Spring 2021 Defender Previews

An interesting mix of newcomers, vastly experienced campaigners, and returning players looking to make their mark makes up this year’s NCAA Division I class of defenders, with the addition of former Brisbane Roar player Claire Farrington to Butler’s roster especially intriguing. However, one name is conspicuously absent after Aimee Medwin’s Long Beach State side had their season put to an end before it began after the Big West Conference cancelled a number of spring sports in the face of COVID-19.

Ashley COMMENS (Junior, Grambling State, Childers)

The sole Queenslander among NCAA Division I players this season, Ashley Commens joins Grambling State after two years at Iowa Lakes Community College, the same junior college program that South Australia’s Tessa Calabria played for prior to joining Nicholls State. An all-conference honourable mention in 2019, Commens joins a Grambling State side that is looking to maintain its recent run of success, having rebounded from a 1-10 record in 2016 to post three consecutive 10-win seasons, no small feat for a team that would be considered an underdog in most Division I non-conference matchups. Commens also has significant NPLW experience, having played for Western Pride prior to leaving for college in 2018, making 17 appearances as the Pride finished 11th in the 14-team league. The Queenslander also becomes the second Australian in recent times to lace up the boots from Grambling State, following Canberra’s Priya Gakhar, who spent one season with the Tigers in 2017, reaching a SWAC Championship game.

Claire FARRINGTON (Freshman, Butler, Dunoon)

A former Brisbane Roar player with five games of W-League experience, including two starts, Claire Farrington begins her college career with perhaps the best pre-college credentials of any Aussie defender in NCAA Division I. Having played alongside players including Clare Polkinghorne, Tameka Yallop, and Carson Pickett, Farrington is unlikely to be overawed by anything she faces on the pitch during her first college season. The Northern NSW defender finds herself in a good place to earn minutes early in her career, particularly given her previous experience and pedigree. Butler’s defensive corps is fairly low on college experience, with just seven defenders listed and only two regular starters returning from last year’s team. The Bulldogs do find themselves in a good position though, finishing with at least 10 wins in each of the last five seasons, and recently producing their first NWSL player, with Paige Monaghan having just completed her second season with Sky Blue.

Jazzmin FORWOOD (Senior, St. Francis Brookklyn, Darwin)

The lone Territorian among the Australian NCAA Division I cohort, Jazzmin Forwood enters her final season of college soccer looking firstly to secure the fledgling St. Francis Brooklyn program its first victory in history. The former Arizona Western College defender featured in 15 games in her junior season, starting on three occasions in her first NCAA Division I campaign. With the Terriers’ roster primarily comprised of freshmen in 2019, the additional experience that those players now have under their belt should result in a more competitive side, and hopefully Forwood can experience a victory sooner rather than later.

Ashleigh HARVIE (Freshman, Eastern Illinois, Melbourne)

Eastern Illinois has been a destination for Aussies in women’s basketball for a few years now. However, Ashleigh Harvie has provided the Panthers’ soccer team with its own Australian presence, and if the freshman can have the same success as Grace Lennox did on the basketball side, it will prove to be an absolutely inspired pickup for the Panthers. Having served her apprenticeship at NPL Victoria level, Harvie comes to Eastern Illinois set to bolster a Panthers side that had one of the better defences in the Ohio Valley Conference but lost a couple of starters to graduation following the 2019 season. However, all the defensive prowess in the world won’t help the Panthers move up the table unless their attack can fire after finishing 2019 with the equal-low mark in goals conceded in conference play but 8th out of 11 for goals scored.

Sandra HILL (Senior, Grand Canyon, Canberra)

A mainstay of the Grand Canyon side for three years now, Sandra Hill enters her senior season looking to help lead the Antelopes to their first NCAA Tournament berth since becoming eligible in 2017. Whether bombing down the wing or stopping opposition wingers in their tracks, Hill has developed to an integral member of the roster. Now, with two-time conference regular season champion Chris Cissell at the helm as the Antelopes’ new head coach, Hill will be hoping to be part of a team that significantly increases its win total from last season’s picking up just four victories in 2019. However, with three of those wins coming in conference play, the Antelopes might not be far away from making an impact in the WAC.

