2018 End Of Season Wrap

(Featured Image Credit: University of Wyoming Media Relations)

As was the case in 2017, we saw 30 Australians take to the pitch in NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer this season. Although the season didn’t end with a national champion for the first time in three years, there was still no shortage of players enjoying outstanding campaigns in a thoroughly entertaining 2018, with both familiar faces and new stars putting on a show.

(33 Australians were on rosters at the end of the season. However, Caitlin Cantrill, Laura Farrelly, and Grace Watson-Carr did not feature this season and as such are not featured below.) 

Indianna Asimus (Wyoming)
Team Record:
12-4-4 (Mountain West Conference Semi-Finals)
Stats: 20 games, 9 starts, 0 goals, 0 assists

Indianna Asimus enjoyed a solid first college season. (Photo Credit: University of Wyoming Media Relations)

Indianna Asimus may have been the lesser used of the four Australians on the Wyoming roster, but nonetheless the freshman had enough of an impact for the Cowgirls to suggest that her playing time will increase going forward. Asimus started each of the final five games of the season, and although the freshman didn’t manage a goal, she did rattle off seven shots in the final two games. That alone is evidence in itself that Asimus found herself in good positions, which will serve her well over the next three seasons, particularly as she looks to snag one of the positions left by the six graduating seniors from the 2017 team.

Gaby Bentley (Old Dominion)
Team Record:
8-7-4 (Conference USA Quarter-Finals)
Stats: 14 games, 2 goals, 0 assists

An impact player off the bench for much of the season, Gaby Bentley may not have started every game but gave just as much as many of the starters for an Old Dominion side that once again found itself in the Conference USA Tournament before being knocked out in the quarter-finals for the third consecutive season. Although her general play was solid throughout the season, Bentley also doubled her scoring output from last season, tallying two goals for the season. With a number of midfielders graduating after the 2018 season, Bentley may just find herself in the starting lineup on a more regular basis in her senior year. 

Lorena Bugden (William & Mary)
Team Record:
6-10-1
Stats: 5 games, 1 start, 0 goals, 0 assists

Having spent her first season at William & Mary recovering from injury, new issues plagued Lorena Bugden in her sophomore year with the Tribe, culminating in just five appearances in a tough season on both a personal level and for the team. Under a new coach for the 2018 campaign, Bugden earned a start in one of her appearances, but the injury problems curtailed what could have been a promising season that may have set the sophomore up for the next couple of seasons at William & Mary. As it is, Bugden will have to hit the ground running in 2019 in order to put together the kind of season she is capable of producing.

Jodie Burchell (Towson)
Team Record:
4-12-3
Stats: 14 games, 7 starts, 1 goal, 0 assists

Freshman Jodie Burchell took a while to establish herself in the Towson side, but once she did, she latched onto her spot and eventually entrenched herself as a member of the starting lineup. Despite playing just 14 games, all of Burchell’s seven starts came in the last eight games of the season. Although the freshman came up with only a single goal in her 485 minutes on the pitch, Burchell was able to fashion chances on occasion, finishing with 10 shots for the season in a solid first campaign in college soccer.

Tessa Calabria (Nicholls State)
Team Record:
3-15-0
Stats: 6 games, 1 start, 0 goals, 1 assist

Although it was a disappointing season for Nicholls State, things began promisingly for Tessa Calabria, starting her first game and playing more than hour in two of her first three appearances before picking up an assist against Alcorn State in the first game of September. However, that would be the last time the junior college transfer would feature in 2018, as injury reared its ugly head and forced the South Australian out for the remainder of the season. However, Calabria will return next season and the Colonels could certainly use her presence as despite scoring 17 goals, 7 of those came from senior Francesca Curteis, and that production will need to be replaced if the team is to improve on this season’s three wins.

Sarah Clark (Chicago State)
Team Record:
0-16-1
Stats: 8 games, 4 starts, 0 goals, 0 assists

Sarah Clark’s first season in Division I after two successful seasons at Lassen Community College looked promising as the Queenslander made four starts in her first eight appearances for the struggling Cougars. However, Clark’s season ended prematurely after those eight appearances, which spelled trouble for a Chicago State side that could have used all the help it could get as a winless streak dating back to August 2018 continued throughout the season, reaching 33 games.

