #19.

At the other end of the spectrum, fifth year seniors Kahlia Hogg and Jess Coates returned from injuries that threatened to scupper their college careers to take advantage of their extra year and have solid impacts for Colorado and Nicholls State respectively. Coates was named 9th best player in the Southland Conference by Top Drawer Soccer and also earned All-Conference and All-State honours.

Once again, the Australians at Murray State were exceptional despite the Racers being unable to secure a second consecutive conference title. Harriet Withers once again received Ohio Valley Offensive Player of the Year, whilst Nyomi Devine also garnered All-Conference honours for her sublime defensive play.

The season was also full of brilliant individual moments on the pitch. From Alisha Bass’ game-winning header in the dying seconds of double overtime against Utah Valley to Beattie Goad scoring her first college goal with literally the final kick of the regular season against California, and Isabel Hodgson’s vital goals in the Southern Conference tournament, there were spectacular highlights to be seen each and every week.

However, only one team can win it all, and this season it was Southern California, featuring Australia’s own Lulu Pullar, who managed to cause the upset in the title game, defeating West Virginia 3-1 in the championship game in San Jose.

Albany (Claire Urquhart)

Final Standing: America East Co-Champions, Tournament Champions, NCAA 1st Round
Record: 11-8-1
Claire Urquhart’s Stats: 2 games (2 starts), 0 goals, 0 assists

As in 2015, Claire Urquhart was offered a couple of early starts, but that was all she wrote in terms of playing time for the sophomore. However, on the team front, it was another successful season for the Great Danes. The team won their second consecutive America East tournament after securing a share of the regular season crown before going down to Connecticut in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It will be all change at the top next season, though. Head coach Caitlin Cucchiella has made the stunning decision to retire from college coaching after four brilliant season with Albany, and how the team handles this change will certainly be a story to watch in 2017.

Colorado (Isobel Dalton, Kahlia Hogg)

Final Standing: 3rd in Pac-12, NCAA Tournament 2nd Round
Record: 15-6-1
Isobel Dalton’s Stats: 7 games (0 starts), 0 goals, 1 assist
Kahlia Hogg’s Stats: 16 games (13 starts), 1 goal, 1 assist

Perhaps the surprise packet of the entire nation, let alone the Pac-12, Colorado had their doubters even halfway through the conference slate as their schedule conspired to see them play the bottom half of the Pac-12 in their first six games.

dalton-and-micah
Brisbane Roar products Isobel Dalton and Teagan Micah faced off as Colorado took on UCLA in conference play. (Photo Credit: Isobel Dalton)

However, the Buffaloes managed to defeat California and UCLA to prove they can hang with the top teams and eventually finish in third position in the Pac-12, missing out on second place on head to head with USC. With the transfer of Australian senior Alex Huynh to Troy, Kahlia Hogg slotted into the centre of defence and performed admirably. Despite missing a few games due to injury, Kahlia was an integral part of the Colorado defence even in spite of playing out of her usual wide position. Isobel Dalton was perhaps not afforded as many opportunities as she may have hoped, but did manage to impact the team positively on occasion and with a couple of midfield spots potentially opening up next season may see more playing time in 2017.

Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)

Final Standing: 2nd in Colonial, Tournament Runner-Up
Record: 9-7-4
Emma Heckenberg’s Stats: 19 games (13 starts), 0 goals, 0 assists

Generally known as an attacking player, Emma Heckenberg dropped slightly deeper this season and reaped the benefits, as did a Drexel side that came within one game of reaching the NCAA Tournament. Emma may not have lit up the stat sheet, but her performances garnered her far more playing time than last season, almost doubling her number of starts from 2015 and vastly increasing her minutes per game. Drexel will return a number of their star players in 2017 and second place may not be quite enough to satisfy the squad next season after this year’s surprising run to the upper echelon of the Colonial Athletic Association.

