2016 will see a massive 33 Australians suiting up in NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer, an increase of 6 on last year and nearly double the number of players we saw in 2014. Ten of these players are freshmen, whilst one newcomer, Isobel Dalton, is an NAIA transfer from Lindsey Wilson College. With no less than 13 players, including 4 freshmen, possessing W-League experience and several others featuring for youth national teams, there is definitely plenty of Aussie talent in the college ranks this season.
Claire Urquhart (Sophomore, Defender, Albany, Brisbane)
Claire was used sparingly at Albany in 2015, but returns in 2016 ready to have more of an impact in defence. The Albany defence is exceedingly young this season, with four sophomores and one freshman comprising the five natural defenders in the squad, so opportunities may just open up for the sophomore from Brisbane. Claire played 5 games last season, starting in 2 of these contests, as Albany won the America East title before going down to eventual national champions Penn State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Isobel Dalton (Sophomore, Midfielder, Colorado, Sunshine Coast)
Isobel adds to the Australian contingent at Colorado following a season playing NAIA soccer in Kentucky with Lindsey Wilson College, helping the Blue Raiders to a national championship final berth. A former Brisbane Roar W-League player, Isobel has also played in England’s Women’s Super League for Bristol Academy before making the move to the US. Isobel played in 23 games for Lindsey Wilson, scoring 7 goals and also contributing a pair of assists for the Blue Raiders.
Kahlia Hogg (Senior, Defender/Midfielder, Colorado, Canberra)
Kahlia had an excellent first season for Colorado in 2014 after transferring from Florida State, and looked set to continue in the same vein in her senior season. Unfortunately, after starting in six games and playing an average of 85 minutes, Kahlia suffered an injury and was forced to sit out the remainder of the season. Fortunately, Kahlia has been awarded an additional season and will compete again as a senior in 2016, looking to make amends for 2015. One of the fittest players in the team, Kahlia averaged over 85 minutes of playing time per game in 2015, playing a full 90 minutes in four of her six games as Colorado conceded less than 0.7 goals per game with Kahlia on the pitch.
Emma Heckenberg (Sophomore, Midfielder, Drexel, Melbourne)
Emma made a reasonable if not spectacular start to her college career last season, featuring in 8 matches. The Victorian forward also started two of these games, both of which were conference games. The Drexel forward line is young, but features Vanessa Kara, who scored 11 goals last season, which represented almost half of the team’s offensive output. With Kara a lock to start again this season, Emma and the remaining forwards will be fighting for the other spot up front. Emma was a star in the classroom last season though, picking up the CAA Commissioner’s Academic Award.
Isabel Hodgson (Sophomore, Defender, East Tennessee State, Adelaide)
Isabel enjoyed a fantastic first season at East Tennessee State, quickly establishing herself as the team’s starting right back. A product of Adelaide United’s W-League team, Isabel played in all 19 games for the Buccaneers in 2015 as the team finished with a respectable 9-9-1 record. With star midfielder and Austrian national team player Sarah Zadrazil having graduated following the 2015 season, the returning starters will all have to step up if the Buccaneers are to be competitive again in 2016 and Isabel is no different.
Sam Roff (Freshman, Midfielder, Fairleigh Dickinson, Canberra)
One of four players from the same ACT Academy of Sport class to make the move to Division I this year, Sam links up with a fellow Australian at Fairleigh Dickinson, with assistant coach Julia Bazi hailing from Sydney. Primarily a midfielder but also with the ability to play in defence, Sam has been a member of the ACT Academy of Sport for three seasons and also trained with W-League club Canberra United before making the move to Fairleigh Dickinson. The Knights went 16-6 last season, winning the Northeast Conference title and only narrowly losing to Rutgers in the first round of the national tournament, going down 1-0. However, they have lost a massive ten seniors to graduation and star Canadian forward Rachel Hoekstra is transferring to Georgia Southern, taking with her 16 of the side’s 50 goals from last season, so expect this to be a rebuilding season for the team.