Annika Clayton (Wyoming)
Team Record:
12-4-4 (Mountain West Conference Semi-Finals)
Stats: 20 games, 20 starts, 4 goals, 2 assists 

Wyoming needed a leader in midfield following Alisha Bass’s graduation after the 2017 season, and Annika Clayton stepped up to fill the void left by her fellow Australian superbly. Four goals and two assists certainly comprised a tidy return for the midfielder, but statistics alone do not paint the picture of Clayton’s importance to her team. Whether pulling the strings in midfield with her passing or making a marauding run forward, the midfielder’s ability to impact the game in a number of ways was vital to the Cowgirls securing a share of the Mountain West Conference regular season title and finishing with 12 wins and 4 draws in their 20 games. Clayton also received a Mountain West All-Conference Second Team nomination for her performances throughout the season, just reward for an outstanding campaign.

Kiri Dale (Hawaii)
Team Record:
9-6-1
Stats: 16 games, 12 starts, 0 goals, 2 assists

Kiri Dale enjoyed another solid season for Hawaii, settling into a position in the starting lineup for the majority of the campaign. The Rainbow Wahine narrowly missed out on their first conference tournament berth, but nonetheless even being in contention represented a vast improvement on their dismal league finishes since moving to the Big West in 2012. Dale finished the season with three complete-game performances in among several other high-minute games, tallying a pair of assists for the season as well as 9 shots in her second season at Hawaii but her first with fellow Australian and College Matildas legend Rachael Doyle as part of the coaching staff.

Isobel Dalton (Colorado)
Team Record:
13-4-3
Stats: 12 games, 0 starts, 0 goals, 1 assist

As has been the case for the majority of Isobel Dalton’s time at Colorado, the senior midfielder found herself just outside the regular rotation of players throughout the season, limiting both her appearances and playing time. However, despite a lack of opportunities, Dalton was still able to exhibit her class in midfield and come up with the occasional memorable moment, including a scintillating pass that split the Oregon State defence for the final assist of the senior’s college career. Having played in both the W-League and the English Women’s Super League before heading to college, Dalton’s next move will be one to watch if the former Brisbane Roar player does choose to extend her footballing career.

Lauren Featherstone (North Dakota State)
Team Record:
9-7-0 (Summit League Semi-Finals)
Stats: 10 games, 2 starts, 0 goals, 0 assists

Seeking a fresh start at North Dakota State after redshirting her only season at Central Connecticut State in 2017, Lauren Featherstone had what could only be termed as a frustrating year as injury conspired to limit the redshirt freshman to just 10 games. When she actually got the chance to play, Featherstone looked at home for North Dakota State, earning two starts before enduring a three-week break midway through the season and eventually being limited to mere minutes on the pitch by the end of the campaign. However, if Featherstone can overcome her injury problems, the Macarthur Rams product can certainly become an integral part of the North Dakota State lineup going forward.

Jessie Gentle (Wyoming)
Team Record: 12-4-4 (Mountain West Conference Semi-Finals)
Stats: 20 games, 20 starts, 1 goal, 3 assists

Alongside classmate and fellow Aussie Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle has been an integral member of the Wyoming lineup for much of her time in Laramie, and nothing about that changed in 2018 as the senior terrorised opposing wide players both in attack and defence. Like Clayton, Gentle started every game for the Cowgirls in 2018 as the experienced Wyoming side put together the first 12-win season in program history whilst also securing a share of the Mountain West Conference regular season title. A dynamic combination of athleticism and skill led a number of outstanding performances for Wyoming, culminating in a career-high three assists for the season and a second goal of the senior’s career, which came alongside an assist in a 3-1 win over Colorado College.

