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.
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.
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.
“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.”
34 Australians featured on rosters of NCAA Division I programs this season, with 30 of those getting onto the pitch at some point. Some were stars, some were regular starters, and some played roles as impact players off the bench, but all were fascinating to follow throughout the year. In this article, we take a short look at each player’s season.
(Lorena Bugden, Julia De Angelis, Lauren Featherstone, and Tenille Harberger did not feature this season, and as such are not included below.)
A leader for Wyoming from the minute she stepped on the pitch in 2014, Alisha Bass rounded out her college career with yet another outstanding season. Having played just about everywhere except between the sticks in the previous three years, Bass capitalised on the chance to play in her favoured midfield role, tallying six goals for the season, eclipsing the five she tallied in her freshman year. The senior also tallied three assists as her vision and passing ability shone through in spades once again. Unfortunately, the Cowgirls couldn’t quite recover from some personnel losses and injuries throughout the season, narrowly missing the conference tournament for the first and only time in Bass’s career.
Gaby Bentley (Old Dominion) Team Record: 9-5-4 (Conference USA Tournament Quarter-Finals) Stats: 17 games, 6 starts, 1 goal
Having featured in just two games in 2016, it was certainly heartening to see Gaby Bentley feature in 17 of Old Dominion’s 18 games this season, and start six times. The midfielder was also able to pick up a goal early in the season, tallying the Monarchs’ single goal in a 3-1 loss to VCU. Draws in conference play perhaps cost Old Dominion a higher spot in the Conference USA standings, and eventually they would fall to Louisiana Tech in the 4th-5th matchup in the conference tournament. With her trajectory clearly on the up, it will be hoped that Bentley can secure a regular starting berth in 2018.
After enjoying a reasonably solid freshman season in 2016, Caitlin Cantrill unfortunately found playing time hard to come by in 2017, featuring in just three games as LSU missed the SEC Tournament. Without speculating as to the reasons, it is certainly hoped that the Canberra product can garner more minutes in 2018 as she becomes one of the more senior players in the team in a squad that featured 16 freshmen this season.
Now in her junior year, Annika Clayton once again suffered through injury issues which held her out of the early stages of the season, but played the last 12 games of the season without missing a beat to carve out a highly respectable season. Clayton started on six occasions, playing a commanding role in midfield, and tallied a single goal in the 3-2 loss to New Mexico on Senior Day. With fellow Australian Alisha Bass leaving a gaping hole in midfield following her graduation, Clayton will be one of a number of players expected to step up in 2018 and fill the gap left by the senior.
Maddy Cornell (Southeast Missouri State) Team Record: 8-6-4 (Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Semi-Finals) Stats: 19 games, 17 starts, 2 goals, 1 assist
Given more opportunities to attack in 2017, Maddy Cornell enjoyed a reasonably successful senior season, tallying her first goal since 2016 in the season opening win against Evansville, and following it up with the team’s only goal in a 3-1 loss to Mississippi State later in the season. More importantly though, Cornell started 17 of the 19 games in which she featured, a vast improvement on 2017’s three starts in 18 games. Southeast Missouri State made a great run in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament to reach the semi-finals, but fell 1-0 to eventual champions Murray State in a game where the Redhawks held the usually ruthless Murray State attack to just six shots.
Kiri Dale (Hawaii) Team Record: 6-10-1 Stats: 17 games, 11 starts, 1 assist
A transfer from Iona, Kiri Dale moved to Hawaii looking for a tougher challenge, but the sophomore still managed to play 17 games, the same amount that she played in her freshman year in New York. Dale started the season supremely, coming up with game-winning assist on an opening day overtime win over Utah Valley. Dale would go on to start in 11 of her 17 appearances, and will no doubt be expected to step up to be a leader in 2018 as the Rainbow Wahine lose seven seniors to graduation.
Isobel Dalton (Colorado) Team Record: 12-6-4 (NCAA Tournament Round of 32) Stats: 7 games, 0 starts
Playing just seven games in 2017, at times it seemed as if Isobel Dalton was the player one away from being part of the rotation off the bench. The junior came within a couple of inches of registering her first Division I goal after crashing a shot off the crossbar in a 6-0 win over UC Riverside, but will go into her senior year still looking to tally her opening goal. Colorado had another solid season, reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to North Carolina, but the team will no doubt want to push on and reach the Sweet 16 in 2018 after several years of reaching the tournament but falling early.
Nyomi Devine (Murray State) Team Record: 15-2-2 (OVC Champions, NCAA Tournament First Round) Stats: 19 games, 19 starts, 1 assist
A veritable wall at the back for Murray State these past four years, Nyomi Devine once again performed superbly throughout 2017 to help lead the Racers to the NCAA Tournament. The senior helped the Racers keep nine clean sheets throughout the season, but it was an attacking play that may have been Devine’s most important of the season. With the Ohio Valley Conference championship game against Eastern Kentucky finishing 0-0 after 90 minutes, the game moved into golden goal overtime, and it was Devine coming up with the assist on the game winning goal as the Racers atoned for 2016’s surprising tournament loss to win the conference title and secure their passage to the NCAA Tournament before falling to Tennessee in the first round. Devine was rewarded for her play throughout the season with a selection in the United Soccer Coaches All-South Region Third Team, a well-deserved honour following yet another outstanding season.
A former Melbourne City W-League player, Olivia Ellis enjoyed some extended runs in her opening season, playing at least half a game on three occasions. However, those prolonged shifts did not translate into more appearances as the season rolled on, with the freshman featuring in just six games all season. Despite this, Ellis will return to an Oregon State side that loses seven starters to graduation, meaning positions will really open up in 2018, and with the Beavers leaning heavily on their starters last season, the slate is almost clean for both Ellis and the rest of the team coming into next season.