East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson)

Final Standing: 2nd in Southern Conference, Tournament Runner-Up
Record: 13-6-2
Isabel Hodgson’s Stats: 21 games (20 starts), 5 goals, 9 assists

November 6, 2016 - Johnson City, Tennessee - Summers-Taylor Stadium Image Credit: Dakota Hamilton
Isabel Hodgson was responsible for several vital goals and assists. (Photo Credit: Southern Conference)

Starting the season in defence, it looked as if 2016 would be much like 2015 for Isabel Hodgson – playing solidly at the back and getting forward if the chance arises. Fast forward a few weeks and injuries mean Isabel is pushed into the midfield, and from there the fireworks really started. From a blank stat sheet in 2015, Isabel had more assists than any other Australian this season with 9, and also tacked on 5 goals including a couple of vital tallies in the conference tournament. Unfortunately, the Buccaneers were unable to get past hot favourite Samford in the final, finishing their season as Southern Conference runner-up.

Fairleigh Dickinson (Sam Roff)

Final Standing: 4th in Northeast Conference, Tournament Semi-Finalist
Record: 7-12-1
Sam Roff’s Stats: 19 games (18 starts), 0 goals, 0 assists

If you wanted to pick a song to describe Sam Roff’s freshman year, Underneath The Radar by Underworld would be an ideal choice. A solid defensive player either in the back four or as a holding midfielder, Roff’s exploits earned her a spot in the Northeast Conference All-Freshman team as her excellent defensive work did not go unnoticed by those with keen eyes. With that said, solid defensive work is rarely glamorous, and often it is the case that being out of the limelight as a defender means you’ve done your job rather than drawn attention for mistakes, which describes Sam’s season well. The Canberra product was crucial for Fairleigh Dickinson as the Knights came within one win of the regular season title before going down in the semi-finals, ironically against the team that stole away that regular season crown, Saint Francis University.

Hofstra (Emily Hulbert)

Final Standing: 7th in Colonial, Did Not Qualify For Conference Tournament
Record: 10-7-1
Emily Hulbert’s Stats: 9 games (8 starts), 0 goals, 0 assists

It was almost a case of ‘as Emily goes, so does Hofstra’s season’, with an injury to the Victorian junior acting almost as a catalyst for the team’s form to plummet into oblivion. Emily went down with a broken foot midway through non-conference play, and whilst the Pride survived reasonably intact going into conference play, five losses in the first six games crippled the season. Emily’s return helped the Pride to two wins over the top teams in the league, but by then the damage was done and Hofstra narrowly missed the conference tournament in a league where they were expected to be amongst the top teams.

Indiana (Julia De Angelis)

Final Standing: 8th in Big Ten, Tournament Quarter-Finalist
Record: 7-9-4
Julia De Angelis’ Stats: 15 games (12 starts), 0 goals, 1 assist

It was a season stifled slightly by injury for Julia De Angelis, but the freshman midfielder still managed to play 15 games, albeit with her minutes managed by the Indiana staff. Despite the limited playing time, Julia’s class was on show throughout her time on the field even as the freshman was shifted around the different midfield spots at times. Compiling a reasonable record in the end, Indiana have definitely given themselves something to build on with a mid-table finish in the Big Ten, and a fully fit De Angelis will certainly be paramount to their future success.

Iona (Kiri Dale)

Final Standing: 10th in MAAC, Did Not Qualify For Conference Tournament
Record: 2-14-2
Kiri Dale’s Stats: 17 games (17 starts), 0 goals, 1 assist

After being forced to sit out the entire 2015 season, Kiri Dale certainly made up for lost time this year, starting in all 17 games for Iona. Playing in a wide position, Kiri may not have been able to hit the back of the net, but that issue plagued the entire Iona side as the Gaels finished with just two wins for the year. Kiri did secure one assist for the season, with a marauding run down the left wing finished with a sumptuous cross which was touched home at the far post against NJIT.

LSU (Caitlin Cantrill)

ACT products Caitlin Cantrill and Julia De Angelis had an early chance to catch up as LSU faced Indiana in non-conference play. (Photo Credit: Julia De Angelis)

Final Standing: 12th in SEC, Did Not Qualify For Conference Tournament
Record: 7-11-1
Caitlin Cantrill’s Stats: 12 games (4 starts), 1 goal, 0 assists

It was, to be frank, a disappointing season for LSU. Picked to finish in the upper echelon of the SEC, the Tigers struggled all season and eventually finished in the bottom three of the conference. Despite the team’s troubles, Caitlin Cantrill had a reasonably solid first year in college, notching a goal in an early game and regularly providing a spark off the bench in midfield to make a case for extended minutes in 2017 after gaining some invaluable experience in her freshman season.