Beattie Goad (Stanford)
Team Record:
21-1-1 (Pac-12 Champions, NCAA College Cup Semi-Finals)
Stats: 24 games, 9 starts, 2 goals, 3 assists

Beattie Goad has become an integral part of the Stanford side. (Photo Credit: Stanford Athletics)

Beattie Goad has seen decent playing time throughout her time at Stanford during what could only be termed as a golden era for the program, but this season saw the junior’s impact on the side become far more significant. Starting the first five games of the season as injuries opened up a spot, Goad started 9 of her 24 appearances and finished with multiple goals and assists in a season for the first time in her career. Whilst Stanford may have fallen short of repeating as champions after a 2-0 loss to eventual champions Florida State in the College Cup semi-finals, Goad’s season could only be termed as a successful one as she proved herself to be an integral part of one of the best teams in college soccer.

Tenille Harberger (Nicholls State)
Team Record:
3-15-0
Stats: 3 games, 0 starts, 0 goals, 0 assists

Having redshirted her first year at Nicholls State in 2017, Tenille Harberger finally saw her first playing time for the Colonels this year, seeing limited playing time in three games in what was a tough season in general for the team. The midfielder from Mackay was afforded just 21 minutes of playing time in those three appearances, and will no doubt be hoping to increase that playing time in her junior year in 2019 as Nicholls State look to improve on their three wins this season.

Emma Heckenberg (Drexel)
Team Record:
7-7-5 (CAA Quarter-Finals)
Stats: 18 games, 16 starts, 0 goals, 4 assists

Rarely has a player appeared more willing to do whatever is required to get her team a win than Emma Heckenberg, and that has served the senior well. Heckenberg saw 16 starts in her final year of college soccer, the most of any of her four years at Drexel. Ready and willing to slot in wherever required, Heckenberg carved out a spot as a vital member of the backline with a handy ability to deliver a set-piece, much like Monique Iannella at Hofstra. That set-piece ability delivered four assists, with two of those coming in a 2-1 over St. Joseph’s and another on the game-winner in a victory over Charleston. Whilst Heckenberg was never a player that received massive plaudits, replacing a player of her ilk will prove no small task for Drexel in 2019. 

Kristy Helmers (Nicholls State)
Team Record:
3-15-0
Stats: 18 games, 4 starts, 2 goals, 1 assist

After a solid first couple of seasons that saw Kristy Helmers regularly start for Nicholls State, 2018 saw the Canberra product come off the bench in the vast majority of her appearances in a side that struggled for goals for much of the season. Helmers started just four games and rarely played more than half a game, resulting in a diminished return of just two goals after scoring three in 2017 and six in her freshman year of 2016. However, those two goals were good enough for second-highest on a Nicholls State team that scored just 17 and saw 7 of those come from one player. 

Sandra Hill (Grand Canyon)
Team Record:
6-13-2 (WAC Quarter-Finals)
Stats: 15 games, 9 starts, 1 goal, 0 assists

Fresh off making her debut with the Cambodian national team during the off-season, Sandra Hill returned to Grand Canyon for her sophomore year and made a similar impact to what she had done in 2017. Hill certainly looks to have benefitted from having a year under her belt, looking far more composed on the pitch in 2018, and also managed to pick up her first collegiate goal with an absolute worldie in her side’s WAC Tournament quarter-final loss to Utah Valley. After starting 9 of her 15 games in 2018, Hill will no doubt be hoping to ensure that both of those numbers sit closer to 20 in her junior season, and if her development continues, there is no reason that can’t happen. 

Isabel Hodgson (East Tennessee State)
Team Record:
8-12-0 (Southern Conference Semi-Finals)
Stats: 20 games, 19 starts, 4 goals, 1 assist

Isabel Hodgson will be tough to replace for ETSU. (Photo Credit: Dakota Hamilton/ETSU Athletics)

A star of the East Tennessee State side from the moment she stepped on the field in Johnson City, Isabel Hodgson once again enjoyed an outstanding season, finishing the 2018 season as the program’s record holder for total appearances. Despite playing a defensive role for the Buccaneers, Hodgson was still able to tally 4 goals and 2 assists, her best return since the 2016 campaign in which the South Australian was utilised in an attacking position, to help her team to a Southern Conference semi-final berth as East Tennessee State atoned for a poor non-conference season by finishing third in the league table. Hodgson has already made her next career move, signing with Adelaide United for the remainder of the W-League season, joining other Australian former college players Laura Johns, Dylan Holmes, and Kahlia Hogg.

