Hawaii reels in another Aussie with signing of Eliza Ammendolia

The Australian presence at Hawaii continues to grow, and the Rainbow Wahine have pulled off a massive coup with the signing of former Western Sydney Wanderers W-League and Young Matildas midfielder Eliza Ammendolia. The newest member of the Hawaii roster joins fellow midfielder Kiri Dale and assistant coach Rachael Doyle, and comes in with a glowing resume.

Ammendolia compiled 15 appearances in the W-League from 2015-17, including 9 starts for Western Sydney Wanderers, making the midfielder the third-most experienced W-League player currently in college behind Beattie Goad’s 35 appearances for Melbourne Victory and Melbourne City and Rachel Lowe’s 27 appearances for Western Sydney Wanderers. Ammendolia also represented the Young Matildas at the 2016 AFF Women’s Championship alongside former Oregon State defender Olivia Ellis and Illinois defender Ashleigh Lefevre, banging home a hat-trick in the team’s 20-0 demolition of East Timor on their way to a fourth-place finish.

Ammendolia has also made 58 appearances in NPLNSW over the last four years, firstly for Macarthur Rams, with whom the Griffith-born midfielder reached the 2015 Grand Final. Ammendolia then made the move to the Football NSW Institute for 2016 before switching to Blacktown Spartans for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, scoring six goals in 18 appearances in her most recent campaign. Interestingly, Ammendolia was also a member of the same Australian Schoolgirls side as recent UMBC signings Abi Jordan and Teal Kilbride that toured the US in 2018.

With Hawaii finishing a final-day result away from reaching the Big West Conference tournament in 2018, the addition of a player of Ammendolia’s class could certainly provide the spark that the Rainbow Wahine need to get over the hump in 2019 and reach the post-season for the first time since making the switch from the Mountain West in 2012.

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UMBC’s Aussie connection produces two new signings

UMBC’s Australian head coach Vanessa Mann has laid the foundations for a pipeline from her homeland to Baltimore with the announcement of the signing of two Australian players as part of her first recruiting class since taking over as head coach in August 2018. New South Wales pair Abi Jordan and Teal Kilbride have each inked National Letters of Intent with the program and will link up with the team in preparation for the upcoming season.

A defender out of Wollongong, Jordan made her NPL first team debut with Illawarra Stingrays in 2015 before becoming a regular member of the side in 2016 to compile 50 appearances for a team that never finished lower than fifth in her four seasons in the squad. Jordan also travelled to the United States with an Australian Schoolgirls side that featured players with W-League experience including Eliza Ammendolia and Shadeene Evans, as well as Wyoming sophomore duo Caitlin Pickett and Indianna Asimus, with the team bringing home the SoCal Winter Cup in the process. Jordan has also tasted success on the domestic front, picking up a national School Sport championship in 2018 as well as an Futsal Premier League 2 title earlier this season with South Coast Taipans.

Like Jordan, Kilbride is also a defender with NPL experience, having made 9 appearances for the North West Sydney Koalas first team in 2018 after serving her apprenticeship in the reserves side between 2014 and 2017, playing in two reserves grand finals in 2016 and 2017. Kilbride also featured alongside fellow newcomer Jordan in the 2018 Australian Schoolgirls side that won the SoCal Cup.

The Australian duo form part of a class of ten freshmen that will be entrusted with helping UMBC return to winning ways, with the Retrievers having not won more than six games in a season since compiling a 12-4-3 record in 2014, one of just two winning seasons since the program moved to the America East conference in 2004. Ironically, that 2014 season was the last season in which an Australian featured for UMBC, with South Australian Lilly Rydon proving crucial for the Retrievers as they reached the NCAA Tournament in 2013 before producing another solid season in 2014.

Jordan and Kilbride could prove especially crucial for the Retrievers, with a roster that was slightly short on defenders sitting in the bottom 20 in the nation in 2018, shipping 2.756 goals per game. The attack will still need to produce at better than last season’s 0.88 goals per game if UMBC are to turn things around, but correcting the defensive issues looks to be the highest priority in the short-term.