Massachusetts (Laura Johns)

Final Standing: 12th in Atlantic 10, Did Not Qualify For Conference Tournament
Record: 3-11-3
Laura Johns’ Stats: 16 games (5 starts), 1 goal, 0 assists

Despite an outstanding 2015 season in which she was named our Breakout Player Of The Year, things didn’t quite seem to go Laura Johns’ or Massachusetts’ way in a 2016 season that saw the Minutewomen tally just 3 wins for the season. Shuffled around the park, Laura was only afforded 5 starts in her 16 appearances, many of which did not come in her favoured attacking position. Being forced to play in defence clearly hindered Johns’ ability to showcase her full skill set throughout the her senior year, but the South Australian did manage to tally a single goal in her senior year. It may not have been the senior year that Johns was hoping for, but the former Adelaide United player has certainly put together a solid college career.

Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Jade Horcicka, Harriet Withers)

Final Standing: Ohio Valley Co-Champions, Tournament Semi-Finalist
Record: 8-5-4
Nyomi Devine’s Stats: 14 games (14 starts), 0 goals, 1 assist
Jade Horcicka’s Stats: 1 game (0 starts), 0 goals, 0 assists
Harriet Withers’ Stats: 17 games (17 starts), 8 goals, 3 assists

Having gone the best part of two seasons undefeated in conference play, the Racers’ streak came to an end at the worst possible time. Going into the Ohio Valley Conference tournament as defending champions and top seed, an overtime loss to SIU Edwardsville in the semi-finals ended the Racers’ season slightly more prematurely than they would have hoped for. However, prior to that unfortunate loss, the Racers once again showed why they are a force to be reckoned with in the Ohio Valley Conference, earning a share of the regular season title after an undefeated league slate. Harriet Withers didn’t have the luxury of being a surprise packet after last season’s OVC Offensive Player Of The Year award, but managed to bang in 8 goals to secure the award for the second consecutive year. Nyomi Devine also earned conference honours, scoring a place on the All-Conference Second Team.

Nicholls State (Jess Coates, Kristy Helmers)

Final Standing: 8th in Southland, Did Not Qualify For Conference Tournament
Record: 6-8-2
Jess Coates’ Stats: 16 games (16 starts), 8 goals, 6 assists
Kristy Helmers’ Stats: 16 games (16 starts), 6 goals, 5 assists

At opposite ends of their college careers but the same end of the pitch, Jess Coates and Kristy Helmers quickly formed a combination that may not have replaced Coates’ connection with Spencer Valdespino from previous season, but surely made Colonels fans wish that the two could have had more than one campaign together. The two were in sync throughout the season, and both players reaped the rewards. Both players earned All-Louisiana honours as well as College Matildas awards as the pair combined for 14 goals and 11 assists. Unfortunately, the Colonels finished a win out of the Southland Conference tournament, requiring a result on the final day but going down to Southeastern Louisiana. Whilst Coates’ time in Thibodaux has now reached its completion, Helmers will ensure that the Australian impact on the team remains strong.

Pacific (Ellie Papalexiou)

Final Standing: 10th in West Coast
Record: 1-15-1
Ellie Papalexiou’s Stats: 7 games (7 starts), 0 goals, 0 assists

If a one win season sounds like it was tough for Pacific, it was a whole lot tougher for Ellie Papalexiou on a personal level. A second major knee injury ended Ellie’s season prematurely, with the junior only able to take the field for 7 games this season. It will no doubt be a long, tough road back for Ellie but hopefully the winger can make a comeback for her senior season and make a solid impact for the team.

San Francisco (Price Keogh)

Final Standing: 7th in West Coast
Record: 7-12-0
Price Keogh’s Stats: 7 games (0 starts), 0 goals, 0 assists

San Francisco were never expected to be a major player in the West Coast Conference this season, but perhaps would have liked to finish slightly higher than their eventual 7th place as the Dons let a couple of results slip on their way to an overall record of 7-12-0. Unfortunately, Price Keogh was not afforded a whole lot of opportunities to shine this season, generally coming off the bench in short spurts in her sophomore year, and will no doubt be striving to gain more chances to play next season.