Monique Iannella (Hofstra)
Team Record: 16-6-1 (CAA Champions, NCAA Tournament Second Round)
Stats: 23 games, 21 starts, 1 goal, 5 assists

The only thing more lethal than Monique Iannella’s defensive presence is her ability to whip in a pinpoint ball from a corner, and the senior demonstrated both with aplomb to help lead Hofstra to a second consecutive CAA title and another NCAA Tournament appearance. In a side teeming with international players, Iannella was just one of many imports playing a vital role as the Pride rolled through the CAA Tournament before demolishing Boston College in an upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Interestingly, although Iannella’s ability from a corner is renowned, the majority of her assists came in other ways, proving her versatility as a player. Three of these came in one game against Towson, all of which came from open play as the former Melbourne City followed up 2017’s six assists with five more in her senior year. 

Claudia Jenkins (La Salle)
Team Record:
8-8-1
Stats: 17 games, 17 starts, 5 clean sheets, 1.248 GAA, 0.788 save percentage 

Claudia Jenkins has been La Salle’s saviour on many occasions. (Photo Credit: Greg Carroccio / Sideline Photos)

After spending the 2017 as backup to senior Larisa Zambelli, Claudia Jenkins made the goalkeeper position her own in 2018, proving to be a more-than-reliable option between the sticks for La Salle. Jenkins’ save percentage and goals against average numbers put her in the top half of goalkeepers in the nation, but those numbers could have been far better if not for an early-season flurry of penalties and own goals that at times left the sophomore on a hiding to nothing. Forced to make almost five saves per game, Jenkins stood tall in a tough season for La Salle, who came back to the pack in a massive way after winning the conference title last season as the Explorers looked to replace three defensive starters who had graduated after the 2017 season. 

Demi Koulizakis (Texas Tech)
Team Record: 14-5-3
Stats: 21 games, 2 starts, 1 goal, 0 assists

Demi Koulizakis made her first starts since 2016 this season as the junior’s vast improvement became impossible to ignore after a slightly down season in 2017. Koulizakis’ minutes fluctuated wildly throughout the season, but demonstrated her class with a technically sublime finish in the team’s 6-0 win over Florida International, the junior’s only goal for the season. Impressively, the junior played 100 minutes in the Red Raiders’ shootout loss to Virginia in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and the fact that Koulizakis has forced her way into increased playing time in a team that is performing just as well as in previous seasons may be the most promising outcome of all from this campaign.

Ashleigh Lefevre (Illinois)
Team Record: 11-8-1
Stats: 15 games, 0 starts, 0 goals, 1 assist

Cameos off the bench were the order of the season for Ashleigh Lefevre, who made 15 appearances for Illinois in her freshman year, but never saw more than 40 minutes of playing time in any one game. Often used at the back end of the first half to give starters an extended halftime break, Lefevre nevertheless managed to maintain a spot in the rotation, and was able to make her first tangible mark on a game with her first career assist in the Illini’s 5-0 win over SIU Edwardsville early in the season. Having been afforded limited opportunities in her freshman year, Lefevre will no doubt be hoping to build on that going forward to become an integral member of the Illinois starting lineup in 2019. 

Teagan Micah (UCLA)
Team Record: 17-3-2 (NCAA Tournament Semi-Finals)
Stats: 17 games, 14 starts, 8 clean sheets, 0.745 GAA, 0.789 save percentage

Teagan Micah was a vital cog in the UCLA side. (Photo Credit: Rand Bleimeister/UCLA)

Firmly established as one of the nation’s top goalkeepers, Teagan Micah came up in a massive way for UCLA on a number of occasions this season as the Bruins followed up last year’s national title game appearance with a run to the quarter-finals. Playing behind the Bruins’ outstanding defence meant Micah didn’t always have a ton of work to do, but regularly stepped up when called upon. This was most evident in the crosstown derby against USC, in which the junior made 8 saves in the Bruins’ overtime victory, including an acrobatic tip over the bar with just two seconds to play on a shot that would have otherwise won USC the game at the last possible moment. A concussion midway through the season may have kept Micah out for a few games midway through the season, but nonetheless it was another outstanding campaign for one of the top Australian players in college.