Emily Hulbert (Junior, Defender/Midfielder, Hofstra, Melbourne)
An instrumental part of Hofstra’s side for two seasons, Emily will again be part of a solid Hofstra side that will look to limit the damage of the graduation of English international and NWSL player Leah Galton, who was the star of the Pride team last season. Emily’s chances last season were slightly down from 2014, starting just 4 matches in comparison to the 14 she started two seasons ago. Nonetheless, the fullback was able to contribute enough to earn the 2015 College Matildas Defender of the Year award. With another season under her belt, she may just have enough in her locker to win the same award again.
Julia De Angelis (Freshman, Midfielder, Indiana, Canberra)
An integral part of Canberra United’s W-League squad since 2014, Julia will no doubt be one of the top Australian freshmen in college this season as she joins an Indiana side desperate to improve on last seasons 3-10-6 record. Julia has represented Australia at several youth team levels and was also named Canberra United’s Rising Star in both 2014 and 2015. With a pair of midfield spots opening up in 2016 following the graduation of two players, Julia will certainly have the chance to earn a starting spot from the outset.
Kiri Dale (Sophomore, Defender, Iona, Mullumbimby)
One of no less than five Palm Beach products playing in Division I this season, Kiri unfortunately did not see any playing time in her freshman year, but that will surely just make her hungrier to make an impact in her sophomore year. Iona are yet to reveal their freshman class for 2016, but with only four natural defenders returning from last season, this may just be Kiri’s chance to shine and establish herself going forward for Iona. With the Gaels only winning 3 games last year and giving up 49 goals in 19 games, that defence is going to have to stand up this season if the team is to compete.
Caitlin Cantrill (Freshman, Midfielder, LSU, Canberra)
One of the first Australians to commit to a college amongst this year’s freshmen, Caitlin joins an LSU side looking to progress from last season’s SEC semi-final berth and a first round loss to South Alabama in the NCAA Tournament. They do have a slight issue though, that being the loss of nine players to graduation after the 2015 season. Whilst this may be a transition season of sorts for LSU, it also offers Caitlin the chance to see plenty of playing time from the outset. A former member of the Australian Under 17 national team, Caitlin is yet another of the ACT Academy of Sport graduates in this year’s freshman class.
Laura Johns (Senior, Forward, Massachusetts, Adelaide)
The 2015 College Matildas Breakout Player of the Year, Laura tallied the first goal of her college career last season and also notched four assists, a marked improvement on the total of one she managed in the previous two years. More notably, Laura transitioned from what had mainly been a rotational role off the bench to a starter for the majority of the 2015 season. One of four Australian seniors this year, Laura’s continued rise at Massachusetts may just make her the dark horse for the College Matildas Senior of the Year award this season.
Nyomi Devine (Junior, Defender, Murray State, Gold Coast)
A starter from the outset at Murray State, Nyomi was instrumental in keeping things tight at the back during last season’s perfect conference slate as Murray State won the Ohio Valley conference title. Whilst fellow Palm Beach product Harriet Withers may have received the accolades in 2015, there is no doubting that Nyomi was one of the key parts of the Racers’ defence which conceded just 22 goals in 21 games in 2015. Nyomi was also named to the Ohio Valley Conference All-Tournament team to go along with her championship ring.
Jade Horcicka (Freshman, Midfielder, Murray State, Gold Coast)
The newest member of the Palm Beach contingent at Murray State, Jade has not featured for the senior Palm Beach team nearly as much as both Nyomi Devine and Harriet Withers did before they moved on to college, but that doesn’t mean Jade doesn’t come with a solid pedigree. After a single appearance in the Palm Beach first team in 2015, Jade was a regular with the team in 2016 before leaving for college, and was also a mainstay of the Under 20s team last season. Jade has also played for the Queensland Schoolgirls side in 2014 and 2015. The Murray State midfield is burgeoning with players, but many are young and others are employed in other roles, so there may just be some playing time available for Jade early on. The early non-conference games will be telltale, though.