Southeast Missouri State (Maddy Cornell, Siena Senatore)

Final Standing: 7th in Ohio Valley, Did Not Qualify For Conference Tournament
Record: 9-6-4
Maddy Cornell’s Stats: 18 games (3 starts), 0 goals, 0 assists
Siena Senatore’s Stats: 11 games (1 start), 0 goals, 0 assists

In what could be classed as a rebuilding year for Southeast Missouri State, the Redhawks were unable to live up to last year’s results. Coming off an Ohio Valley Conference tournament final last season, Southeast Missouri State limped to a 7th place finish in the conference, missing the conference tournament as a consequence. Losing Siena Senatore for the majority of the conference schedule didn’t help, though. The sophomore suffered an injury early in conference play and didn’t see the field for the back half of the campaign. Maddy Cornell continued in her role as a rotational player, occasionally starting but generally coming off the bench in her third season with the team.

Stanford (Beattie Goad)

Final Standing: Pac-12 Champions, NCAA Second Round
Record: 18-2-1
Beattie Goad’s Stats: 21 games (10 starts), 1 goal, 0 assists

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Beattie Goad enjoyed a solid freshman year. (Photo Credit: Jim Shorin/ISIPhotos.com)

A winger all through her time at Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City in the W-League, Beattie Goad instead found a home at fullback for much of this season, starting in several games. Whilst it would always be tough to break into a loaded Stanford side, Beattie nevertheless did enough to finish ranked in Top Drawer Soccer’s Top 100 freshmen come the end of the season with her efforts up and down both flanks. Stanford earned the overall #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament but an unfortunate ACL injury to star midfielder Andi Sullivan perhaps proved to be an obstacle too large for the Cardinal to overcome as the favourites went down 1-0 to Santa Clara in the round of 16.

Texas (Monique Iannella)

Final Standing: 9th in Big 12, Did Not Qualify For Conference Tournament
Record: 8-9-1
Monique Iannella’s Stats: 13 games (12 starts), 0 goals, 2 assists

An excellent non-conference slate unfortunately made way for a dismal conference season for Texas in 2016 as the Longhorns missed the conference tournament and ruined their chances of an NCAA Tournament berth in the process. However, Monique Iannella was solid at the back all season for Texas, aside from a short spell out through injury. The former Adelaide United player was excellent in defence and also managed to provide a bit of spark in attack to register 2 assists in her 13 games.

Texas Southern (Paige Hayward)

Final Standing: 2nd in SWAC, Tournament Semi-Finalist
Record: 11-7-1
Paige Hayward’s Stats: 19 games (19 starts), 13 goals, 5 assists

Our 2016 Player of the Year, Paige Hayward enjoyed an outstanding season for Texas Southern, leading the Tigers to 2nd position in the SWAC. With 13 goals and 5 assists, Paige was the undoubted star of the side, but unfortunately Texas Southern fell to Alabama State in the SWAC semi-finals, denying Paige a chance to strut her stuff on the biggest stage of all. However, with one season up her sleeve, Paige will have every chance to help the team go slightly better in 2017 and perhaps reach the NCAA Tournament.

Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)

Final Standing: 8th in Big 12, Tournament Quarter-Finalist, NCAA Tournament 1st Round
Record: 9-9-2
Demi Koulizakis’ Stats: 18 games (3 starts), 0 goals, 0 assists

It took Demi Koulizakis the best part of an entire season to break into the Texas Tech side, but when she was finally given the chance she took it with both hands in a campaign that saw Texas Tech just sneak into the NCAA Tournament after requiring a final day result to not only reach the Big 12 tournament, but remain above .500 and even maintain their eligibility for the tournament in the first place. After being given token minutes to merely allow the starters a longer spell in the early stages of the season, Demi was offered extended minutes as the season progressed, and her performances ensured that those minutes kept coming deeper into the campaign. With a full year under her belt, the former Western Sydney Wanderers player will be well set for an even stronger second year with the Red Raiders.