Priya Gakhar came into a Grambling State side that in 2016 had won just one game in a rather sparsely populated 12 game schedule, but that all changed in 2017. Gakhar featured in 18 games, mostly in short cameos off the bench, and tallied an assist in a 3-3 draw with Prairie View A&M as Grambling won 11 games in a 20-game schedule more befitting a Division I team. The Tigers eventually reached the SWAC Tournament semi-finals, falling to eventual champions Alabama State in a penalty shootout. With only one season remaining in her college career, Gakhar will surely want to turn those cameos into more prolonged stints on the field in each game.
An impact player off the bench over the last two seasons, Jessie Gentle once again performed admirably for Wyoming, playing in 18 games but starting just five. Although the junior tallied just two assists over the course of the season, Gentle’s play far surpassed what can be gleaned from the box score. Gentle unfortunately missed the final game of the season after a freak injury after colliding with a corner post in the team’s final home game, but nonetheless put together a third solid season on a personal level to set herself up for an outstanding senior year as Wyoming look to return to the Mountain West Conference tournament after narrowly missing out in 2017.
Things couldn’t have gone much better for Beattie Goad and Stanford in 2017 as the Cardinal lost just one game all season as they stormed home to a national championship after a 3-2 win in a blockbuster of a title game against UCLA. For Goad herself, it was a year of slotting in where required off the bench, starting in just five of her 19 appearances but featuring in a variety of positions as her versatility shone through, and picking up a goal and an assist in the course of her time on the pitch. Although Stanford will lose US national team player Andi Sullivan to graduation, the midfielder is the only regular starter from 2017 that will need to be replaced, and as such things are looking good for the Cardinal in 2018 as they look to defend their tile.
Paige Hayward was once again the leader of Texas Southern’s front line, contributing goals regularly as the Tigers once again fell agonisingly short of reaching the NCAA Tournament following a shootout loss to eventual champions Alabama State in the SWAC tournament semi-finals. The senior finished the season with 9 goals to round out her career with 25 goals, and chipped in two assists in her final season of collegiate play as the Tigers finished the season with a solid 6-3-1 conference record before the unfortunate shootout loss.
Emma Heckenberg (Drexel) Team Record: 11-7-1 (CAA Tournament Semi-Finals) Stats: 13 games, 11 starts, 2 assists
After playing 19 games in 2016, Emma Heckenberg played in just 13 games this season, but with 11 of those games coming consecutively to finish the season, it was clear that once the junior found her role in the team, she excelled. Shifted between defence and midfield, those freshman days of playing up front are now well and truly behind Heckenberg as she settles into a deeper role, although the junior was able to tally two assists this year. Drexel enjoyed a solid regular season to finish second in the CAA, but unfortunately their conference tournament campaign ended in the first round at the hands of the always dangerous Northeastern.
Kristy Helmers’ goal output was slightly down this year, perhaps a function of the loss of fellow Australian Jess Coates from the midfield and the lack of the element of surprise that existed in her freshman year. However, the sophomore was still able to tally three goals and register an assist in her 18 appearances, of which 13 were starts as Nicholls State finished with six wins from 18 games. With six of 16 of the Colonels’ goals coming from seniors this year, both Helmers and the rest of the attack will have to bang home the goals with far more regularity, but Helmers has proven that if she is given the service, she can certainly put the ball in the back of the net.
Sandra Hill (Grand Canyon) Team Record: 6-13-2 (WAC Tournament Semi-Finals) Stats: 14 games, 0 starts, 1 assist
An occasional presence for Grand Canyon in her freshman season, Sandra Hill featured in 14 games in 2017 in what was a tough season for the Lopes, who won just six of their 21 games. However, in a team with 10 freshmen on the roster, the signs are promising not only for Hill, but for the team as seven of those freshmen reached double figures for appearances. Hill also tallied a single assist, setting up one of Grand Canyon’s seven goals in a demolition of Chicago State.
It was a tough season to say the least for Isabel Hodgson and East Tennessee State, falling from a 13-6-2 season in 2016 to 6-13 in 2017. However, Hodgson continued to be an ever-present fixture in the lineup, save for one match missed with a minor ankle injury, showing herself to be one of the true leaders of the side going forward. The junior also tallied two goals and a single assist, well down on her five goals and nine assists, but the team scored just 22 in comparison to their 47 goals in 2016. However, there are still plenty of pieces there for the team to put together a winning season in 2018.
Jemma House (Wyoming) Team Record: 8-9-2 Stats: 19 games, 11 starts
A goalscoring extraordinaire in her two years at nearby Laramie County Community College, Jemma House was used in a slightly different role out wide in her first season at Wyoming. Despite featuring in every game for Wyoming this season, it took a while for House to adapt to Division I soccer before coming into her own and eventually becoming an integral part of the Wyoming roster, starting 11 games. The junior also picked up her first two Division I goals early in the season, before adding two assists as the season rolled on. The Cowgirls will lose five starters – albeit one of those is goalkeeper Georgia Rowntree – from this season’s team in 2018, so House will no doubt be expected to be one of the team’s leaders next season.
Injuries had been a common theme throughout Emily Hulbert’s career, but 2017 saw the Hofstra senior put most of that to one side to play a commanding role in midfield throughout the season as the Pride dominated conference play, finishing with a perfect record to secure the CAA title and reach the NCAA Tournament. The former Melbourne Victory player tallied a goal and two assists for the season, but it was her work shielding the back four and launching attacks from deep that were of paramount importance as the senior featured in 18 games in her final season after injury had limited her to just nine in her junior year.
Monique Iannella (Hofstra) Team Record: 15-4-2 (CAA Champions, NCAA Tournament First Round) Stats: 21 games, 20 starts, 6 assists
Whilst Emily Hulbert was excellent in midfield for Hofstra, Monique Iannella was outstanding at right back for the Pride, both in attack and defence. Following a transfer from Texas, Iannella slotted straight into a Hofstra defence that dominated opponents throughout the season to finish with 11 clean sheets. Iannella was also a threat from set pieces, taking the majority of corners and finishing with six assists for the season, the most by any Australian in 2017. The junior also took a mind-boggling 25 corners in one game against James Madison, finishing with two assists in that game.
