2017 Week 1 Preview

Preseason is in the books and it’s time for the 2017 NCAA Division I women’s soccer season to commence. All bar one team featuring Australians kicks off their season this week, with Priya Gakhar forced to wait until next week to make her official debut for Grambling State. There will also be two Aussie v Aussie matchups on the opening weekend, adding a bit of extra spice to the occasion.

Stanford come into the 2017 season as one of the favourites to secure a national title, and kick off their campaign with a tough away trip to face Marquette and Wisconsin, both Top 50 RPI teams in 2016. Two wins here would be a great start to the season for the Cardinal, but from an Australian perspective it will be fascinating to see if Beattie Goad slots in at fullback or in a more attacking role out wide, and also which side of the field the sophomore plays on. Meanwhile, fellow Pac-12 powerhouse UCLA and their Australian goalkeeper, Teagan Micah, will stay closer to home, taking on San Diego State and Long Beach State in their opening two games. Micah was one of the Bruins’ stars in her freshman year, but with US Under 17 national team goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy joining the squad, it will be fascinating to watch how coach Amanda Cromwell splits playing time between the pair, as well as senior Siri Ervik, who served as backup to Micah in 2016.

Hofstra have doubled their number of Aussies with Monique Iannella transferring from Texas to join fellow Victorian Emily Hulbert at the Pride. The Long Island-based team start their season with a trip to Pittsburgh before taking on Penn State for the third consecutive season. The Pride have lost both of the previous two fixtures against the Nittany Lions, and things don’t stand to get any easier against a stacked Penn State side that is expected to run roughshod over most of the Big Ten this season. Look for a fully fit Emily Hulbert to make her mark on things after last season’s interrupted campaign, whilst Monique Iannella’s involvement will also be watched closely as the senior looks to make an immediate impact for Hofstra.

Two Aussie v Aussie matchups will make for a double delight for fans, as Sandra Hill and Grand Canyon take on Demi Koulizakis and Texas Tech, whilst Claire Urquhart and Albany take on Gaby Bentley and Old Dominion. The game against Texas Tech will be Hill’s official college debut, whilst Koulizakis will be looking to begin her transformation from impact bench player to regular starter. Meanwhile, Urquhart and Bentley will both want to increase their playing time after only seeing scarce minutes in 2016.

Five more freshmen will also potentially be given the chance to make their debuts this week. W-League trio Claudia Jenkins, Lorena Bugden, and Olivia Ellis, as well as Tenille Harberger and Lauren Featherstone could all see their opening minutes of NCAA Division I playing time across the weekend. Meanwhile, junior college transfer Jemma House will be hoping to continue her goalscoring exploits for Wyoming as the Cowgirls take on Baylor in their only game of the weekend.

Speaking of Wyoming, their remaining four Australians have solidified their places as vital cogs in the Cowgirls’ team. Alisha Bass is one of the stars of the Mountain West Conference, whilst Georgia Rowntree is coming off an outstanding season between the sticks. Annika Clayton was outstanding in an interrupted campaign in 2016, whilst Jessie Gentle has been solid wherever she has been used throughout the season, and all four will surely play a part in Wyoming’s campaign. A win against Baylor would certainly provide a massive boost to the Cowgirls’ resume this season.

Full Schedule:

(All game times are in Sydney time)

Albany (Claire Urquhart)

This week: at Old Dominion – 8am, Monday August 21

Central Connecticut State (Lauren Featherstone)

This week: at Massachusetts – 6am, Saturday August 19

Colorado (Isobel Dalton)

This week: at Colorado State – 9am, Saturday August 19; v Colorado College – 7:30am, Monday August 21

Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)

This week: at Maryland – 9am, Saturday August 19; v Quinnipiac – 9am, Tuesday August 22

East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson)

This week: v South Carolina State – 9am, Saturday August 19; v Tennessee Tech – 9am, Monday August 21

Fairleigh Dickinson (Sam Roff)

This week: v Temple – 9am, Saturday August 19; v Hartford – 2am, Monday August 21

Grand Canyon (Sandra Hill)

This week: v Texas Tech – 8am, Saturday August 19; v New Mexico – 2:30am, Monday August 21

Hawaii (Kiri Dale)

This week: v Utah Valley – 3pm, Saturday August 19; v Fairfield – 1pm, Monday August 21

Hofstra (Emily Hulbert, Monique Iannella)

This week: at Pittsburgh – 9am, Saturday August 19; at Penn State – 3am, Monday August 21

La Salle (Claudia Jenkins)

This week: v St. John’s – 9am, Saturday August 19; at Temple – 3am, Monday August 21

LSU (Caitlin Cantrill)

This week: v Mississippi Valley State – 9am, Saturday August 19; at Colgate – 9am, Monday August 21

Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)

This week: v Marshall – 5am, Monday August 21

Nicholls State (Tenille Harberger, Kristy Helmers)

This week: at Southern Miss – 7am, Saturday August 19; v Mississippi Valley State – 4am, Monday August 21

Old Dominion (Gaby Bentley)

This week: v George Mason – 9am, Saturday August 19; v Albany – 8am, Monday August 21

Oregon State (Olivia Ellis)

This week: v Kansas State – 12pm, Saturday August 19; at Seattle – 12pm, Monday August 21

Pacific (Ellie Papalexiou)

This week: v Fresno State – 12pm, Saturday August 19; at Cal State Northridge – 7am, Monday August 21

Saint Francis (Shelby Milton)

This week: at Miami (FL) – 9am, Saturday August 19; at Florida Atlantic – 3am, Monday August 21

Southeast Missouri State (Maddy Cornell)

This week: at Evansville – 10am, Saturday August 19; v Illinois-Springfield – 9:30am, Monday August 21

Stanford (Beattie Goad)

This week: at Marquette – 10:30am, Saturday August 19; at Wisconsin – 8am, Monday August 21

Texas Southern (Paige Hayward)

This week: at Houston – 10am, Saturday August 19; v St Thomas – 9am, Monday August 21

Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)

This week: v Grand Canyon – 8am, Saturday August 19; v San Francisco – 5am, Monday August 21

UCLA (Teagan Micah)

This week: v San Diego State – 12pm, Saturday August 19; at Long Beach State – 12pm, Monday August 21

Western Carolina (Kate Swartwout)

This week: v Morehead State – 9am, Saturday August 19

William & Mary (Lorena Bugden)

This week: v Providence – 6:30am, Saturday August 19; v Boston College – 1:30am, Monday August 21

Wyoming (Alisha Bass, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Jemma House, Georgia Rowntree)

This week: at Baylor – 9am, Monday August 21

2017 Player Previews

34 players will represent Australia in NCAA Division I women’s soccer this year, down one from 2016. With players spread as far north as New York and Connecticut all the way to Los Angeles and even Hawaii, you’re never far from a College Matilda if you’re in the US, and we take a look at each and every one of them in this comprehensive preview.

Claire Urquhart (Junior, Midfielder, Albany, Brisbane)

Claire Urquhart has had an interesting, albeit possibly frustrating, college career at Albany to this point. In each of her first two seasons, the Queenslander was afforded a couple of starts early in the campaign, but was then rarely seen throughout the remainder of the schedule. With previous coach Caitlin Cucchiella stepping down from college coaching altogether, a new coach may allow Urquhart more playing time as she heads into her penultimate college season. With just six natural defenders on the roster, and two of those being freshmen, Urquhart may even be thrown in the deep end from the outset as she becomes one of the more senior members of the defensive corps.

Lauren Featherstone (Freshman, Midfielder, Central Connecticut State, Sydney)

Following the likes of Erin Herd, Nikola Deiter and Leah Blayney, Lauren Featherstone continues the pathway between Australia and Central Connecticut State, joining as a freshman in 2017. An Australian Schoolgirls representative, Featherstone is a product of the Macarthur Rams program, one of the most successful NPL programs in New South Wales over recent years. Adept at fullback or in midfield, Featherstone’s versatility will no doubt serve her well as she looks to settle into the lineup at Central Connecticut State in her freshman year.

Isobel Dalton (Junior, Midfielder, Colorado, Caloundra)

dalton-and-micah
Isobel Dalton and Teagan Micah will again face off in Pac-12 play.

The lone remaining Australian at Colorado following Kahlia Hogg’s graduation, Isobel Dalton comes into her second season with the Buffaloes looking to make more of an impact than in her initial campaign. The former Brisbane Roar midfielder featured in seven matches in 2016, but averaged only 11 minutes per contest as the likes of star freshman Taylor Kornieck saw most of the available minutes not already allocated to the previous year’s starters. However, with minutes in midfield opening up following the graduation of a number of starters, Dalton will have a chance to fight for increased playing time in 2017.

Emma Heckenberg (Junior, Midfielder, Drexel, Melbourne)

A move from the frontline into a deeper position worked wonders for Emma Heckenberg in her sophomore season in 2016, with a spectacular transformation from fringe player to vital part of a Drexel side that reached the Colonial Athletic Association championship game before going down 3-0 to Northeastern. Heckenberg played in 19 of the Dragons’ 20 games, starting on 13 occasions. This allowed the Victorian to increase her playing time from a paltry 246 minutes in 2015 to a comparatively mind-boggling 1378 minutes in 2016. With the Dragons losing a couple of major pieces but returning even more, continuity may be key to another deep conference tournament run, with Heckenberg seemingly vital to these chances.