Harriet Withers (Junior, Forward, Murray State, Gold Coast)
Harriet enjoyed a solid first season for Murray State in 2014, scoring six goals and contributing 2 assists in 20 games. That was simply a precursor for an exceptional 2015 season which saw the striker win College Matildas Player Of The Year honours. Harriet banged home 11 goals and also tallied 7 assists as the Racers enjoyed a perfect Ohio Valley conference season before going down in a 1-0 loss to Ole Miss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Harriet will need to have another season of similar ilk if Murray State are going to have a chance of repeating, as they lose 11 goals and 11 assists from last season through the graduation of Taylor Stevens and Marissa Burroughs.
Jess Coates (Senior, Midfielder, Nicholls State, Sydney)
A broken wrist put paid to what should have been a glorious senior season for Jess, but after a long wait has been awarded an additional season and will get the chance to play out a proper senior campaign. Jess’ attacking partner, Spencer Valdespino, has now graduated but that may open up a chance for Jess to combine with a fellow Australian, freshman Kristy Helmers, in her senior season. With seven assists in her junior year in 2014, expect Jess to once again be feeding the strikers perfectly – the only question from there is whether they can step up to fill the void left by Valdespino.
Kristy Helmers (Freshman, Forward, Nicholls State, Canberra)
Kristy Helmers will be one of the Nicholls State forwards tasked with making up Spencer Valdespino’s 14 goal tally from last season. With only four recognised forwards in the Nicholls State squad this season, Kristy will no doubt be thrust into the action from the outset. One of four recent ACTAS graduates to be starting college this season, Kristy scored 12 goals in 14 appearances in last season’s Capital Football WPL, following up with 7 goals in 7 appearances this season.
Ellie Papalexiou (Sophomore, Defender, Pacific, Gold Coast)
A dreaded ACL injury put paid to Ellie’s season in 2015, but the fullback returns this season as a redshirt sophomore looking to showcase the kind of form that saw her enjoy a successful 2014 season with Pacific. With a new coach on board in Stockton, Ellie will be forced to prove herself once again, but was able to do this as a freshman and there’s no reason she won’t be able to do so again. Able to play either at left back or on the wing, this versatility should stand Ellie in good stead as she looks to earn back her starting position.
Price Keogh (Sophomore, Defender, San Francisco, Charlotte)
Price represents a slight change of pace amongst the 34 Australians in NCAA Division I this season in that she is actually from Charlotte, North Carolina. The 5’4 defender played in just the one game in her first season in San Francisco, but with two of the team’s starting defenders finishing their careers in 2015, opportunities will surely open up for Price. San Francisco had a reasonably solid year in 2015, finishing 13-4-3 and finishing in 2nd place in the West Coast Conference. Unfortunately, the WCC does not play a postseason tournament, denying the Dons an opportunity to secure a bid to the national tournament, with the team well out of the at-large picture.
Maddy Cornell (Junior, Defender, Southeast Missouri State, Nowra)
Three becomes two with regards to the number of Australians at Southeast Missouri State following midfielder Jenna Collingridge’s graduation. Maddy Cornell is the more senior of the two, with the versatile fullback moving into her junior season in 2016. Maddy featured in 18 games in 2015, starting six of these, which is double the number of both appearances and starts that she saw in 2014. Maddy’s goal now will be to convert those 12 appearances off the bench into starts this year as Southeast Missouri State attempt to make a return trip to the Ohio Valley Conference championship game, with the aim this year to go one better than last year’s overtime loss to Murray State.
Siena Senatore (Sophomore, Defender, Southeast Missouri State, Canberra)
An Under 17 Australian representative before making the move to college, Siena took a few games to find her groove last season, but eventually became a vital part of the defence before suffering an injury late on in the season. After starting the first three games of the season, Siena came off the bench for a few weeks before being returned to the starting lineup as the Redhawks kept 4 clean sheets in a row in the space of 9 days. Siena sat for a couple of weeks with injury, but returns in 2016 ready to slot straight back into the starting lineup in the centre of defence.