Claudia Jenkins (La Salle) Team Record: 17-4-2 (A10 Champions, NCAA Tournament First Round) Stats: 4 games, 0 starts
Despite being second in the goalkeeping pecking order behind stalwart Larissa Zambelli, Claudia Jenkins was afforded a couple of opportunities in her freshman season, experience that could prove vital as the South Australian looks to make the starting spot her own in 2018. Jenkins made four appearances in her freshman season, coming on either when the game was already secure or after Zambelli took a knock, playing 65 minutes and only being required to make two saves. Jenkins did however pick up a conference title in her freshman season as La Salle defeated VCU 1-0 in overtime in the Atlantic 10 title game.
Having featured in 18 games in her freshman season, it was hoped that Demi Koulizakis would be able to increase her minutes in 2017, but it was not to be as the sophomore featured in just 10 games in 2017. Koulizakis was afforded just 114 minutes of playing time, hardly enough for the Sydneysider to showcase her talents as she averaged just 11 minutes of playing time. The Red Raiders finished the season 9-7-3, missing the NCAA Tournament after falling to West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament.
A near enough to ever-present fixture in a UCLA lineup that reached the NCAA Tournament final before falling 3-2 to Stanford in a blockbuster of a game, Teagan Micah enjoyed a second consecutive outstanding season between the sticks for the Bruins. Ranking in the top 50 in the nation for goals against average and clean sheets, Micah enjoyed the help of a solid defence, but still put in a number of outstanding efforts to tally nine shutouts for the season and concede just 19 goals. The sophomore also came up with the decisive save in the NCAA College Cup semi-final shootout against Duke which allowed Marley Canales to step up and secure UCLA’s passage to the final.
Shelby Milton (St. Francis) Team Record: 10-8-3 (NEC Champions, NCAA Tournament First Round) Stats: 6 games, 2 starts
Shelby Milton featured in 19 games for St. Francis in 2016, but somehow her opportunities were restricted in 2017, making just six appearances for a Red Flash team that reached the NCAA Tournament after defeating Sam Roff and Fairleigh Dickinson on penalties in the Northeast Conference tournament championship game. Milton played the full 90 minutes in St. Francis’ 3-0 win over Radford, holding the Highlanders to just 3 shots all game, but that remained her only complete game appearance for the season. Fortunately, Milton has two more seasons in Pennsylvania to regain her position as an integral part of the team.
Frustrated by yet another knee injury, Ellie Papalexiou was restricted to just four appearances in her senior year after not being cleared to return until midway through the season. However, whilst on the pitch, her class was visible even when playing in an unfamiliar role in the centre of midfield, even if results weren’t always the best for a Pacific program still looking to find its feet having returned to the elite West Coast Conference in 2013 after several years in the Big West. Although she played just 28 games in her time at college due to injury, there is no doubting that Papalexiou has more than enough ability to have made a significant impact on this Pacific side, as shown in her 17 appearances in her freshman year in 2014.
Sam Roff (Fairleigh Dickinson) Team Record: 9-8-4 (NEC Runner-Up) Stats: 21 games, 21 starts
One of the stars of the Northeast Conference, Sam Roff was the undoubted rock at the back for Fairleigh Dickinson, earning herself an All-Conference First Team selection for her outstanding performances in defence. Whilst the sophomore wasn’t able to snag her first goal or assist, her efforts in her role as a defender were vital in Fairleigh Dickinson’s run to the Northeast Conference title game, where the Knights went down in a penalty shootout to Shelby Milton and Saint Francis after the game finished 0-0 following two periods of extra time.
A saviour at times for Wyoming, Georgia Rowntree often found herself needing to make more than her share of saves to keep the Cowgirls in games, with her save percentage of 76% far more representative of her ability than her clean sheet count of four for the season. The senior played all bar 72 minutes of the season, forming an almost ever-present force between the sticks, but unfortunately the Cowgirls couldn’t quite reach the Mountain West Conference tournament, with a final day win over rivals Colorado State not quite enough to secure a top six spot. Nonetheless, Rowntree carved out an exceptional career at Wyoming, with the Sydneysider leaving some rather large shoes to fill in Laramie.
Kate Swartwout (Western Carolina) Team Record: 9-10-2 (Southern Conference Runner-Up) Stats: 17 games, 6 starts, 1 assist
After making 11 starts last season, appearances in the first eleven were a little harder to come by for Kate Swartwout in 2017, featuring only six times in the starting lineup. However, Swartwout did make 17 appearances, one more than the 16 she made in 2016. Swartwout also chalked up a single assist despite being known more as a defender, setting up the equaliser in a 3-2 win over Kennesaw State. With a relatively young team that fell agonisingly short of the NCAA Tournament in 2017 following a Southern Conference championship game loss to UNC Greensboro, things are certainly looking up for both Swartwout and Western Carolina.
After reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2016, 2017 was a bit more of a rebuilding year for Albany, who finished with a 6-11-1 record, but for Claire Urquhart, it represented a vastly increased opportunity to play under new coach Nick Bochette. After featuring in just seven games across her first two seasons, the junior started in 8 of her 12 appearances, ably filling a defensive role at various times throughout the season.
As has been the case throughout Harriet Withers’ career, the senior once again banged home goals seemingly for fun at times as Murray State reached the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years before falling 2-0 to Tennessee in the first round. Withers tallied 12 goals in 2017, good enough for 30th in the nation, whilst her six game winning goals were good enough for eighth. The senior also led all players in shots on target per game, averaging nearly three per game, which represented just over half of her total shots. Withers was also named to the United Soccer Coaches All-South Region First Team following yet another outstanding season, as well as picking up the #1 spot in Top Drawer Soccer’s Ohio Valley Conference Top 20 players.