Isabel Hodgson (Junior, Midfielder, East Tennessee State, Adelaide)

A move into the attack paid dividends for Isabel Hodgson in 2016. (Photo Credit: Dakota Hamilton)

A move out of the backline into a more advanced role worked wonders for Isabel Hodgson last year, culminating in five goals and a tie for team high with nine assists, including the opening goal of the Southern Conference championship game in which East Tennessee State eventually fell 2-1 to Samford to come agonisingly close to securing an NCAA Tournament berth. Hodgson had the most assists of any Australian in NCAA Division I last season, and also picked up the Breakout Player of the Year and Sophomore of the Year awards, and a share of the Midfielder of the Year award with Nicholls State senior Jess Coates. Hodgson is once again listed as a defender on the East Tennessee State roster, but if last season’s successes are anything to go by, the South Australian won’t be spending much time in the backline.

Sam Roff (Sophomore, Defender, Fairleigh Dickinson, Canberra)

Adept in either defence or as a holding midfielder, Sam Roff slotted straight into the Fairleigh Dickinson lineup as a freshman and enjoyed a quite outstanding first season in college. The former Canberra United training partner started 18 of the 19 games in which she played, and her defensive work saw the freshman named to the Northeast Conference All-Rookie team, a just reward for her work in a solid Fairleigh Dickinson defence. The Knights do lose one defensive starter from 2016 to graduation, meaning that Roff will pick up more responsibility in 2017, but it is a challenge that Roff has already shown glimpses of being capable of undertaking.

Priya Gakhar (Junior, Forward, Grambling State, Canberra)

Priya Gakhar comes into the college ranks a little later than some players, joining Grambling State for her junior year. Primarily a reserve team player for Woden-Weston FC in the ACT National Premier League Women, Gakhar has also stepped up at times for the first team, and also has experience playing in the F-League futsal competition. In a shortened 11 game schedule last season, Grambling State managed just one win, and scored just eight goals, three of which came in their win over Alcorn State. Gakhar will be one player tasked with improving the team’s scoring output, especially as only one player who even scored a goal will be returning to the side in 2017.

Sandra Hill (Freshman, Defender, Grand Canyon, Canberra)

One of five freshman amongst the eight defenders on Grand Canyon’s roster in 2017, Sandra Hill will commence her college career with an immediate battle for a starting spot as the Antelopes head into their first season as a full member of NCAA Division I. A fairly regular fixture in Tuggeranong United’s NPL side over the last two seasons, Hill played alongside Nicholls State’s Kristy Helmers at club level, as well as former Sydney FC and Canberra United player Meg McLaughlin. Hill joins a team that has compiled seven wins in each of the past two seasons, so it is certainly becoming time for Grand Canyon to kick on and put together a 10 win season, especially now as the team is eligible for the postseason for the first time.

Kiri Dale (Sophomore, Midfielder, Hawaii, Mullumbimby)

Following two seasons at Iona, Kiri Dale has transferred to Hawaii for a challenge at a higher level, which she will certainly receive playing for the Rainbow Wahine. After redshirting her first season at Iona, Dale slotted straight into the lineup for the Gaels, starting in nearly every game of 2016. Earning that level of playing time will certainly be tougher in Honolulu, but Dale’s versatility as a defender with a certain attacking prowess may see her gain time in different positions throughout the season. However, that remains to be seen, and as is the case with any transfer student-athlete, there are a lot of questions that will be answered as the season progresses.

Emily Hulbert (Senior, Defender, Hofstra, Melbourne)

A mainstay for her first two seasons at Hofstra, Emily Hulbert’s junior season was unfortunately cut short due to injury. The former Melbourne Victory player played in 20 or more games in each of her first two seasons, but was restricted to just nine appearances in 2017. However, Hofstra compiled a 6-2-1 record with Hulbert on the pitch, a significant contrast to their rather indifferent 4-5 record whilst the Australian was out. Able to play either in defence or midfield and on either flank, Hulbert’s ability to get forward has seen her chip in three goals and an assist, including two game-winners, as she heads into her final season of college soccer.

Monique Iannella (Senior, Defender, Hofstra, Melbourne)

Originally recruited by Hofstra before eventually choosing Texas for 2016, Monique Iannella has transferred to the Pride, where she will play alongside fellow Victorian, Emily Hulbert. Despite injury, Iannella enjoyed a relatively successful first college season, starting 12 of the 13 matches in which she played and tallying over 900 minutes of playing time as Texas finished with an 8-9-1 record in a perhaps slightly disappointing season for the Longhorns. Iannella now moves to Hofstra, where her presence will no doubt be cherished among a roster with just seven other recognised defenders, many of whom are likely to slot into the midfield at times.