Troy (Alexandra Huynh)

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Alexandra Huynh was a solid leader at the back for Troy in her senior season. (Photo Credit: Colin Edwards/Troy Athletics)

Final Standing: 8th in Sun Belt, Tournament Quarter-Finalist
Record: 7-10-3
Alexandra Huynh’s Stats: 18 games (18 starts), 0 goals, 3 assists

Alexandra was forced into a transfer from Colorado after her junior year and her vast experience was vital to a young Troy side requiring some leadership. Although the team didn’t have a hugely successful season, Alexandra was able to secure a spot in the Sun Belt All-Conference Second team. Despite just sneaking into the conference tournament, the Trojans did manage one of the biggest upsets of the year in the regular season, knocking off South Alabama and snapping a 33 game unbeaten run for the Jaguars in conference play. Alexandra also received our Defender of the Year award for her efforts after going close in all three of her previous college seasons.

UCLA (Teagan Micah)

Final Standing: 4th in Pac-12, NCAA Tournament 3rd Round
Record: 15-5-2
Teagan Micah’s Stats: 22 games (22 starts), 93 saves, 9 clean sheets, 0.959 goals against average, 1 assist

UCLA Athletics - 2016 UCLA Women's Soccer versus the Washington State Cougars. Drake Stadium, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA. October 23rd, 2016 Copyright Don Liebig/ASUCLA 161023_WSOC_0334.NEF
Teagan Micah established herself as one of the premier young goalkeepers in the college ranks. (Photo Credit: UCLA Athletics)

 

It may not be legal in soccer to install a brick wall in front of your goal, but UCLA got the next best thing in the form of Teagan Micah this season. The freshman put up one of the best goalkeeping seasons in Bruins history, with her 93 saves the second-most in a season by a UCLA goalkeeper. Teagan also kept 9 clean sheets in 22 games as the Queenslander played every minute of the season for UCLA bar an exhibition against Beijing Normal University, earning Top Drawer Soccer’s Freshman Goalkeeper of the Year as well as a raft of College Matildas awards. UCLA eventually went down to finalists West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 in a penalty shootout, but the 2016 campaign set them up well for next season which will see them bring in US national team player Mallory Pugh as part of an outstanding recruiting class.

USC (Lulu Pullar)

Final Standing: 2nd in Pac-12, National Champions
Record: 19-4-2
Lulu Pullar’s Stats: 3 games (0 starts), 0 goals, 0 assists

One season, one national championship. Not a bad start for Lulu Pullar, even if the freshman may not have seen a lot of playing time for USC this season. Lulu featured in just three games for the Women of Troy in 2016, but with an absolutely stacked senior class departing following this season, there may be a bit more opportunity for the defensive utility to make a name for herself in 2017 as USC look to maintain their high level. It won’t be easy with the players they’re losing, but there are still some young starlets who can keep the team amongst the upper echelon in the Pac-12.

Western Carolina (Kate Swartwout)

Final Standing: 8th in Southern Conference, Tournament Quarter-Finalist
Record: 8-12-0
Kate Swartwout’s Stats: 16 games (11 starts), 0 goals, 1 assist

The second of the Aussies to play in the Southern Conference, Kate was also easily the Australian playing closest to home, with her hometown of Lake Norman, North Carolina within a few hours driving distance of Western Carolina. A versatile player throughout her high school and club career, Kate found a home in her favoured defensive position in her freshman season. However, this did not prevent the freshman from stepping up in attack when required.

Winthrop (Jai Jackson)

Final Standing: 9th in Big South, Did Not Qualify For Conference Tournament
Record: 4-12-1
Jai Jackson’s Stats: 16 games (10 starts), 0 goals, 0 assists

It was a tough old season for Winthrop this year, winning just the 4 games and failing to qualify for the Big South tournament. Jai Jackson struggled for minutes early in the season despite coming off a strong 2015, but eventually forced her way into the side to start 10 games in her senior year. It was not the season that a player of Jai’s quality deserved in her senior year, but she can no doubt be proud of her efforts during her two seasons at Winthrop.