End Of Season Awards:
Freshman of the Year: Sandra Hill (Grand Canyon)
Sophomore of the Year: Teagan Micah (UCLA) and Kristy Helmers (Nicholls State)
Junior of the Year: Monique Iannella (Hofstra)
Senior of the Year: Harriet Withers (Murray State)
Goalkeeper of the Year: Georgia Rowntree (Wyoming)
Defender of the Year: Monique Iannella (Hofstra)
Midfielder of the Year: Alisha Bass (Wyoming)
Forward of the Year: Harriet Withers (Murray State)
Breakout Player of the Year: Monique Iannella (Hofstra)
Most Consistent Player: Monique Iannella (Hofstra)
Top Goalscorer: Harriet Withers (Murray State)
Most Assists: Monique Iannella (Hofstra)
2017 College Matildas Player of the Year: Harriet Withers (Murray State)
We started the NCAA Tournament with nine Australians across seven teams in contention for the national championship. The majority fell by the wayside, but spectacularly, we reached the national championship game with the guarantee that one Aussie – either Teagan Micah at UCLA or Stanford’s Beattie Goad – would be a national championship by mid-afternoon. In the end, it was Goad and the Cardinal who secured the title with a 3-2 victory in a pulsating game between two highly exciting and skilful teams. In this wrap, we recap all 18 games featuring Australians, chronicling the journey to the second Australian national champion in as many seasons.
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert, Monique Iannella) lost 1-0 to Auburn
Despite being the higher team in the RPI rankings, Hofstra were forced to travel to Auburn for their first round game. In a tight game which saw Auburn outshoot Hofstra 14-12, it was a Bri Folds strike from the edge of the area in the 64th minute that proved to be the difference as Auburn ran out 1-0 winners. Both Monique Iannella and Emily Hulbert played the full 90 minutes, with Hulbert registering a single shot on target in what turned out to be her final college game.
La Salle (Claudia Jenkins) lost 3-1 to Rutgers
Despite the short distance between Philadelphia and Piscataway, La Salle’s matchup with nationally ranked Rutgers was always going to be a tough fixture for the Explorers. Despite being outshot 9-0 in the first half, La Salle managed to go in at halftime level at 0-0. Goals for Rutgers in the 52nd and 56th minutes looked to have set La Salle back on their heels, but a 65th minute goal from Madison Bower trimmed the margin until Rutgers restored their two-goal advantage with 10 minutes to play as the game finished 3-1 in the Scarlet Knights’ favour. Claudia Jenkins did not feature in this game, as senior Larisa Zambelli played the full 90 minutes between the sticks.
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers) lost 2-0 to Tennessee
In what was seen as a game between two evenly matched teams, Murray State held firm for the first hour of the contest before Tennessee managed to secure the win courtesy of two quick goals.The Volunteers’ first goal came seconds shy of the hour mark through Danielle Marcano, before Erin Gilroy, who had set up Marcano’s goal, scored one of her own just four minutes later to completely shift the momentum of the contest in quick time. Harriet Withers finished with five shots, of which three were on target, but couldn’t manage a goal in her final college game as Tennessee goalkeeper Shae Yanez stood firm. Nyomi Devine played the full 90 minutes yet again as the defender’s endurance shone through yet again.
St. Francis (Shelby Milton) lost 2-0 to Virginia
St. Francis were destined to be up against it in their game against nationally ranked Virginia, and given the disparity in shots between the two sides, 2-0 was perhaps a scoreline respective of a solid rearguard effort from the Red Flash despite the loss. Virginia finished with 33 shots, but only seven of those ended up on target as the Cavaliers found goals hard to come by at times. A 23rd minute strike from Veronica Latsko opened the scoring after teammate Taylor Ziemer’s shot was deflected into her path, before Taryn Torres doubled the lead ten minutes after halftime. With just three shots all game, a comeback from St. Francis was always unlikely, and the game ended 2-0 in Virginia’s favour. St. Francis utilised just four substitutes all game, with Shelby Milton unfortunately not being one of those employed in this contest.
Colorado (Isobel Dalton) defeated Denver 2-1
Having defeated Denver 6-1 earlier in the season, Colorado had every reason to feel confident about advancing through to the second round, but the Pioneers had other ideas. A 38th minute goal for Leah Swander put Denver 1-0 up, setting Colorado on their heels slightly late in the first half. However, the Buffaloes regrouped to turn things around right out of the blocks after halftime. A 50th minute goal from Megan Massey was followed just two minutes later by a strike from Taylor Kornieck to give Colorado a 2-1 lead, with the home side managing to secure victory by that scoreline. Isobel Dalton did not feature for Colorado in this first round matchup.
UCLA (Teagan Micah) defeated San Diego State 3-1
UCLA defeated San Diego State 5-1 earlier in the season, and a similar result in this game would have barely raised an eyebrow in the world of college soccer. However, San Diego State produced a far better performance and remained in the contest until the dying stages. Goals to Anika Rodriguez in the 16th minute and Julia Hernandez nine minutes after halftime put UCLA up 2-0 and seemingly in command, but San Diego State replied through Mia Root just after the hour mark to leave the game in the balance at 2-1 in the Bruins’ favour with 27 minutes to play. Australian goalkeeper Teagan Micah made five saves to maintain UCLA’s lead, and MacKenzie Cerda secured the Bruins’ passage through to the second round with a goal five minutes from time as the home side ran out 3-1 victors.
In what was always likely to be a blowout win for Stanford, the Cardinal certainly took that notion to the extreme with a 9-1 demolition of Utah Valley. Stanford went up 2-0 early in the piece courtesy of a pair of errors from the Wolverines’ goalkeeper as Madison Haley and Civana Kuhlmann capitalised. Utah Valley pulled one back in the 17th minute from a corner, but three goals in four minutes either side of the half-hour mark from Jaye Boissiere, Tierna Davidson, and Catarina Macario put the game to bed before halftime. Belle Briede added another before halftime, before three second-half goals, including two to Sam Tran, completed the rout. Beattie Goad came off the bench to play 36 minutes and was unlucky to not have an assist as teammates’ shots went agonisingly wide on a couple of occasions.
