The Road Less Travelled: Siobhan Longmore’s Journey To Lamar

How does a player from the coastal town of Busselton, Western Australia wind up in south-east Texas at Lamar University? If you’re Siobhan Longmore, it takes a long and winding road that detours through not one, but two junior colleges, and a little bit of guidance from your family. We caught up with Siobhan to find out more about the Dodge City Community College transfer’s journey to this point.

Advertisements

On the back of a glittering junior career that included state representation and a move from Busselton to Perth to continue her development, Siobhan Longmore has spent the past two seasons as an integral part of the Dodge City Community College women’s soccer team. (Yes, that’s Dodge City as in the term ‘get the hell out of Dodge.’) However, it wasn’t a truly smooth ride to get there in the first place as the Western Australian originally planned on playing at another school altogether.

“My sister, Ariana, was a freshman at Dodge City, and I was originally going to a school in Georgia called Georgia Military College. I got there, and it really just wasn’t what I expected and hoped it to be,” Longmore explained. “So the coach at Dodge City, Tim Romanello, took me in and I came here basically because my sister was here. She’s now graduated and she’s playing in California. So pretty much it’s because of my sister that I came here.”

Ariana’s presence at Dodge City may just have saved Siobhan’s career, because it wasn’t long before she was ready to leave Georgia and head back to Busselton, her college career over even before it started.

“I was going to come home three days into it; I hated it. It wasn’t what I was told it was going to be, so I was going to pack my bags and leave,” Longmore revealed. “But my family’s very supportive, they never want me to give up. My sister’s my biggest fan, I’m her biggest fan; she just said, ‘Nope, you’ve got to give it a chance.’ And I’m glad I did because I’ve made so many friends, and it’s just been amazing.”

But why attend a junior college in the first place? Longmore received interest from four year schools, but her sister’s guidance and the chance to play from the outset made the prospect of using her first two years in the US to set herself up for Division I all the more enticing.

“When I first got recruited, I got a lot of emails from four year schools. But my sister was at a community college, and she pretty much said ‘Listen, it’s going to set you up for a four-year, it’s going to give you the experience,’” Longmore explained. “For most incoming freshmen going to a four year university, it’s hard to get playing time. It was good at the community college, I mean, I played every game and I feel like it definitely has developed me to go to the next level.”

Longmore was certainly thrown in the deep end at Dodge City, though. A centre back throughout her junior years, then-Dodge City coach Tim Romanello had different plans for his newest player, moving Siobhan into a new position from the outset in what proved to be an inspired decision.

“He was an amazing coach, practices were different every day, I learnt so many new things. Honestly, I moved to America to play as a centre back, and the first day I got to America, he put me in as a centre midfielder, and I loved it,” Longmore explained. “I played centre midfield for the last two years, and it’s just developed my game. I’ve created so much more skill and strength and speed that I never had before, that I didn’t know I could have.”

“Over the last two years I’ve gained so much speed that I didn’t know I had. I’m not the best with foot skills, but I’ve got them there, and I have a very strong shot from the left side. I’m very competitive – if someone passes me, I’ll get mad about it and it’ll never happen again.”

“So now I’ve been recruited to play left defender (at Lamar), which is good because I’m left-footed and I love defence, and I also love attacking, which is what I can do in that position.”

However, the chance to play a certain position is never the be-all and end-all when it comes to recruiting, with many other factors coming into play. Hailing from a coastal town, Longmore craved a return to a beachside setting, but clearly there were other factors at play, including the opportunity to play for a team that coach Steve Holeman has turned from a 2 win team in 2016 to conference champions in 2017. However, it wasn’t Holeman who recruited Longmore, but one of his assistants.

“My whole recruiting process didn’t go through him, it went through the assistant coach Henry (Zapata), I knew the background and how (Holeman) has carried the team to be conference winners. I just think it’s amazing how you can turn around in one season. But my whole recruiting process went through Henry, and he was so good, and very open and honest about everything,” Longmore explained.