Abi JORDAN (Sophomore, UMBC, Wollongong)

One of a pair of NSW players to join UMBC last season, Abi Jordan’s freshman season was blighted by injury. However, once the Illawarra Stingrays product does get on the pitch, Jordan has the class to make a significant impact for UMBC from the outset. A regular starter for Illawarra Stingrays at NPL New South Wales level, it is little wonder that Jordan also secured an Australian Schoolgirls selection before heading to college, and her presence on the pitch may just be the tonic for UMBC in 2020. Jordan may not be tasked with assisting an attack that tallied just 12 goals in 2019, but she will certainly be able to shore up a defence that shipped 1.8 goals per game last year to finish in the bottom 25% in the nation in that category. With eight of the Retrievers’ results in 2019 being ties or single-goal defeats, preventing the odd goal here or there could make a massive difference to results in the upcoming season.

Teal KILBRIDE (Sophomore, UMBC, Central Coast)

Restricted to just four appearances in 2019, Teal Kilbride started in every one of those games and will be hoping that that becomes a more regular occurrence in 2020. Like fellow countrywoman Abi Jordan, Kilbride’s presence will help to improve a UMBC defence that could certainly use a hand at this point in time. Like Jordan, Kilbride will be hoping to significantly improve UMBC’s leaky defence in 2020 as the pair hope to slot in alongside one another in the Retrievers’ backline. With fellow Australian, Vanessa Mann, currently serving as head coach at UMBC, success for Kilbride alongside Jordan this season could certainly see the Retrievers become a program of intrigue for future Australian recruits.

Ashleigh LEFEVRE (Junior, Illinois, Melbourne)

The only Australian defender to play for a Power 5 school, Ashleigh Lefevre has settled in nicely into the Illinois rotation. Having started the princely sum of zero games in 2018 despite 15 starts, Lefevre started 8 of her 17 appearances in 2019, averaging 44 minutes per appearance. For comparison, in 2018, the fullback did not see more than 40 minutes in a game, and that was on the opening day of the season. Whether being deployed as a fullback or higher up the pitch, Lefevre is now ingrained in the Illinois side and it would not be surprising at all to see the junior to start even more regularly in 2020 as the Fighting Illini look to improve on last season’s 9-8-1 record after going 11-8-1 in 2018.

Madison McCOMASKY (Junior, Incarnate Word, Sydney)

After a season at Wayland Baptist before playing her sophomore year at Northeast Texas Community College, Madison McComasky has taken the scenic route to NCAA Division I. The junior’s presence will be welcomed in the Cardinals’ back line, with the team conceding multiple goals in 10 of their 19 games in 2019. Despite that occasionally leaky defence, UIW did finish fourth in the Southland Conference in 2019 before falling on penalties to Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the quarter-finals of the conference tournament. That meeting will now feature Aussies on both sides in 2020, with Molly Arens signing for the Islanders. In a squad brimming with defensive players, McComasky’s ability to play multiple positions – she is listed as a defender/midfielder – could yet see her utilised in a variety of ways as she looks to make the most of her two seasons at the Division I level.

Hannah PERIC (Freshman, Massachusetts, Sydney)

Hannah Peric could just as easily have slotted into the forwards section of this preview series, with the freshman adept in defence, shielding the back four, and leading the line. How that versatility manifests in the Massachusetts lineup remains to be seen, but the former Manly United youngster has given herself far more opportunity than most players to find playing time with that ability to play in multiple positions. The Minutewomen’s roster isn’t flush with experienced defenders or strikers, but the team did finish in third place in the Atlantic 10 before falling in the conference tournament semi-finals in 2019, so competition for positions will be fierce.

About Lachy 386 Articles
Founder of College Matildas. An Australian women's football fan who also happens to be a college sports fan. Often found at A-League Women or NPLW games.

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