Colorado (Isobel Dalton) lost 1-0 to North Carolina
As in 2014, Colorado found themselves up against North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and once again a sterling defensive effort gave the Buffaloes every chance of victory. However, in this case it was an early goal for North Carolina, rather than an overtime winner, that sealed Colorado’s fate as Brigitte Andrzejewski tallied the game’s only goal in the 26th minute. Colorado had more than a few chances, finishing with 11 shots to North Carolina’s 19, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Isobel Dalton unfortunately did not feature in the loss as coach Danny Sanchez kept the rotation short.
Glacing at the box score, and seeing that UCLA finished with 13 shots on target to Northwestern’s 1, you may be forgiven for wondering how the Bruins could possibly have required extra time to finish this one. However, the side from Westwood faced an inspired performance from Northwestern goalkeeper Lauren Clem, who came up with 12 saves, many of them high quality, to keep the Wildcats in the game despite an almost complete absence of meaningful attacks from her team. However, early in extra time, Ashley Sanchez bisected the Northwestern defence with a sublime pass which found Anika Rodriguez, who buried the one-on-one chance to send the Drake Stadium crowd into raptures. Teagan Micah played all 92 minutes, finishing with the clean sheet after making the only save that she was forced into all night.
Auburn may have knocked out a pair of Australians in Emily Hulbert and Monique Iannella with their win over Hofstra in the first round, but there was no getting past Beattie Goad and Stanford in the second round. The Tigers held on until halftime, keeping the Cardinal out, but the second half saw Stanford run over the top of the visitors. Kyra Carusa scored the opener in the 58th minute, and when Catarina Macario doubled the lead 9 minutes later, the game was firmly in Stanford’s control. With Auburn only managing three shots all game, victory was all but assured for Stanford once the second goal went in, and it came to pass as such. Beattie Goad enjoyed a stint off the bench with the game still in the balance, registering two shots in 26 minutes of playing time.
UCLA defeated Virginia 2-1
In what was one of the most confusing matches of the season in terms of the teams playing compared with how the game played out, UCLA emerged victorious with an 89th minute winner to move into the Elite Eight. Virginia opened the scoring via an own goal in the sixth minute, with UCLA defender Karina Rodriguez heading a Cavaliers free kick into her own net with Teagan Micah left stranded. UCLA equalised a mere 35 seconds later, with Jessie Fleming converting a penalty after Ashley Sanchez was brought down in the box by Megan Reid, who received a yellow card. With two potent attacking lineups, and two goals inside the first six minutes, a deluge of goals seemed almost inevitable, but somehow the teams combined for just 11 shots on target all game, eight of which came from UCLA. The tide shifted monumentally late in regulation, as Virginia defender Courtney Petersen received a second yellow card after a slightly cynical foul deep in UCLA attacking territory. With the game seemingly destined to head into extra time, Sanchez cut open the Virginia defence, which was now a player short, for Rodriguez to finish in a similar fashion to her winner against Northwestern. Teagan Micah again played the entire game, finishing with two saves.
Stanford (Beattie Goad) defeated Florida State 1-0
Florida State may not have been the powerhouse this season that they have been in recent years, but the Seminoles know exactly what November soccer is all about, and their rearguard defence gave Stanford plenty to think about. Stanford had plenty of chances, taking 22 shots, but with only eight on target, were unable to find the back of the net until Tierna Davidson took things into her own hands with 12 minutes remaining. Picking the ball up in the back line, Davidson drove into the midfield, and with no Seminoles player shutting her down, simply continued on her run, taking on several defenders before finding Jordan DiBiasi in the area, who lashed the ball home for the game’s only goal. Once again, Stanford limited their opponents’ opportunities throughout, allowing the Seminoles just one shot on target. Unfortunately, despite enjoying decent playing time in the first two rounds, Beattie Goad’s services were not required for this game.
UCLA faced a dangerous Princeton side which had already knocked off #1 seed North Carolina, but the Bruins soon took control of the game with an early goal to Hailie Mace courtesy of a well-placed header in the 16th minute. A second goal followed just two minutes later as some spectacular interplay on the right-hand side saw Zoey Goralski and Anika Rodriguez combine to set up Olivia Athens, who slotted the ball home from close range. The score remained 2-0 until halftime, but Princeton pulled one back shortly after halftime as Abby Givens was played through and finished the one-on-one chance despite the best efforts of Teagan Micah, who did well to close down the angle but couldn’t prevent the goal. However, Mace re-established the Bruins’ two goal cushion on the hour mark, rounding the goalkeeper and knocking the ball into the empty net for the game’s final goal as UCLA ran out 3-1 winners. Teagan Micah was again between the sticks for the full 90 minutes, making 3 saves.
Stanford (Beattie Goad) defeated Penn State 4-0
This match against Penn State shaped to be Stanford’s biggest test thus far, but the Cardinal put paid to that with a first half onslaught that rendered the game over as a contest by halftime. Giving up a free kick in scoring position with Catarina Macario on the pitch is not generally a good strategy, but that’s what Penn State were forced into doing just 90 seconds in, and the Brazilian-born forward curled the resulting set piece home for an early Cardinal lead. Stanford goalkeeper Alison Jahanzous kept the game at 1-0 with a spectacular tip over the bar in the 8th minute, before Andi Sullivan doubled the lead just after the 10 minute mark with a superbly positioned strike into the bottom right corner. Jaye Boissiere nestled one into the bottom left corner just 88 seconds later, whilst Kyra Carusa added a fourth in the 25th minute, slotting home a Macario through ball, and the result was in the bag before Beattie Goad could even get on the pitch. Goad played a few minutes in the back end of the first half before enjoying a more extended stint on the pitch in the second half to play 29 minutes as Stanford cruised to the win.
Stanford (Beattie Goad) defeated South Carolina 2-0
A first-half blitzkrieg from Stanford was enough to secure their passage into the national championship game. Tegan McGrady’s free kick was met by a deft header from Jordan DiBiasi to give the Cardinal a lead in the 10th minute, and with the Stanford defence holding South Carolina’s attack at bay throughout much of the first half, DiBiasi’s second goal of the game in the 26th minute gave the top-ranked Cardinal a comfortable 2-0 advantage. Although Stanford were unable to add to their lead throughout the rest of the contest, South Carolina managed just one shot on target for the entire game, meaning that the lead was rarely in danger. Beattie Goad was used sparingly, coming on in the back end of the first half to afford starter Kyra Carusa an extended halftime break.