“We were talking for about a month and a half. I was going to go out and visit, but with school and stuff I couldn’t, and it got to the point where just after Christmas, I actually told him that Lamar probably won’t be a place for me.

“He came back, he offered me a full scholarship, and he pretty much made it sound like everything I wanted it to be. I have family in Texas, so at that point we took the drive up there, and I looked at the campus, and I absolutely loved it. I saw the soccer field, and I’m actually going up there in about three weeks to meet the team and watch them play one of their spring games, so I’m really excited.”

“When I came in as a sophomore, I said to everyone, ‘I am going somewhere on the beach, I don’t care where it is!’ I put it out there to schools in California and Florida, and, there was a school in Florida that I was going to go to, but Lamar came up and it was the best option for me.”

So what does the future hold for Lamar’s newest Australian? The junior certainly has big dreams, with one eye on entering the professional ranks following her two years at the top level of college soccer.

“I’m staying in America for the summer, so I’m going to be training hard, and after the two years, I know that this is big to say, but I really want to get picked up by the Houston Dash. I guess that’s kind of the dream, so I have to go hard from start to finish,” Longmore explains, slightly shyly.

“But you know, if I was to come home, I would hopefully try to get into the Perth Glory team. I’ve tried that before, but then I’ve developed so much as a player, like I didn’t even know I could develop that much. But I definitely want to continue soccer, I want to keep playing at the highest level I can.”

Interestingly, Siobhan will not be the only Australian junior college transfer to be playing in the Southland Conference, with Iowa Lakes Community College transfer Tessa Calabria joining fellow Australians Kristy Helmers and Tenille Harberger at Nicholls State. The pair even faced off in a junior college match last season, with both sides featuring a number of Australians.

“We actually have a photo together! We we played against them at the start of the season, and one of the other girls who plays on the Iowa team, I went to school with her and lived with her when I went to John Curtin College (in Perth). So it was kind of a big reunion there, and then we got together and there were four Australians on the team. I was like, ‘Let’s take a big photo of all the Australians!’. There’s another Australian on my team, my roommate, who’s also from Busselton, so we have a photo of about six of us, which was cool.”

Madeleine Duncan, Tessa Calabria, Sienna Scully (all Iowa Lakes CC), Siobhan Longmore, and Keeley Milner (both Dodge City CC)

“We’ve been in contact, we’ve been talking about it, and she told me that’s where she was going to go, and I said that’s awesome, we’re going to be playing against each other. I love playing against other Aussies, and even when I’m at basketball games and I see Australians on the other team’s roster, after the game I go up to them, I give them a hug, we have such good chats, it’s so cool.”

Georgia Rowntree: From Wyoming to the Ivy League

A University of Wyoming goalkeeping stalwart and four-time College Matildas Goalkeeper of the Year, Georgia Rowntree has recently accepted an offer to continue her studies in the form of a Doctorate of Physical Therapy at Columbia University in New York. We caught up with the Cowgirls legend to get some insight into her pathway to this point, and also her future plans.

 

Long before the college recruiting process even began for Georgia Rowntree, the goalkeeper was determined to move into physiotherapy or a similar field following her playing days. With a chosen pathway already in mind before leaving for the United States, Rowntree was able to go through the process with a fine-tooth comb before even making a decision regarding whether to go to college or stay in Australia. As Wyoming was the only college program seriously pursuing the goalkeeper, the main point for Rowntree was finding a major that fit her plans for the future.

“I had always planned on going to uni in Australia, and I’d gotten into the Bachelor’s of Physiotherapy program at Sydney Uni, so I knew that that was the area I wanted to go into,” Rowntree explains. “So when I chose my major at Wyoming, I basically looked into what’s the most similar thing I can do, what’s an exercise science major that I can do at Wyoming, and that was kinesiology and health. I looked into what was the best undergraduate degree for me to do that would allow me entry into a physiotherapy program or something like that if I chose to come back home.”

With a plan in mind, Rowntree took advantage of the opportunity to discuss her future pathways with academic staff, both at Wyoming and at the University of Sydney, to ensure that she was headed in the right direction with her future plans. There can often be a risk when Australian students travel to the US to study medically-related fields with regards to satisfying requirements of post-graduate programs in Australia, but Rowntree ensured she had all bases covered regardless of which side of the Pacific her future lay.