And so preseason begins 🙌🏽 ..stay tuned for the attractive soccer facials to come out 🙃 ft baby bib #HUWS 🦁⚽️

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Julia De Angelis (Sophomore, Midfielder, Indiana, Canberra)

Touted as one of the best Australian freshmen in 2016, Julia De Angelis has unfortunately suffered through a frustrating run of injuries since arriving at Indiana. The Young Matildas and Canberra United midfielder had the start of her college career delayed, but did manage to accumulate 15 appearances, albeit on apparently restricted minutes. Whilst on field though, De Angelis, looked right at home in the Big Ten, one of the premier conferences in NCAA Division I. However, yet another injury will see De Angelis miss out on playing this season after undergoing surgery in March.

Claudia Jenkins (Freshman, Goalkeeper, La Salle, Adelaide)

For a couple of years, there had been just one Australian goalkeeper in NCAA Division I: Georgia Rowntree. Last year, Teagan Micah doubled that number, and now Claudia Jenkins has made it a trio by joining La Salle University in Philadelphia. The former Adelaide United W-League player, who spent 17 games on the bench for the Lady Reds, has been ever-present for Fulham United in NPL South Australia over the last two seasons. Jenkins helped her side to a 2016 preliminary final appearance where they forced Adelaide City all the way to penalties, eventually going down 5-4 in the shootout. Jenkins was among a number of players with college experience in that side, including East Tennessee State’s Isabel Hodgson, former Colgate midfielder Dylan Holmes, and former Middle Tennessee State defender Nenita Burgess. Jenkins will have a challenge on her hands attempting to unseat redshirt senior goalkeeper Larisa Zambelli from the starting job at La Salle, but even if her freshman season is more of a learning experience, the South Australian will be in the box seat for a starting spot between the sticks going forward.

Caitlin Cantrill (Sophomore, Midfielder, LSU, Canberra)

The lone Australian on a power conference team without W-League playing experience, Caitlin Cantrill nonetheless made her mark at LSU in her freshman season after training with Canberra United in previous years. The midfielder started the first four games of her college career and made 12 appearances in total, also picking up the first goal of her career against Julia De Angelis’ Indiana side, albeit in a game that De Angelis missed through injury. Cantrill will have to fight off the challenge of LSU’s handful of incoming freshman midfielders, but with a season of experience under her belt, the Canberran is certainly in the box seat to continue to receive playing time in her sophomore year.

Nyomi Devine (Senior, Defender, Murray State, Beaudesert)

The rock at the back for Murray State, Nyomi Devine has been a vital part of the Racers’ defence since her freshman season. From starting 13 of her 17 appearances in her freshman season, Devine started all 21 games in Murray State’s Ohio Valley Conference championship run in 2015 before 2016’s campaign was hindered slightly due to injury. As well as being an outstanding defender, Devine also added an attacking string to her bow in 2016. The Queenslander tallied the first assist of her career, whilst her only goal of the season – and her career to this point – was the game-winner against Tennessee-Martin. With 7 of her 11 shots for the season on target, her 64% clip is certainly a number worthy of any attacking player.

Harriet Withers (Senior, Forward, Murray State, Murwillumbah)

If Nyomi Devine is a defensive rock for the Racers, then Harriet Withers is an attacking weapon, and will be hoping to lead the line as the Racers look to atone for last year’s disappointing 2-1 overtime loss to SIU-Edwardsville in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament that cut their almost two-season long unbeaten streak at the worst possible time. An exceptional goalscorer, Withers has tallied 25 goals and 13 assists in her 58 games for the Racers to this point. A ten goal this season would not only cap an outstanding college career for Withers, but deliver the Palm Beach product the all-time goalscoring record for Murray State.

Tenille Harberger (Freshman, Midfielder, Nicholls State, Mackay)

A five-sport athlete at St. Patrick’s College in Mackay, Tenille Harberger becomes the latest in what is becoming a long line of Australians to join Nicholls State. Aside from representing her school, Harberger has developed into a goalscoring midfielder in the Mackay regional competition, with 18 goals in her 22 appearances for Mackay Lions in 2016. Harberger will no doubt be hoping to pick up some of the minutes that have opened up following the graduation of fellow Australian Jess Coates, but there will be quite a fight for that spot amongst what is a young midfield corps for the Colonels.

Kristy Helmers (Sophomore, Forward, Nicholls State, Canberra)

An instant sensation at Nicholls State, Kristy Helmers comes into her sophomore season in Thibodaux on the back of an outstanding freshman year. The Canberra product was behind only fellow Australian Jess Coates in terms of attacking output, tallying six goals and five assists and starting all 16 of the Colonels’ games. Helmers received a share of the College Matildas Freshman of the Year award in 2016, and if she can handle the additional responsibility that will surely come her way following Coates’ graduation, she may just parlay that into a Sophomore of the Year award in 2017.