Beattie Goad (Freshman, Midfielder, Stanford, Melbourne)
The undoubted star of the 2016 freshman class, Beattie already has a W-League title under her belt, having been an instrumental part of a Melbourne City side that finished undefeated in 2015/16. One of the best young Australian players, Beattie combined those football skills with outstanding academic achievement to open up the chance to play for Stanford, one of the most successful programs in NCAA women’s soccer. A pacy winger with excellent technical abilities, Beattie will face stiff competition for playing time from the likes of United States youth national team representatives Jordan DiBiasi and Andi Sullivan. However, Beattie has spent the year learning from some of the best players in the world, including Lisa De Vanna, and will push all the way for a spot in the lineup.
Alexandra Huynh (Senior, Defender, Troy, Sydney)
After three outstanding seasons at Colorado, Alexandra has this season made the move south to Troy for her senior year. A three year starter at Boulder, the centre back was almost ever-present for the Buffaloes save for an injury midway through her sophomore year. As a member of a Colorado defence that set school clean sheet records in 2015, Alexandra will no doubt be a vital part of the back line in her new team. Troy kept 10 clean sheets in winning 14 of 20 games last season, and with Alexandra now set to replace graduating stalwart Payton Donley in defence, Troy will be well placed to use defence as the foundation of a successful season in 2016.
Paige Hayward (Junior, Forward, Texas Southern, Sydney)
The lone Australian player in the SWAC this season following the graduation of Alabama State’s Shelbi Vienna-Hallam, Paige transferred to Texas Southern in 2015 after a season of NAIA play, and immediately slotted into the team. Hayward played a full 90 minutes on six occasions last season, starting on all 17 occasions that she played. Hayward contributed 2 goals and 5 assists in 2015 as Texas Southern compiled an 8-11 record, going down to Alabama State in the first round of the SWAC Tournament. With no seniors amongst the forwards in 2015, Paige and her fellow strikers will have the opportunity to improve on last year’s output. They may have to if the team is to stay competitive, with last season’s starting goalkeeper and two defenders graduating after the 2015 season.
Demi Koulizakis (Freshman, Forward, Texas Tech, Sydney)
The scorer of the W-League’s 900th goal, Demi saw regular playing time for Western Sydney Wanderers last season but has now made the move to the Lone Star state to become Australia’s sole representative in the powerful Big 12 conference this season. Able to play in the midfield or up front, Demi is likely to be used in a more attacking role at Texas Tech. Demi will be part of the group tasked with replacing graduating Canadian national team player Janine Beckie, who is now playing with the NWSL’s Houston Dash.
Teagan Micah (Freshman, Goalkeeper, UCLA, Brisbane)
Teagan made the move from Brisbane to Western Sydney this past W-League season, but that was nothing in comparison to the jump the goalkeeper has made in 2016. UCLA have been one of the most successful programs of the last decade, winning a national title and producing players such as Lauren Holiday, Sydney Leroux, Samantha Mewis, Megan Oyster, Caprice Dydasco, Abby Dahlkemper, Sarah Killion, McCall Zerboni, Zakiya Bywaters, Lauren Barnes, and Katelyn Rowland. Teagan will have to fight for every minute of playing time, but with last season’s backup Arielle Schechtman making the move to Georgetown, it will now be a fight between 3 rather than 4 players for the starting spot.
Lulu Pullar (Freshman, Defender, USC, Brisbane)
Lulu had been on USC’s radar for over a year, and made the move to Los Angeles in January to get a headstart on her college career. Set to be used in either the back line or anchoring the midfield, Lulu has represented Australian Schoolgirls and has trained with Brisbane Roar’s W-League squad before moving to college. Having already seen plenty of playing time in USC’s spring friendlies, Lulu is well-placed to hit the ground running when competitive play starts in late August.