“When i was speaking to [Wyoming coach] Pete Cuadrado about being recruited, I definitely asked those questions about [post-graduate study in Australia], and I was able to talk to one of the academic advisors at Wyoming about the best degree to go into, just so I wasn’t left in a degree that sort of meant nothing – not that degrees mean nothing anyway – but just one that would put me on the right path.”

“And I actually made sure that I spoke to someone at Sydney University about that as well, and if I came home if I would be able to get into the same program in Sydney, a Master’s with that degree.”

However, nothing is set in stone, as Rowntree explains with regards to her discussions with Sydney Uni.

“I took a bit of a chance, because I remember Sydney Uni saying, you know, right now you’ll probably be fine with that degree and those subjects that they offer in that degree, but you know, our prerequisites change all the time so you’ll have to double-check. But I was still pretty confident, because you know, the human body’s the human body, how wrong can you go?”

In any event, regardless of her plans, Rowntree’s future was destined to involve post-graduate study due to the structure of the degree that she studied at Wyoming.

“I knew that with my Bachelor’s in Kinesiology, I’d need to follow that up with some kind of graduate school, be that in Australia or the States, so I’d always kind of planned on that,” Rowntree explained.

“The idea of doing grad school in the States was always sort of in the back of my mind, because my major in Wyoming is considered a pre-professional program, so everyone is groomed for applying to different professional programs like physical therapy or occupational therapy.”

“So everyone talks about it there, like ‘this subject is really good for PT (physical therapy) school’ or ‘this subject is really good for OT (occupational therapy) school’, and I was just making sure that I got my prerequisites for Australia done.”

“But when I really started thinking about applying to PT school in the US was after I’d done some observation with physical therapists in the United States, just out of interest, seeing how their jobs differed from physios in Australia.”

“it was being in those environments that really motivated me to apply to PT school in the States.”

Rowntree applied to schools all over the US, from schools in the Pacific Northwest to Louisiana State University, and, of course, Columbia University in New York. But to say that Rowntree was less than optimistic about the Columbia application would be an understatement.

“I applied to seven different schools. Part of it was just – what is a place in the United States that I would like to live? I didn’t really have much idea of where I wanted to go at all, and I mean being from Sydney, the idea of living in New York City isn’t that foreign to me. I applied to places with good reputations, and also nice places to live. I just figured that if I didn’t get into any of those, I could just come home and live in Sydney, so I applied to the seven best schools in the country that I thought would suit me best.”

“Columbia was one that I just sort of threw in there. Of course, everyone knows Columbia, it has that huge international reputation. I never in a million years thought that I would hear back from them, so that was just a shot in the dark. There were schools like the University of Utah in Salt Lake City – which was a team we had played against, and I really liked their facilities when we played there – I thought that would be a really nice school to go to, and more like the level that I thought I’d be on. The fact that Columbia got in touch with me and invited me for an interview, and then on top of that accepted me, that was just a dream come true. That was just an application that I threw in there because it would be fun and thought ‘why not have a shot?’, and it’s turned out well, so that’s basically it!”

With a place in one of the world’s finest universities secured, Rowntree is now set, having moved from a major world city in Sydney to Laramie four years ago, to move from Laramie to the world’s major city in New York. There are many changes coming for the senior, but Rowntree is ready to face them all head-on.

“It’s a huge environment change, but that’s why I’m super-excited. I’ve been living in a small country town, and it’s been a huge experience and taught me a lot, coming from the suburbs of Sydney where there’s 4 million people. I guess I think it’s going to be really awesome to be in a new place. My dad said it’s the centre of the world, so you know, anything can happen there, and I’m just really keen to get to that new place.”

“It’s going to be really tough. PT school you go to class at 8am, then you have an hour for lunch, and you get done at 5pm every day. You spend all your time in your first year in an anatomy lab dissecting a dead body, then going home and studying what you’ve done in lab that day, so it’s going to be crazy-intense, but it’s going to be super-rewarding. I’m sure being at an institution like Columbia, I’m going to be well-taken care of.”