Shelby Milton (Saint Francis)
Team Record: 8-9-3 (Northeast Conference Runner-Up)
Stats: 7 games, 1 start, 0 goals, 0 assists

Once again it was an impressive year for Saint Francis, but also one that saw Shelby Milton receive but limited opportunities for the Red Flash in her final campaign with the team. Despite starting against Duquesne early in the season, even that game saw the defender play only 17 minutes as not one of Milton’s seven appearances saw her play more than 37 minutes. It was the same story that had panned out in each of Milton’s previous seasons at St. Francis, who started games in all three of her seasons with the team but never played more than eight games in any one campaign. 

Freyja Murray (Akron)
Team Record:
8-10-2 (MAC Quarter-Finals)
Stats: 3 games, 0 starts, 0 goals, 0 assists

It was a frustrating season in terms of playing time for Akron freshman Freyja Murray, who saw playing time in three early-season games, totalling just 64 minutes of action in her first year with the Zips as those three games turned out to be her only appearances in her freshman year. Unfortunately, it looks as though 2018 may be Murray’s only season with the side, with social media posts suggesting the former Northern Tigers defender may be leaving the program.

Caitlin Pickett (Wyoming)
Team Record: 12-4-4 (Mountain West Conference Semi-Finals)
Stats: 20 games, 19 starts, 2 goals, 1 assist

Caitlin Pickett came up big in a couple of overtime thrillers. (Photo Credit: University of Wyoming Media Relations)

Caitlin Pickett started her college career in whirlwind fashion, coming off the bench to score an overtime winner in just her second game against Utah Valley. Although that goal comprised half of the freshman’s season tally, the other goal Pickett scored was even more thrilling, coming 16 seconds from the end of overtime in a vital win over Utah State that helped Wyoming on the way to a share of the Mountain West Conference regular season title. Impressively, Pickett started 19 games in her first college season, appearing at home in the Wyoming lineup, and looks set to form an integral part of the Wyoming attack alongside fellow Australian and classmate Indianna Asimus.

Sam Roff (Fairleigh Dickinson)
Team Record:
6-10-3 (Northeast Conference Semi-Finals)
Stats: 19 games, 18 starts, 0 goals, 0 assists

Sam Roff’s stat line may look as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, but offensive output has never been the junior’s job as a member of the Fairleigh Dickinson backline. The Knights finished in the top four in their conference for both shutout percentage and goals against average, testament to Roff and her defensive teammates’ strength as a unit. Although Fairleigh Dickinson fell in the NEC semi-finals, Roff’s work this season did not go unnoticed as the junior picked up a second consecutive All-Conference First Team selection to solidify her place as one of the top defenders in the league.

Kate Swartwout (Western Carolina)
Team Record:
8-8-2 (Southern Conference Quarter-Finals)
Stats: 16 games, 3 starts, 1 goal, 1 assist

Kate Swartwout showed plenty of scoring ability before making her way to Western Carolina, and those attacking instincts showed this season as the junior picked up the first goal of her college career in the Catamounts’ 2-1 loss to Chattanooga in October. Whilst starts were once again not forthcoming for Swartwout, the versatile junior retained a role as an impact player off the bench, appearing in 16 games in a middling season for the Catamounts that saw the team reach the conference tournament but fail to pick up a win, falling to Furman in the quarter-finals. With seven seniors on the roster this season, there will certainly be chances for Swartwout to become a regular starter in 2019 as she looks to end her college career with a flourish.

Claire Urquhart (Albany)
Team Record: 14-7-2 (America East Champions, NCAA Tournament First Round)
Stats: 7 games, 0 starts, 0 goals, 0 assists

After starting 8 games in 2017, 2018 saw a drop in Claire Urquhart’s playing time in her senior year, with just seven appearances and no starts forthcoming in the Queenslander’s final season in Albany. Urquhart did enjoy a third trip to the NCAA Tournament in four years, but unfortunately did not receive any playing time in the Great Danes’ 5-1 loss to South Florida in the opening round, rounding out a career in which she had been seemingly vastly underutilised throughout.