Wyoming (Alisha Bass, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Georgia Rowntree, Candace Sciberras)

Final Standing: 5th in Mountain West, Tournament Semi-Finalist
Record: 10-8-2
Alisha Bass’ Stats: 20 games (20 starts), 3 goals, 4 assists
Annika Clayton’s Stats: 11 games (1 start), 1 goal, 3 assists
Jessie Gentle’s Stats: 19 games (6 starts), 1 goal, 1 assist
Georgia Rowntree; Stats: 20 games (20 starts), 75 saves, 8 clean sheets, 1.117 goals against average
Candace Sciberras’ Stats: 0 games (injured)

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Georgia Rowntree stepped up impressively in goal for Wyoming. (Photo Credit: Ted Brummond)

Influential across the park for Wyoming, the Cowgirls have plenty to thank their Australians for this season. Georgia Rowntree was outstanding between the sticks all season, whilst Alisha Bass moved from centre back into attacking midfield during the season and excelled in both positions. Jessie Gentle and Annika Clayton were both sparks off the bench, with Clayton perhaps denied a chance at starting after suffering a couple of injuries whilst in some excellent form. As has become the norm for Wyoming recently, the Cowgirls reached the Mountain West tournament semi-final and had some excellent moments throughout the season, but weren’t quite able to break through for a championship.

Soccer vs. Air Force
Alisha Bass proved herself to be one of the best players in the Mountain West this season. (Photo Credit: Ted Brummond)

Alisha Bass did have one of the moments of the season, heading home a golden goal with less than 15 seconds remaining in double overtime to secure a win over Utah Valley early in the season Sadly, Candace Sciberras was unable to take the field this season after being forced out with injury just prior to the start of the year.

Awards:

Freshmen Of The Year: Kristy Helmers (Nicholls State) and Teagan Micah (UCLA)

Sophomore Of The Year: Isabel Hodgson (East Tennessee State)

Junior Of The Year: Paige Hayward (Texas Southern)

Senior Of The Year: Jess Coates (Nicholls State)

Goalkeepers Of The Year: Teagan Micah (UCLA) and Georgia Rowntree (Wyoming)

Defender Of The Year: Alexandra Huynh (Troy)

Midfielder Of The Year: Jess Coates (Nicholls State) and Isabel Hodgson (East Tennessee State)

Forward Of The Year: Paige Hayward (Texas Southern)

Breakout Player Of The Year: Isabel Hodgson (East Tennessee State)

Player Of The NCAA Tournament: Teagan Micah (UCLA)

Top Goalscorer: Paige Hayward (Texas Southern) – 13 goals

Most Assists: Isabel Hodgson (East Tennessee State) – 9 assists

Fans’ Player Of The Year: Teagan Micah (UCLA)

2016 College Matildas Player Of The Year: Paige Hayward (Texas Southern)

Final Player Of The Year Points:

Player

Team

Points

Paige Hayward

Texas Southern

12

Harriet Withers

Murray State

11

Jess Coates

Nicholls State

8

Isabel Hodgson

East Tennessee State

8

Kristy Helmers

Nicholls State

7

Georgia Rowntree

Wyoming

7

Teagan Micah

UCLA

7

Alisha Bass

Wyoming

6

Alexandra Huynh

Troy

3

Beattie Goad

Stanford

1

Caitlin Cantrill

LSU

1

Laura Johns

Massachusetts

1

NCAA Tournament Preview

This season, seven Australians across six teams will contest the NCAA Tournament. Three of those sides – Stanford, UCLA, and USC – could be considered legitimate challengers for the title, whilst Colorado and Texas Tech could definitely shake things up and spring an upset or two. Beattie Goad and Stanford have secured the overall top seed, but UCLA and USC have also managed to grab seeded positions and could use those favourable draws to their advantage.