“I’ve just got to get used to living in a small apartment I guess. I mean, I guess I already live in a small apartment, but an even smaller one probably!”

Whilst academia has been one part of Rowntree’s life in Laramie, soccer has obviously played a major part in the goalkeeper’s time in the United States to this point. Juggling the two has been a struggle at times for Rowntree, but in the end the experience has proven to be rewarding.

Soccer vs. San Jose State
Rowntree was all but ever-present between the sticks for Wyoming.

“It’s really tough. When you’re a college soccer player in the US, you do a lot of travelling, it’s honestly the hardest part, having to miss lectures and labs and stuff like that because you’re off playing all over the country,” Rowntree explains.

“But the culture on the Wyoming team is very academically motivated; our team GPA was a 3.5 or something crazy. When we’re away everyone’s doing homework in the lobby or studying, and it makes you manage your time better and become a more professional student because you really have to be on top of all of your stuff.”

“In my freshman year we had a schedule where 14 of our 20 games were away games, so I missed a tonne of school, and that was a huge struggle, especially in my first year of college. You sort of just adapt, communicate with your professors and stuff like that.”

“I honestly think playing soccer made me a better student because there was no time to procrastinate, like I just had to get everything done, ultimately ahead of time. But it’s definitely hard, one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”

However, whilst the Cowgirls’ stalwart’s academic career marches forward, we may have seen the last of Georgia Rowntree between the sticks at a competitive level. Rowntree is nonetheless philosophical about her time in the game, choosing instead to focus on what football has delivered to this point in her life.

“I was definitely very fortunate that I was able to play college soccer. I was at a standstill in the Australian system, I’d been on a W-League team for a couple of years but I hadn’t really played, and there were a lot of excellent up-and-coming goalkeepers. And I was playing for Sydney Uni, but I’d been playing first grade since I was 15 or 16, so my career wasn’t going anywhere,” Rowntree reveals in explaining her initial reasons for making the move to college.

“Wyoming was the next big step, and I’d always sort of thought that once i was done at Wyoming I’d come home and try to play in the W-League again and I certainly could do that. I think I’m certainly good enough to do that, but four years of college soccer at 7,000 feet takes its toll on your body, and I’ve got pretty bad tendinitis in my knees and, you know, old people problems with my body. Hitting the ground hundreds of times a day as a goalkeeper takes its toll.”

Rowntree laughs as she says this and it is evident that she is comfortable with her decision to leave the competitive side of the game behind. So, is this a retirement call?

“For the moment, I’d like to say yes, but I’m sure you’ll find me playing rec league soccer in New York somewhere. I think I’m going to miss it too much. I certainly hope to coach somewhere. I’m not going to play competitively again, I don’t think. I’m not good enough to get drafted (to the NWSL), second of all everything hurts when i run,” Rowntree laughs a little once more.

“I have no issues with that, I’ve benefited so much from playing soccer. Ultimately, the game of football has brought me to this place in my life, where I’m about to attend the best university in the world and have this amazing professional career in my future. I love the game of football so much that I don’t think I’ll be able to be disconnected from it for a long time, but I just don’t think I can keep up the competitiveness that I’ve maintained since I was 12 years old.”

“I went to the Wanderers game on New Year’s Day and I was watching young Jada (Jada Whyman, Western Sydney Wanderers W-League goalkeeper) play – she went to school with my sister and is good friends with my sister – and I was thinking that would be so fun, playing before the men’s team, because I just love the Wanderers so much, my whole family are huge Wanderers fans, but then I thought about how much training she’s probably done this week, and I was just like ‘maybe I don’t miss it so much.’”

So, does Rowntree have any parting messages for the next generation of players considering a move to college?

“If anything I guess I’d just like young players to know that if they’re thinking about going to the States, it isn’t only an amazing way to further your playing career but also yourself as a person. A lot of people doubt the value of an American college education but the reality is that it is really an invaluable thing.”

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.”