JUCO transfer Tessa Calabria becomes Nicholls’ third Aussie

The Australian contingent at Nicholls State has grown to three, with junior college transfer Tessa Calabria joining Kristy Helmers and Tenille Harberger in Thibodaux. A forward out of Adelaide, Calabria spent the past two seasons at Iowa Lakes Community College, helping the team to 15 wins during her stint with the program. A First Team All-Region selection in 2016, Calabria also received an All-Tournament Team selection following her performances in the 2016 NJCAA Region XI tournament, which included a hat-trick in a 5-0 quarter-final win over Dakota County Technical College.

Nicholls State struggled to score goals in conference play last season, an area in which Calabria excelled during her two seasons in junior college. The South Australian scored over 20 goals in her two seasons in Iowa, establishing herself as one of the Iowa Lakes side’s most potent attacking threats due to her ability in front of goal. Having scored just five goals in Southland Conference play and picking up only 3 wins in 11 games last season, the Colonels’ faithful will be hoping that potency can transfer to the Division I level, and in the process turn a couple of losses into draws or wins.

Calabria will no doubt be expected to shoulder at least part of the goalscoring load left by the graduating Emily Werenskiold, who was equal second-highest scorer on the team with three of the Colonels’ 16 goals in 2017. With fellow Australian Kristy Helmers now entering her junior year with the program, Nicholls State fans will surely be hoping that the new pair of Australian attacking players can form the same link that Helmers did with Colonels legend Jess Coates prior to Coates’ graduation following the 2016 season.

Calabria is the second JUCO transfer to join a Division I team this year, alongside Lamar’s Siobhan Longmore, who joined from Dodge City Community College in Kansas. The pair actually faced off last season, with both Calabria and Longmore tallying 3 shots and 2 shots on target in a game that Dodge City won 2-1. The pair will now face off at least once in each of the next two seasons, with both Nicholls State and Lamar playing in the Southland Conference.

Junior College transfer Siobhan Longmore links up with Lamar

Junior college transfer Siobhan Longmore has re-established the link between Australia and Lamar University, becoming the Cardinals’ first Australian since Danielle Pearce finished in 2013. Longmore also becomes the second Western Australian to make the move to Division I this year, with the Busselton product joining La Salle’s Alyssa Van Heurck in commencing her career at the top collegiate level in 2018. Versatile and athletic, Longmore has been earmarked as a defender for Lamar, but can play in a variety of positions, as shown by her goalscoring exploits in junior college.

Longmore spent the past two seasons playing for Dodge City Community College in Kansas, banging home 10 goals in 18 games in 2017 as well as tallying five assists. Prior to this, the junior slotted 8 goals and picked up 4 assists in 14 appearances in her freshman season of 2016.

Speaking in an official release, Lamar coach Steve Holeman praised Longmore’s athleticism. ”Siobhan is fast, athletic, and skillful. She is a natural left-footer, which is something we didn’t have on last year’s back line,” Holeman explained. “Because of her size and speed, she will be tough to beat. She also gives us another attacking option with her ability to play short and long passes from her outside back position or simply attack on the dribble.”

Meanwhile, Dodge City Community College coach Steward Bortey pointed out the Western Australian’s mental strengths. “Siobhan is an awesome person. She is fun to work with and very coachable. She has the drive to be successful in everything she does,” Bortey explained. “She is very athletic and very fast and will not let anyone stop her. I describe her as a game changer or a difference maker. She is fun to watch because of her athletic abilities and how explosive she is.”

With no left-footed defenders in last year’s Cardinals squad, Longmore will certainly provide a much-needed point of difference as the team attempts to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament after winning last year’s Southland Conference tournament and dropping just one game in the conference regular season on the way to an overall record of 18-4-1.