Gaby Bentley (Sophomore, Midfielder, Old Dominion, Adelaide)

Gaby Bentley was used sparingly in her first season at Old Dominion, and will certainly be hoping to increase her playing time in 2017. The former Adelaide United W-League midfielder featured in just two games in 2016, but was used far more in the team’s 2017 spring exhibition games, playing both in midfield and up front. A number of attacking options from the 2016 season have since graduated, leaving some playing time on the table, but Bentley will still have to fight off the challenge from the incoming freshmen if she is to pick up those additional minutes.

Olivia Ellis (Freshman, Defender, Oregon State, Melbourne)

Lulu Pullar and Kahlia Hogg may be gone from the Pac-12’s Aussie contingent, but Melbourne City fullback Olivia Ellis has shored up the numbers by joining Oregon State. Whilst Ellis featured just twice for Melbourne City in her two seasons with the club, the young fullback featured 19 times for FC Bulleen in NPL Victoria in 2016 as the Lions finished third before going down to Geelong Galaxy United in the first week of the finals. Ellis was also involved with the Young Matildas at the 2016 AFF Women’s Championship, picking up two goals in the team’s 20-0 demolition of Timor-Leste’s full national team. With the Oregon State roster featuring just seven defenders, there will certainly be chances for Ellis to play, either as an immediate starter or off the bench, as Oregon State look to improve on last season’s 3-8 record in Pac-12 play, as well as their overall record of 8-10-2, their fifth consecutive season under .500.

Ellie Papalexiou (Senior, Defender, Pacific, Gold Coast)

After an extended stint on the sidelines in 2016 with yet another knee injury, Ellie Papalexiou returns for her senior year at Pacific desperate to make an impact on her final season in college soccer. Papalexiou’s freshman season saw her play in 17 games and become a vital part of the Tigers’ side, before injury cruelly struck the Palm Beach product down and forced her to miss the entire 2015 season. 2016 saw Papalexiou play seven games, before succumbing to injury for a second time. In her brief stints on the pitch, Papalexiou has exuded class, and it will now be a matter of putting that together for a full season for the first time since 2014 for the predominantly left-sided utility player.

Maddy Cornell (Senior, Defender, Southeast Missouri State, Nowra)

After starting her college career as a utility player who slotted in where required, Maddy Cornell has well and truly cemented her spot in the rotation up front for Southeast Missouri State heading into her final season. Cornell has played in 18 games in each of the last two seasons, and earned three starts in her junior year on her way to averaging 40 minutes per contest. Despite playing over 700 minutes, Cornell failed to find the back of the net in 2016, and this will be one facet in which she will need to improve if she is to increase that playing time yet again in 2017. Junior Lauren Kaempfe will lead the line for the Redhawks following the graduation of 12-goal striker Natasha Minor, but with Minor taking nearly half of the team’s goals with her, all of the forwards, including Cornell, will have to step up and take on more of the scoring load in 2017.

Shelby Milton (Sophomore, Defender, St. Francis, Wollongong)

After a year playing in NCAA Division II with St. Joseph’s in Indiana in 2015, Shelby Milton got out just in time as the university suspended operations earlier this year. Milton then transferred to St. Francis University in Pennsylvania, and hit the ground running with the Red Flash, making 19 appearances in her first season, and starting 9 games. Whilst the St. Francis defence was in the bottom half of the national rankings for goals conceded in 2016, they were certainly a young group last season. With a year of experience under their belts, they should see their defensive numbers improve this season and potentially improve on their 10-12 record from 2016.

Beattie Goad (Sophomore, Midfielder, Stanford, Melbourne)

Beattie Goad made the most of a shift to fullback in her freshman year. (Photo Credit: Hector Garcia-Molina/ISIPhotos.com)

Probably the most well-known of the Australian college players among the wider football community, Beattie Goad came to Stanford as a winger but reinvented herself as a fullback in the opening stages of her career with the Cardinal. Making her debut at left fullback, Goad was utilised on both sides of defence before making a move to a more attacking role later in the season for a Stanford side whose chances for a title were hindered by an injury to US national team midfielder Andi Sullivan and then extinguished by Santa Clara in a penalty shootout in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Victorian also picked up her first goal with literally the last kick of the regular season, tying a bow on a 4-1 win over arch rivals California. Having shown her ability to play in a number of positions, there will almost certainly be a spot for Goad somewhere after she made 10 starts in 21 appearances in 2016.