UCLA (Teagan Micah) defeated Duke 4-3 on penalties (0-0 after extra time)
Teagan Micah was one of the heroes for UCLA in their semi-final shootout victory against Duke, making the decisive save as the Bruins advanced to the national championship game. Both teams were hampered slightly by an inability to get the ball on target throughout the contest, with just one of UCLA’s 15 shots being on goal, whilst Duke could only manage to get a marginally better 3 of their 10 attempts on target. UCLA did have a couple of shots blocked late in the first half of extra time, but with few shots in the second period, goals became more and more unlikely and eventually the teams moved to one end of the pitch for a shootout. Malinda Allen missed Duke’s second penalty to give UCLA an early advantage, but MacKenzie Cerda’s penalty for UCLA was saved to leave the shootout tied at 2-2 after three shots. Each team converted their fourth, but Teagan Micah came up with the save as Duke’s Kat McDonald attempted to place the ball down the middle. Freshman Marley Canales slotted UCLA’s fifth penalty, clinching the win and sending the Bruins into raptures.
As in their semi-final, Stanford came out firing to score two early goals to command control of the national championship game in the first half. Kyra Carusa opened the scoring for the Cardinal in the 15th minute as Teagan Micah misjudged an awkwardly spinning deflected cross, leaving the Stanford forward wide open to smash the ball past the UCLA defenders valiantly attempting to get a block in on the line. Micah could hardly be faulted for Stanford’s second goal though. Catarina Macario played Andi Sullivan through with an incisive through ball, and the US national team midfielder slotted the one-on-one chance to double the Stanford lead. Stanford retained the lead until halftime despite penalty shouts to both sides being waved away by the referee and numerous chances for the Bruins as the first half came to a close.
However, 9 minutes into the second half, Stanford goalkeeper Alison Jahansouz brought down UCLA fifth-year senior Zoey Goralski in the box and the referee had absolutely no choice but to point to the spot. Canadian national team midfielder Jessie Fleming stepped up, despite not taking a penalty in the Bruins’ semi-final shootout victory, and although Jahansouz got a hand to the shot, the ball nestled in the side netting to cut Stanford’s lead in half. Four minutes later, Delanie Sheehan found the equaliser as a UCLA corner was flicked on at the near post, finding Sheehan at the back stick, who managed to outjump her defender and find the back of the net.
This header by UCLA's Delanie Sheehan off a corner kick ties it! #WCollegeCup
In a game with five goals, the best was certainly saved for last. Receiving a pass from Macario, Stanford redshirt sophomore Jaye Boissiere found a bit of space about 25 yards from goal, and hit a sublime curling shot which left Micah with no chance as the Cardinal retook the lead which they had let slip just 8 minutes earlier, and also delivered Macario a third assist for the game. Tegan McGrady almost followed up four minutes later with an absolute cannon of a shot that may have exited Earth’s orbit if it hadn’t hit the post and rebounded back out. UCLA had a couple of chances late on, with MacKenzie Cerda forcing a save from Jahansouz, but Stanford managed to hold onto their lead for the final 24 minutes to secure the program’s second national title and move one ahead of UCLA in terms of all-time national championships across all sports with their 114th – although UCLA would secure their own 114th national championship just five hours later with a victory in the men’s water polo championship.
For the champions, Beattie Goad came on briefly in the first half, coming on for Kyra Carusa for the last 8 minutes of the opening period. Teagan Micah played the full 90 minutes, making seven saves including a couple that kept UCLA in the contest late in the first half. Goad becomes the second Australian in consecutive seasons to win a national championship, following Lucinda Pullar’s victory with USC last season.
Seven teams featuring nine Aussies will form part of the 64-team NCAA Tournament. Two teams – Stanford and UCLA – are among the teams expected to make deep runs in the tournament, whilst others are looking to write a Cinderella story.
Stanford (Beattie Goad)
First Round: v Utah Valley – 2pm, Sunday November 12
As was the case in 2016, Stanford come into the NCAA Tournament as the #1 overall seed, but with a better team and a stronger chance to go all the way than was the case last year, when the Cardinal fell in the Round of 32 to Santa Clara following an injury to Andi Sullivan. The Cardinal start their NCAA Tournament campaign at home to Utah Valley, a team that was only able to put together a 10-11-1 record for the regular season, but managed to win their way through the Western Athletic Conference tournament to secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament. A win in the opener will see Stanford host either Aussie-laden Hofstra or Auburn in the Round of 32, whilst their main challengers for a spot in the College Cup in Orlando come December shape to be Penn State and last year’s national runner-up West Virginia. Minutes have been hard to come by for Beattie Goad in recent weeks, but if Stanford can comfortably handle Utah Valley, then a spell on the field late in the game may just come the sophomore’s way.
Colorado (Isobel Dalton)
First Round: v Denver – 6am, Monday November 13
Colorado just scraped into the tournament with what must have been one of the last at-large bids handed out. A bubble team in every sense of the word, Isobel Dalton and the Buffaloes have been given a fairly favourable draw as geographical considerations see them take on Denver, one of the lowest RPI sides in the entire tournament at 225th. A win for Colorado would see them most probably face #1 seed North Carolina in a rematch of an NCAA Tournament game from 2014 that saw the much more fancied North Carolina side just scrape home with a 1-0 win in overtime after a fantastic rearguard performance from a Colorado defence featuring Australian Alex Huynh.
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert, Monique Iannella)
First Round: at Auburn – 10am, Saturday November 11
A bubble team coming into the conference tournament final against Northeastern, Hofstra removed all doubt with a 2-1 win which secured an automatic bid and delivered a trip to Alabama to play Auburn. The choice of who hosts this game may raise eyebrows, with Hofstra sitting at #22 in the RPI and Auburn at #27, but the Pride can only play the game on the rectangle of grass at which it has been scheduled. It will no doubt be an incredibly hard-fought battle between what appear to be evenly matched teams, and a win for Hofstra would almost certainly see the CAA champions take on #1 overall seed Stanford in the second round.