National Representative Ashleigh Lefevre headed to Illinois

Young Matildas representative Ashleigh Lefevre has become the latest Australian player with international experience to make the move to college, heading to Big Ten program Illinois.

Young Matildas representative Ashleigh Lefevre has become the latest Australian player with international experience to make the move to college, heading to Big Ten program Illinois. The versatile wide player has three caps for the Young Matildas as part of the 2016 AFF Championship squad, and also chalked up a goal in the team’s 20-0 demolition of Timor-Leste’s full national team in that tournament.

Lefevre spent the 2017 season playing for Alamein FC in the NPL Victoria competition, making 25 appearances and playing alongside former Florida International star and current Melbourne City W-League midfielder Amy Jackson as Alamein snuck into the finals in fourth place but fell in the minor semi-final to eventual grand finalists Geelong Galaxy United. Prior to playing for Alamein, Lefevre featured in the FFV NTC side in the 2016 NPL Victoria competition, making 16 appearances and chipping in with 12 goals as the NTC side finished 7th in the league. That NTC side also featured Melbourne Victory players Kyra Cooney-Cross and MelindaJ Barbieri, as well as Melbourne City youngster Sofia Sakalis, which speaks to the quality of the team.

Speaking in an official release, Illinois coach Janet Rayfield had the following to say with regards to the freshman. ”A multi-sport athlete who has worn the jersey for her country and has competed in the most competitive arena in Australia, Ashleigh Lefevre brings more international and national understanding to our program. Naturally left-footed, pacy and a two-sided player, Ashleigh adds to our flank defence and our flank attack. Her ability in that two-way 1-v-1 battle on the flank and the aerobic engine to go with it, Ashleigh will be able to contribute to shutouts and to goals.”

Illinois suffered through a difficult season in 2017, winning just five of their 19 games, but with a young team that loses just one regular starter to graduation, the Fighting Illini are set for improvement not only in 2018, but for the next few years as the side gains experience.

Laura Farrelly Signs With Marshall

Central Coast native and Manly United product Laura Farrelly has signed with Marshall University in West Virginia, taking the number of Australians playing in Conference USA to two, alongside Old Dominion’s Gaby Bentley. Farrelly also becomes the second former Manly United player to head to college in recent years, following former Washington State player and 2015 College Matildas Freshman of the Year, Tia Gavin.

An attacking midfielder, Farrelly spent the 2017 season playing in the reserves side for Manly United in NPL New South Wales, featuring in all 18 games for a side that finished sixth in the competition with ten wins and eight losses, narrowly missing out on the finals. Marshall coach Kevin Long has already expressed his happiness at Farrelly’s work ethic and game sense. In an official release, Long stated that “[Laura] is attacking her workouts and brings us a different perspective on the field we were looking for. She will play somewhere in the midfield for us, has already proven to have great vision on the field, dynamic runs in the attacking third and is looking to be dangerous every time she touches the ball.”

Living on the Central Coast of New South Wales and playing for Manly United has made for a lot of travel time for Farrelly whilst progressing through the junior ranks, and ironically, a move to the other side of the world has helped remove that obstacle.