Stanford (Beattie Goad)

First Round: v Houston Baptist – 2pm, Saturday November 12

Live on Stanford Women’s Soccer Facebook

Beattie Goad
Beattie Goad (Photo Credit: Bill Dally/ISIPhotos.com)

As the overall top seed in the tournament, Stanford go in as favourites to make it to San Jose for the College Cup. First up, they take on Houston Baptist, who qualified for the tournament as champions of the Southland Conference. The Huskies have compiled a 10-10-1 record this season, and sit a lowly 220th in the RPI rankings. If Stanford get through this first game, they will take on the winner of Long Beach State and Santa Clara, two teams in the top 50 of the RPI rankings. Expect to see Beattie Goad play a cameo off the bench for Stanford, as she has done in recent weeks, unless the Cardinal get out to a big lead, which is possible. If that happens, there may be scope for Beattie to play a lot more minutes as some starters are rested.

UCLA (Teagan Micah)

First Round: v Seattle – 2pm, Saturday November 12

Live on Pac-12 UCLA Stream

The 4th seed in their quarter of the draw, UCLA will be hard-pressed to reach the final weekend as they must go through heavyweights West Virginia (or a team that defeats them) to reach even the quarter-finals. Before that though, they must take on Seattle in the first round. The WAC champions, Seattle are 93rd in the RPI rankings with a 14-5-1 record to this point. UCLA should win this game comfortably, but a second round matchup with Top 20 side Nebraska would be far tougher. However, with Teagan Micah doing her best impression of a brick wall between the sticks for the Bruins, the path through to a potential game with West Virginia should be much more smooth.

Colorado (Isobel Dalton, Kahlia Hogg)

First Round: v Oklahoma State – 6am, Sunday November 13

Live on Pac-12 Colorado Stream

Of the four Pac-12 teams featuring Aussies to reach the tournament, Colorado are the lowest in the RPI rankings and, as such, face the toughest test in the first round. The 29th ranked Buffaloes face off against 56th ranked Oklahoma State on their home patch. Colorado do have a reasonable history of making things happen in the NCAA Tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2013 after knocking off Denver and BYU in unexpected wins, and taking North Carolina to overtime in 2014 as the Buffaloes came incredibly close to a huge upset. If Colorado can manage a win, they will almost certainly play #1 seed South Carolina in the first round, unless Aussie student assistant coach Shelbi Vienna-Hallam can help Alabama State conjure what would be a ludicrously massive upset. We may not see a lot of Isobel Dalton and Kahlia Hogg in this game due to various circumstances, but you never know how these things pan out.

Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)

First Round: at Utah – 7am, Sunday November 13

Live on Pac-12 Utah Stream

Texas Tech were forced to wait until Selection Monday to learn if they would make the tournament, as they sat firmly on the bubble. Fortunately, Demi Koulizakis and the Red Raiders were granted a bid, and they will travel to Utah for their first round game. At 21st in the RPI rankings, Utah will go into this game as favourites against 42nd ranked Texas Tech. If Texas Tech can manage a victory first up, things only get tougher as they will likely take on ACC champions Florida State. Demi Koulizakis was only seeing limited minutes earlier in the season, but her playing time has exploded recently and it will be interesting to see if this continues through the tournament.

USC (Lulu Pullar)

First Round: v Eastern Washington – 8am, Sunday November 13

Live on Pac-12 USC Stream

The second seed in their quarter of the draw, USC were close to snagging a top seed until their final day loss to UCLA and Florida’s SEC championship victory. The Women of Troy come into this game against Big Sky champion Eastern Washington as hot favourites to advance to the second round and a game against either TCU or Texas A&M. USC sit in the same section of the draw as Demi Koulizakis and Texas Tech, and whilst it might take some upsets, we could see a Sweet 16 matchup between the two Aussies. How much playing time Lulu Pullar gets in that potential game, or indeed in any other, remains to be seen, though.

Albany (Claire Urquhart)

First Round: v Connecticut – 10am, Sunday November 13

Live on Husky Vision ($$)

Last season, Claire Urquhart played the first few games, then saw no playing time for the rest of the season until the NCAA Tournament. This season has followed a similar course so far, and we may yet see Claire in the NCAA Tournament again as the Great Danes take on Connecticut in the first round. Certainly, it will be another tough game for Albany. Last season, Penn State were a #1 seed and won the NCAA title after beating Albany in the first round. This season, Connecticut are #8 in the RPI even if they haven’t secured a seeding for the tournament. It’s going to be hard for Albany to get through the first round, but upsets are certainly more likely in soccer than they are in many other sports.