La Salle (Claudia Jenkins)
First Round: at Rutgers – 9am, Sunday November 12
A dominant force throughout the Atlantic 10 regular season, things became decidedly harder for the Explorers as they required overtime in both their semi-final and final victories on their way to securing their spot in the NCAA Tournament. Now, they face a short but tough away trip to New Jersey to face nationally ranked Rutgers, a side that has given up just five goals in 19 games to this point. La Salle may have banged home 47 goals this season, but that Rutgers defence, and particularly goalkeeper Casey Murphy, will be incredibly hard to breach. If the Explorers are able to sneak a win over Rutgers, their likely second round opponent would be last year’s national runner-up West Virginia, who, despite losing Ashley Lawrence and Kadeisha Buchanan from last year’s side, remain a force at this level.
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
First Round: @ Tennessee – 9am, Sunday November 12
Murray State come into this contest with an almost identical RPI to Tennessee, in yet another game that will attempt to answer the question as to the gap between solid power conference teams and dominant mid-majors. Tennessee finished in a tie for fourth in the always-strong SEC with a 14-4-1 record, whilst Murray State were simply dominant in the Ohio Valley Conference, going 8-0-2 in the regular season before clinching the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the conference championship. The Racers have a real shot in this one, but they will need to re-discover their attacking form from earlier in the season, having scored multiple goals in just one of their last six games. During that time though, they have kept five clean sheets, but Tennessee come in having scored 43 goals this season.
St. Francis (Shelby Milton)
First Round: at #3 Virginia – 11am, Sunday November 12
As the lowest rated team of those which feature Aussies, Shelby Milton and St. Francis have the toughest draw of the seven, playing #3 seed Virginia away in the first round. St. Francis played a fairly tough non-conference schedule and came into league play with a 3-6-1 record, but recovered in conference play to finish 10-7-3 and win the Northeast Conference title on penalties over Sam Roff and Fairleigh Dickinson. Virginia’s record reads a similar 11-5-4, but with one significant difference: the Cavaliers play in the ACC, one of the top conferences in the nation. #3 seeds generally win their first round games by margins of three goals or more, but St. Francis can look to 2015’s upset of California by Loyola Marymount for inspiration in their attempt to create a boilover on the first weekend.
UCLA (Teagan Micah)
First Round: v San Diego State – 2pm, Saturday November 11
Despite securing a #2 seed, geographical considerations mean that UCLA will be taking on #80 RPI San Diego State despite a number of teams in the tournament sitting in the sub-200 range. However, UCLA have already played San Diego State this season, demolishing the Aztecs 5-1 as part of a five-game stretch to start the season in which the Bruins smashed home 25 goals. With Australian sophomore Teagan Micah in goal behind a defence that has been wall-like at times this season, UCLA have dropped points in just three games this season, although one of those was a loss to overall #1 seed Stanford. If the Bruins do get past San Diego State, they will take on Butler or Northwestern before facing either Pepperdine – whom they drew 1-1 with earlier in the season – or #3 seed Virginia. If the Bruins make the Elite Eight, they will likely face #1 seed North Carolina in an exact replay of the 2013 matchup at the same stage – #2 UCLA v #1 UNC. UCLA won that game 1-0 on their way to a national title, defeating Virginia on penalties in the semi-finals before edging Florida State in overtime.
Six conference championship games involving Australians made for an exciting Sunday as teams looked to punch their tickets to the NCAA Tournament. Elsewhere, Paige Hayward finally secured the career scoring record for Texas Southern.
Paige Hayward had a successful weekend on a personal level, but unfortunately that didn’t transpire into team success as Texas Southern fell in the SWAC Tournament semi-finals. Playing in the final conference tournament of her career, Hayward slotted home the winner in the Tigers’ win over home side Prairie View A&M in the quarterfinals, and in the process broke the Texas Southern career record for goals scored as the senior took her career total to 25. Hayward’s record is made all the more impressive by the fact that the Sydneysider played the first season of her college career at Texas-Brownsville before transferring to Texas Southern.
Sunday saw Aussies involved in six conference championship games, all attempting to join Beattie Goad and Stanford in the NCAA Tournament after the Cardinal secured their spot last week. Hofstra, Western Carolina, Murray State, Grambling State, La Salle, Fairleigh Dickinson, and St. Francis all saw their seasons hinge on their result in a conference championship game.
Three early games kicked off simultaneously, with all requiring extra time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for Priya Gakhar and Grambling State, who fell to Alabama State – featuring Australian assistant coach Shelbi Vienna-Hallam – in a penalty shootout after the game finished 0-0, with Gakhar playing a short cameo off the bench but not being involved in the shootout.
La Salle, whose Australian goalkeeper Claudia Jenkins was forced to watch from the sidelines as senior starter Larisa Zambelli played yet another blinder, looked certain to go to penalties as well as their championship game against VCU headed deep into extra time with the score at 0-0. However, a late Maci Bower goal ensured that the Explorers would secure victory, and in the process punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Whilst Shelby Milton did not take to the field for St. Francis, Sam Roff played the full 110 minutes for Fairleigh Dickinson as the Northeast Conference foes played off in the championship game. Roff, an All-Conference First Team selection, and her fellow defenders were solid all game as neither team was able to manage a goal, forcing the game into a penalty shootout. In the end, St. Francis were the better side from the spot, clinching the conference championship and their spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Whilst these games were heading to their conclusion, the Australian duo of Emily Hulbert and Monique Iannella at Hofstra were just kicking off against Northeastern. Hofstra started amazingly, with a goal inside 90 seconds to take an early 1-0 lead against the dangerous Northeastern side. The Huskies would equalise shortly after, but Monique Iannella had no designs on allowing Hofstra’s opponents to keep pace for long. Whipping in a delightful free kick, Iannella found the head of Jenn Buoncore to give the Pride a 2-1 lead shortly before halftime. The game ebbed and flowed throughout, but in the end Hofstra would not be denied, maintaining their perfect conference record in 2017.