Paige Hayward (Senior, Forward, Texas Southern, Sydney)

The reigning College Matildas Player of the Year, Paige Hayward was recently named to the All-SWAC preseason second team, a nod to her supreme goalscoring ability amongst all players in the conference. The Sydneysider banged home 13 goals in 2016, including a perfect five of five from the spot and three game-winning goals, as well as chipping in five assists in 19 appearances  to secure a spot in the All-SWAC Second Team. Alongside her College Matildas Player of the Year award, Hayward was also the top goalscorer amongst Australians, and was awarded Junior of the Year, Forward of the Year, and Most Consistent Player.

Demi Koulizakis (Sophomore, Forward, Texas Tech, Sydney)

Demi Koulizakis returns to Lubbock in 2017 looking to make just as many appearances as she was able to in 2016, but perhaps turn those into more extended stints on the pitch. The former Sydney University forward featured 18 times for Texas Tech in her freshman year, but averaged only just over 20 minutes per contest despite starting on three occasions. In spite of this, things did start looking up for Koulizakis late in the season, as she played 47 minutes against TCU before rounding out the regular season with 69 minutes of playing time in a final day win over Oklahoma that clinched a Big 12 Tournament berth for the Red Raiders. The former Western Sydney Wanderers W-League player will now be aiming to ensure those extended outings become the norm, rather than the exception in 2017.

Teagan Micah (Sophomore, Goalkeeper, UCLA, Brisbane)

Teagan Micah came to UCLA seemingly set for a major battle for the starting goalkeeper berth at UCLA, but instead slotted seamlessly into the Bruins’ lineup, playing the whole season for a team that eventually went down to national runner-up West Virginia in a penalty shootout (that Micah didn’t take part in) in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The freshman won two College Matildas awards for an outstanding season, earning a share of the Freshman of the Year award with Nicholls State’s Kristy Helmers, as well as a share of the Goalkeeper of the Year award with Wyoming’s Georgia Rowntree. Micah became the first true freshman to start a game for UCLA since 2004, and was also named Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week three times in an outstanding first season in Westwood. Recently, Micah was an emergency call-up to the Matildas squad that won the Tournament of Nations against the United States, Japan, and Brazil, filling a spot on the bench for the 6-1 win over Brazil after regular starter Lydia Williams suffered an injury.

Kate Swartwout (Sophomore, Defender, Western Carolina, Gold Coast)

Gold Coast born but North Carolina raised, Kate Swartwout slotted straight into the lineup at Western Carolina, a college that could almost be considered local for the Lake Norman product. Swartwout featured in 16 games for a Catamounts side that finished with an 8-12 record, not flash by any means, but certainly something to build on in 2017. Although primarily a defender, Swartwout does have the ability to play in midfield, and did pop up with one assist last season, helping Western Carolina to a 3-2 win over Kennesaw State. Assists are nice, but Swartwout’s main focus is keeping the ball out of the net rather than putting it in the one at the other end.

Lorena Bugden (Freshman, Midfielder, William & Mary, Sydney)

Lorena Bugden links up with Australian assistant coach Vanessa Mann at William & Mary this season. (Photo Credit: Eric Berry)

William & Mary’s first Australian recruit since fellow Australian, Vanessa Mann, became assistant coach for the Tribe, Lorena Bugden arrives at Williamsburg with significant club experience. With a season of W-League experience at Western Sydney Wanderers under her belt, and two NPLNSW titles, one each with FNSW Institute and Sydney University, Bugden has carved out quite a career even at this early stage. Having played everywhere from fullback to up top, the freshman can certainly slot in wherever she is required, but will hopefully play in her preferred advanced midfield position. An Australian Schoolgirls representative and national youth team camp invitee, Bugden will certainly be one to watch this upcoming season.

Alisha Bass (Senior, Midfielder, Wyoming, Sydney)

Alisha Bass has been a vital part of the Wyoming lineup for her entire college career. (Photo Credit: Ted Brummond)

Whether it’s in the centre of defence, up front, or in behind the strikers as an attacking midfielder, Alisha Bass has been one of the standout players in the Mountain West Conference for the last few seasons. Having redshirted her first year at Laramie, this will be Bass’s fifth year with the Cowgirls, but the senior has long been one of the leaders of the team. Bass topped the Cowgirls in minutes played and assists in 2016, tallying four of the latter in addition to three goals, which included a stunning header with 10 seconds remaining in double overtime against Utah Valley. A highly technically adept player, Bass put nearly 60% of her shots on target last season to also lead Wyoming in that category.

Annika Clayton (Junior, Midfielder, Wyoming, Sydney)

Alisha Bass may be the creative force of the Wyoming attack, but Annika Clayton provides an industrious counterpoint in midfield for the Cowgirls. Ever-present in the middle of the park in her freshman season, 2016 was a slightly more stop-start campaign for the former Sydney University midfielder. Clayton was only able to garner one start in her 11 appearances as injury forced her to sit out at various times. However, Clayton was able to tally three assists for the season, which were enough for third in the team, and tallied a goal against Idaho State. With 2016’s injury problems hopefully behind her, 2017 looks to be far more promising for the Sydneysider.