Kate Swartwout (Freshman, Defender, Western Carolina, Gold Coast)
Originally from the Gold Coast but having learned her trade in Lake Norman, North Carolina, Kate’s new college isn’t actually all that far from home for the freshman. In a young side, but one that only lost a single defender to graduation after 2015, Kate’s ability to also play in midfield looks as if it may stand her in good stead as she vies for playing time in her freshman year. Not without goalscoring ability either, Kate once banged home a hat-trick in a single half playing up front for her club team in Lake Norman.
Jai Jackson (Sophomore, Midfielder, Winthrop, Toowoomba)
A rotational player early on in 2015, Jai finished her freshman season with a flourish, playing full games in each of Winthrop’s last six games as the Eagles finished with a 6-9-3 record, falling to Liberty in the first round of the Big South tournament. Primarily employed deeper in midfield, Jai has also shown a knack for getting forward when required, with her footballing IQ clearly amongst the best in the Winthrop squad. There is little doubt that Jai will reprise her role as an integral part of the Winthrop midfield going forward, with the Queenslander well placed to be a vital cog for her remaining three seasons.
Alisha Bass (Junior, Defender/Midfielder, Wyoming, Sydney)
Is she a midfielder? Is she a defender? Well, ask most people in the Sydney women’s soccer community and they’ll tell you Alisha is an attacking midfielder every day of the week and twice on Sunday. But ask people in Wyoming and they’ll tell you she’s a vital part of the Cowgirls’ defence that helped the team compile a 10-6-4 record before falling in the first round of the Mountain West tournament to Colorado College. Alisha also tallied a pair of goals last season and notched an assist, proving that she still has the attacking instincts that saw her represent Australia at youth level. With no seniors in the 2015 squad, Wyoming have a real chance to build on last year’s successes and become a real force in the Mountain West this season.
Annika Clayton (Sophomore, Midfielder, Wyoming, Sydney)
A starter in 14 games in 2015, Annika featured in all 20 of Wyoming’s contests last season, notching two goals and an assist from midfield in her freshman campaign. Whilst her tangible stats are not out of this world, Annika certainly did enough to average over an hour of playing time per game by the end of last season, with the Wyoming coaching staff clearly impressed by the Sydneysider. With Wyoming’s squad barely changing from last season, Annika should see at least as much time on the field in 2016 as the Cowgirls attempt to build on last season’s 10 wins.
Jessie Gentle (Sophomore, Forward, Wyoming, Woolgoolga)
Like Annika Clayton, Jessie joined Wyoming last season and played in all 20 games, starting in 16. Lining up on the wing for the most part, Jessie averaged over 70 minutes per game, tallying a single assist on Laurel Ramer’s opener against Hawaii in a 2-2 draw early on in the season. Jessie will be looking to create a more tangible impact this season, but has clearly shown that she has the ability to be a major part of the Wyoming side in 2016.
Georgia Rowntree (Junior, Goalkeeper, Wyoming, Sydney)
A starter in 16 games in 2015, Georgia shared the goalkeeping responsibilities with local player Cassidy Entsminger last season and things appear set to stay the same in 2016. Conceding an average of just a single goal per game, Georgia notched a .786 save percentage in 2015, representing an improvement on 2014’s 1.20 goals conceded per game, but with an identical save percentage. However, the most notable of Georgia’s stats was her minutes played. After playing 9 games and earning 451 minutes of playing time in 2014, Georgia played 810 minutes in 2015 as she and Entsminger established themselves as an excellent pairing in goal. Running unopposed for Goalkeeper of the Year for the last two seasons, Georgia has competition for the first time, in the form of UCLA’s Teagan Micah.
Candace Sciberras (Junior, Midfielder, Wyoming, Sydney)
Candace came to Wyoming in 2013 alongside Alisha Bass, but has followed a slightly different course since that time. The winger suffered an ACL injury and was forced to sit out most of the 2015 season after a promising start to the season which saw Candace start the first five games of the campaign. With very little change to the Wyoming roster, expect to see Candace back in the rotation this season and hopefully earning back that starting spot that she had rightfully claimed before last season’s injury.