“College was always one of those things which was always there as a possibility in the back of my mind since I was introduced to the idea by one of my friends who began the process,” Farrelly explained. “How I saw it was – college was an opportunity for me to thrive in a competitive soccer environment whilst being so close to campus that my studies weren’t as heavily affected as they would’ve been if I had been studying in Australia, where the commute down and back to training took out 3+ hours of my day which made keeping up with schoolwork and study hard.”
“Being in such a tight knit environment where classes and training are within walking distance meant that I could more efficiently balance my schedule so that I was making the most out of the times when I wasn’t training to get on with some of the work from my courses towards a degree which was being paid for by my soccer.”
With the idea of college set in stone, Farrelly was intent on finding a school that fit, and through an extended process, found Marshall to be the best fit.
“To tell about my personality a little, I am a relatively quiet to myself person who thrives in a family-like environment. I love knowing the majority of the people around me and so a college on the smaller side was always a priority for me if possible,” Farrelly said. “With a smaller college I tended to find the relationship between teammates was even larger than bigger colleges that I had talked to. Throughout the process of talking to coaches to find the right the right fit for me, we met many coaches whose colleges offered a lot in terms of facilities, education, high level soccer and so on, but none quite so much as (Marshall Head Coach) Kevin Long and (Assistant Coach) Erika Duncan had to offer me at Marshall University.”
“Marshall offered me the chance to play soccer at the highest level in a very competitive conference as well as aid financially in paying for an education which would help me in gaining my degree in exercise science. Through the numerous amounts of Skype calls which my parents and I interacted with Marshall, we were able to gain a good feel of the environment I would spend my next 4 years in.”
As well as the coaches, Farrelly was able to get an insight from the players that would become her teammates, opening her eyes to the environment at Marshall.
“I was able to privately talk to some of the girls from the team about dorms, on campus life and any other questions regarding the life of a student-athlete. This helped me to gain a realistic view of what I was getting myself into in terms of an extremely busy schedule of intense training mixed in with my classses. The engagement of both Kevin and Erika throughout the process intensified my feeings towards the college as they took steps beyond expectations to try make me feel comfortable and part of the Herd.”

The Marshall squad will lose two regular midfield players to graduation, including regular starter McKenna Klodrick, who has played almost every minute in the last two seasons, meaning that there will be minutes available in the midfield, but there will be an almighty battle for those now open positions.

Alyssa Van Heurck becomes La Salle’s second Australian

The number of Australians on La Salle’s roster will double in 2018, with Western Australian freshman Alyssa Van Heurck joining sophomore goalkeeper Claudia Jenkins at the Explorers. The Football West NTC defender and Perth Glory W-League training partner is the first player from Western Australia to make the move to a Division I college in recent years, with no players from the west having played at that level since College Matildas commenced coverage of Australians in 2014.

“I was always going to go to a local university in Perth but by joining a college in the US I can play soccer at a much higher standard while also studying for my chosen degree,” Van Heurck explained. “Studying in the US gives you exposure to different cultures and ideas and provides you with an opportunity to develop skills critical for future life.”

Van Heurck received offers from a number of colleges in both Division I and Division II, but in the end La Salle provided a balance that appealed to the freshman, with both competition level and playing time proving to be vital factors in her decision.

“When looking at colleges I really wanted to play in the highest division so La Salle being in Division I was a good fit,” Van Heurck revealed. “The opportunity to play at the highest level I possibly can is good but I am really keen to be on the field as much as possible being able to contribute and make a difference. My hometown is very mild with hot summers, so a college on the East Coast with a whole different environment is something I wanted to experience.”

“From meeting the coach (Paul Royal), he is very passionate about the game and I liked what he had in mind for me fitting into the team,” Van Heurck explained. “I have enjoyed watching the team last season I like their direct style of play and how they carry themselves, they seem to be very strong and fit, and out of soccer they seem to get along really well as a team.”

“And I have found since arriving that the coaching staff, teaching staff and team have been very supportive. I was a bit worried starting out but everyone is so helpful with getting me started into college life that I feel like I really fit in already.”

Helping Van Heurck settle in has been fellow Australian, goalkeeper Claudia Jenkins, who will be heading into her sophomore year after spending her freshman year as the backup to La Salle stalwart Larisa Zambelli.

“[Having Claudia on the team] has been fantastic and made the move easier as I had already got in contact with Claudia before leaving on what to expect. It’s also really fun to joke around with her talking to the girls about Australia.”

That will certainly be something to hear more about, but more importantly it will be fascinating to keep track of Van Heurck’s progress with the Explorers in a side that will be attempting to defend their 2017 Atlantic 10 conference title and make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.