Jessie Gentle (Junior, Midfielder, Wyoming, Woolgoolga)

An occasional starter but a regular fixture in the side, Jessie Gentle has carved out a position for herself within the Wyoming roster, being deployed in a number of positions over the last couple of years. Whether up front on the wing or in a fullback role, Gentle is now one of the mainstays of the Cowgirls’ lineup, playing 39 games over her first two seasons, 22 of those as part of the starting lineup. Although Gentle tallied just one goal last season, it was an important one: the game winner against Fresno State which earned Wyoming its first away win in conference play of the 2016 season.

Jemma House (Junior, Forward, Wyoming, Newcastle)

Already a star of college soccer in Wyoming after two emphatically successful years at Laramie County Community College, Jemma House has made the 50 mile journey to the state’s flagship university for the final two seasons of her college career. With 47 goals and 14 assists in 44 junior college games, House was a two-time All American at LCCC, and was also named to the NJCAA All-Tournament team in both 2015 and 2016. Now, House comes to Wyoming ready to fight for the chance to lead the line and potentially be on the end of some of the magical passes that fellow Australian Alisha Bass has delivered time and again for Cowgirls strikers over the last few seasons.

Georgia Rowntree (Senior, Goalkeeper, Wyoming, Sydney)

Georgia Rowntree has firmly established herself between the sticks for Wyoming. (Photo Credit: Ted Brummond)

Georgia Rowntree came into the 2016 season fighting for a starting berth, but emerged as the primary option between the sticks for the entire season to play all but seven minutes of the season and also earn a share of the 2016 College Matildas Goalkeeper of the Year with UCLA’s Teagan Micah. Having started games since her freshman year, Rowntree sits firmly in the Wyoming top 10 lists for minutes played and career shutouts, and is also second all-time for goals against average. Her eight clean sheets in 2016 also set a single-season record for the Cowgirls, and the Sydneysider needs just four more to move into the top 3 all time for career shutouts at Wyoming. Although Rowntree will face competition from the other two goalkeepers in the Cowgirls’ squad, she certainly has the inside running at this point.

NCAA Tournament Preview

This season, seven Australians across six teams will contest the NCAA Tournament. Three of those sides – Stanford, UCLA, and USC – could be considered legitimate challengers for the title, whilst Colorado and Texas Tech could definitely shake things up and spring an upset or two. Beattie Goad and Stanford have secured the overall top seed, but UCLA and USC have also managed to grab seeded positions and could use those favourable draws to their advantage.

Stanford (Beattie Goad)

First Round: v Houston Baptist – 2pm, Saturday November 12

Live on Stanford Women’s Soccer Facebook

Beattie Goad
Beattie Goad (Photo Credit: Bill Dally/ISIPhotos.com)

As the overall top seed in the tournament, Stanford go in as favourites to make it to San Jose for the College Cup. First up, they take on Houston Baptist, who qualified for the tournament as champions of the Southland Conference. The Huskies have compiled a 10-10-1 record this season, and sit a lowly 220th in the RPI rankings. If Stanford get through this first game, they will take on the winner of Long Beach State and Santa Clara, two teams in the top 50 of the RPI rankings. Expect to see Beattie Goad play a cameo off the bench for Stanford, as she has done in recent weeks, unless the Cardinal get out to a big lead, which is possible. If that happens, there may be scope for Beattie to play a lot more minutes as some starters are rested.

UCLA (Teagan Micah)

First Round: v Seattle – 2pm, Saturday November 12

Live on Pac-12 UCLA Stream

The 4th seed in their quarter of the draw, UCLA will be hard-pressed to reach the final weekend as they must go through heavyweights West Virginia (or a team that defeats them) to reach even the quarter-finals. Before that though, they must take on Seattle in the first round. The WAC champions, Seattle are 93rd in the RPI rankings with a 14-5-1 record to this point. UCLA should win this game comfortably, but a second round matchup with Top 20 side Nebraska would be far tougher. However, with Teagan Micah doing her best impression of a brick wall between the sticks for the Bruins, the path through to a potential game with West Virginia should be much more smooth.