Kate Swartwout played a short cameo for Western Carolina in their championship game against UNC Greensboro, but unfortunately the Catamounts couldn’t repeat the dose after upsetting Furman in the Southern Conference semi-finals. Despite outshooting UNC Greensboro 20-7, Western Carolina fell 1-0 to a goal just after halftime.
The news was better for Murray State stars Harriet Withers and Nyomi Devine, who secured a second NCAA Tournament trip in three years with a win over Australian assistant coach Rachael Doyle and Eastern Kentucky. Despite a barrage of shots, including five on target from Withers, the Racers were unable to break the deadlock until the 94th minute, when Devine teed up Miyah Watford for the golden goal in the first period of overtime.
Those results leave us with five teams featuring Aussies on the roster securing automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament: Stanford (Beattie Goad), Hofstra (Emily Hulbert, Monique Iannella), St. Francis (Shelby Milton), Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers), and La Salle (Claudia Jenkins). Teagan Micah and UCLA have secured an at-large bid, even if the news is not yet official, whilst Isobel Dalton and Colorado will have to sweat on the decision-making of the selection committee.
Lauren Featherstone did not feature in Central Connecticut State’s season-ending loss to Saint Francis.
Colorado (Isobel Dalton)
This week: defeated Utah 2-0
Isobel Dalton came off the bench, playing a single minute in Colorado’s win over Utah which leaves the Buffaloes sweating on an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.
Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)
This week: lost 2-0 to Northeastern
Emma Heckenberg started for Drexel in their conference tournament semi-final loss to Northeastern, playing 42 minutes.
Fairleigh Dickinson (Sam Roff)
This week: defeated Bryant 2-1, lost 3-2 on penalties to St. Francis (0-0 AET)
Sam Roff started both games and played all 200 minutes of game time as Fairleigh Dickinson fell desperately short of securing a conference championship after losing on penalties to St. Francis.
Grambling State (Priya Gakhar)
This week: defeated Jackson State 1-0; defeated Grambling State 3-1; lost 4-2 on penalties to Alabama State (0-0 AET)
Priya Gakhar came off the bench for short cameos in all three games this week as Grambling State fell short of a conference championship by the slimmest of margins, going down in penalties in the SWAC Tournament final.
Grand Canyon (Sandra Hill)
This week: defeated UTRGV 2-1; lost 1-0 to Utah Valley
Sandra Hill did not feature in Grand Canyon’s WAC quarter-final win over UTRGV, but came off the bench to play 8 minutes in the semi-final loss to Utah Valley.
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert, Monique Iannella)
This week: defeated William & Mary 1-0; defeated Northeastern 2-1
Both Emily Hulbert and Monique Iannella played the full 90 minutes in both games as Hofstra won the Colonial Athletic Association tournament and secured an NCAA Tournament berth. Iannella had an assist in each game, whilst Hulbert registered a single shot in the win over William & Mary.
La Salle (Claudia Jenkins)
This week: defeated Duquesne 2-1 (OT); defeated VCU (OT)
Claudia Jenkins did not feature for La Salle in either game this week. Starter Larisa Zambelli won the Player of the Tournament award as the Explorers rounded out a successful conference schedule by winning the conference tournament and punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
This week: defeated Southeast Missouri State 1-0; defeated Eastern Kentucky 1-0 (OT)
Nyomi Devine and Harriet Withers each started both games this week as Murray State secured their second conference title in three years and secured an NCAA Tournament berth in the process. Devine played all 183 minutes of game time, whilst Withers played 84 minutes in the win over Southeast Missouri State and 86 minutes in the championship game victory over Eastern Kentucky, tallying five shots on target in the latter contest.
Oregon State (Olivia Ellis)
This week: defeated Oregon 1-0
Olivia Ellis did not feature in Oregon State’s final day rivalry win over Oregon.
Pacific (Ellie Papalexiou)
This week: lost 1-0 to Saint Mary’s
Ellie Papalexiou did not feature in Pacific’s loss to Saint Mary’s.
St. Francis (Shelby Milton)
This week: defeated Central Connecticut State 2-1; defeated Fairleigh Dickinson 3-2 on penalties (0-0 AET)
Shelby Milton did not feature for St. Francis in either game this weekend as the Red Flash secured an NCAA Tournament berth after edging Fairleigh Dickinson on penalties in the Northeast Conference tournament final.
Southeast Missouri State (Maddy Cornell)
This week: lost 1-0 to Murray State
Maddy Cornell started for Southeast Missouri State in their Ohio Valley Conference semi-final loss to Murray State, playing 55 minutes.
Stanford (Beattie Goad)
This week: defeated California 1-0
Beattie Goad did not feature for Stanford in their 1-0 win over California.
Texas Southern (Paige Hayward)
This week: defeated Prairie View A&M 1-0; lost 6-5 on penalties to Alabama State (1-1 AET)
Paige Hayward started both games in her final SWAC conference tournament, setting the Texas Southern career goalscoring record with the game’s only goal in the quarter-final win over hosts Prairie View A&M.
UCLA (Teagan Micah)
This week: defeated USC 3-2 (OT)
Teagan Micah came off the bench to play the second half and overtime as senior Siri Ervik was afforded the start in UCLA’s final regular season game. Micah was not forced into any saves and kept a 46 minute clean sheet as UCLA secured the win in front of a regular season record 11,925 fans.
Western Carolina (Kate Swartwout)
This week: defeated Furman 2-0; lost 1-0 to UNC Greensboro
Kate Swartwout did not feature in the Catamounts’ boilover semifinal win over Furman, but came off the bench to play a short cameo in the championship game loss to UNC Greensboro.
William & Mary (Lorena Bugden)
This week: lost 1-0 to Hofstra
Lorena Bugden did not feature in William & Mary’s season-ending semi-final loss to Hofstra.