Colorado (Isobel Dalton, Kahlia Hogg)

First Round: v Oklahoma State – 6am, Sunday November 13

Live on Pac-12 Colorado Stream

Of the four Pac-12 teams featuring Aussies to reach the tournament, Colorado are the lowest in the RPI rankings and, as such, face the toughest test in the first round. The 29th ranked Buffaloes face off against 56th ranked Oklahoma State on their home patch. Colorado do have a reasonable history of making things happen in the NCAA Tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2013 after knocking off Denver and BYU in unexpected wins, and taking North Carolina to overtime in 2014 as the Buffaloes came incredibly close to a huge upset. If Colorado can manage a win, they will almost certainly play #1 seed South Carolina in the first round, unless Aussie student assistant coach Shelbi Vienna-Hallam can help Alabama State conjure what would be a ludicrously massive upset. We may not see a lot of Isobel Dalton and Kahlia Hogg in this game due to various circumstances, but you never know how these things pan out.

Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)

First Round: at Utah – 7am, Sunday November 13

Live on Pac-12 Utah Stream

Texas Tech were forced to wait until Selection Monday to learn if they would make the tournament, as they sat firmly on the bubble. Fortunately, Demi Koulizakis and the Red Raiders were granted a bid, and they will travel to Utah for their first round game. At 21st in the RPI rankings, Utah will go into this game as favourites against 42nd ranked Texas Tech. If Texas Tech can manage a victory first up, things only get tougher as they will likely take on ACC champions Florida State. Demi Koulizakis was only seeing limited minutes earlier in the season, but her playing time has exploded recently and it will be interesting to see if this continues through the tournament.

USC (Lulu Pullar)

First Round: v Eastern Washington – 8am, Sunday November 13

Live on Pac-12 USC Stream

The second seed in their quarter of the draw, USC were close to snagging a top seed until their final day loss to UCLA and Florida’s SEC championship victory. The Women of Troy come into this game against Big Sky champion Eastern Washington as hot favourites to advance to the second round and a game against either TCU or Texas A&M. USC sit in the same section of the draw as Demi Koulizakis and Texas Tech, and whilst it might take some upsets, we could see a Sweet 16 matchup between the two Aussies. How much playing time Lulu Pullar gets in that potential game, or indeed in any other, remains to be seen, though.

Albany (Claire Urquhart)

First Round: v Connecticut – 10am, Sunday November 13

Live on Husky Vision ($$)

Last season, Claire Urquhart played the first few games, then saw no playing time for the rest of the season until the NCAA Tournament. This season has followed a similar course so far, and we may yet see Claire in the NCAA Tournament again as the Great Danes take on Connecticut in the first round. Certainly, it will be another tough game for Albany. Last season, Penn State were a #1 seed and won the NCAA title after beating Albany in the first round. This season, Connecticut are #8 in the RPI even if they haven’t secured a seeding for the tournament. It’s going to be hard for Albany to get through the first round, but upsets are certainly more likely in soccer than they are in many other sports.

2016 Player Previews

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.

2015 Signing Period Recap

It’s now been three months since National Signing Day, and the majority of teams have released their signing classes. This year, seven new players will replace the three seniors who graduated after the 2014 season, taking the player total to 21 for this season. Four of the six players will be joining teams that either currently or previously have had Australians playing for them, with the remaining two players becoming the first Australians to play for their respective teams.

Wyoming have once again stacked up on the Aussies, with the current trio of Alisha Bass, Georgia Rowntree, and Candace Sciberras being joined by two more Aussies: Sydney University midfielder Annika Clayton, and Jessie Gentle, who hails from Woolgoolga on the NSW Mid-North Coast.

Also adding to their list of Aussies are the Redhawks of Southeast Missouri State, whose trio of Jenna Collingridge, Bridget Sankey, and Maddy Cornell will become a quartet with the addition of Canberra’s Australian Under 17 national team defender Siena Senatore.

One team who is reloading on the Aussie front is Washington State, the former home of ex-Matildas player Rachael Doyle. The Cougars, who play in arguably the best conference in the nation, the PAC-12, have signed Western Sydney Wanderers and Manly United striker Tia Gavin. Tia played on the Football NSW Institute side that won NPLNSW Women’s 1 in 2014, and her form saw her earn a W-League contract for the most recent season.

Claire Urquhart has signed with the University of Albany, and is already over in the US training with her new team, whereas most other players will not be joining until August. The age group national team midfielder is the first Australian to play for Albany.

Adelaide’s Dylan Holmes, who has represented the Young Matildas and played for Adelaide United in the W-League, has committed to Colgate, a team that is definitely on the rise despite being controversially omitted from the NCAA Tournament last season. Players like Dylan will only help Colgate’s cause over the next four years.

Our final addition to the college scene this year is Melbourne’s Emma Heckenberg, who will be joining Drexel in Philadelphia. Emma spent the 2014 season playing alongside Hofstra’s Emily Hulbert at Monbulk in the Victorian Women’s Premier League, and the two will now be conference rivals as Drexel and Hofstra both play in the Colonial Athletic Association.

We’ll be taking a closer look at the new players soon, but in the meantime, if there are any players we’ve missed, don’t hesitate to let us know!