Alyssa Van Heurck (La Salle)
Team Record:
8-8-1
Stats: 17 games, 6 starts, 1 goal, 0 assists

Alyssa Van Heurck made the most of a positional switch. (Photo Credit: Greg Carroccio/Sideline Photos)

Known more as a fullback in her time prior to college, Alyssa Van Heurck found herself pushed up the pitch into an attacking wide role, and made the most of the switch to tally 17 appearances in her freshman year. Although the Western Australian started just six of those games, Van Heurck could regularly be called upon to provide a spark off the bench, tallying her first college goal in a 24-minute stint against UMBC in just her second college game and rattling off 3 shots in just 22 minutes against St. Bonaventure later in the season as her emergence as an integral part of the rotation became apparent.

College Matildas End Of Season Awards

Player Of The NCAA Tournament: Teagan Micah (UCLA)
Freshman Of The Year: Caitlin Pickett (Wyoming)
Sophomore Of The Year: Claudia Jenkins (La Salle)
Junior Of The Year: Beattie Goad (Stanford)
Senior Of The Year: Annika Clayton (Wyoming)
Goalkeeper Of The Year: Claudia Jenkins (La Salle) and Teagan Micah (UCLA)
Defender Of The Year: Monique Iannella (Hofstra)
Midfielder Of The Year: Annika Clayton (Wyoming)
Forward Of The Year: Caitlin Pickett (Wyoming)
Breakout Player Of The Year: Claudia Jenkins (La Salle)
Most Consistent Player: Annika Clayton (Wyoming)
Top Goalscorer: Annika Clayton (Wyoming) and Isabel Hodgson (ETSU) – 4 Goals
Most Assists: Monique Iannella (Hofstra) – 5 Assists
2018 College Matildas Player Of The Year: Annika Clayton (Wyoming)

Advertisements

2018 Week 12 Wrap

A whirlwind weekend to end the regular season has left us with four teams and five Australians securing conference championships, with a raft of other teams having either locked up an at-large bid or still very much in the mix. However, the performance of the week came in a game that saw one Aussie help another to a title as Teagan Micah’s performance in goal helped UCLA to a win over USC that delivered Beattie Goad and Stanford an outright Pac-12 championship with a game to spare.

(Featured Image Credit: Michael Rincon)

The week kicked off with a belter of a goal from Sandra Hill that provided one of the highlights of the week even if Grand Canyon couldn’t secure a victory. The Lopes conceded two early goals to Utah Valley in their WAC quarter-final, but when the ball fell to Hill just outside the area following a corner late in the first half, the sophomore had only one thing in mind and rocketed it into the top corner to halve Utah Valley’s lead. Unfortunately, that was the last goal of the game, with Grand Canyon managing just one shot in the second half as their season came to an end with a 2-1 loss.

Stanford needed a win in either of their two games this week to secure a share of the Pac-12 Championship, and as expected clinched one at the first opportunity with a 2-0 victory over arch-rivals Cal on the road at Berkeley. Beattie Goad started once again and played the full 90 minutes, tallying two shots with one on target and one cannoning back off the post as Stanford secured the win courtesy of a pair of Jordan DiBiasi goals, leaving the Cardinal to await the result of the game between USC and UCLA, with any dropped points from USC resulting in Stanford clinching the championship outright even before they played Arizona State. Stanford would go on to beat the Sun Devils regardless, with Goad coming off the bench to play 53 minutes as the Cardinal completed an undefeated regular season with a dominant 4-1 victory.

Teagan Micah remains perfect in her three games against local rivals USC after a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory for UCLA this week, and the Bruins certainly have their goalkeeper to thank for that. Micah came up with eight saves, including three highlight reel efforts, one of which came with just two seconds to play with the game tied at 2-2. In a game that saw the teams trade goals within six seconds of each other as Hailie Mace’s screamer cancelled out USC’s second goal, it was UCLA who secured the victory as Olivia Athens narrowly beat an onrushing goalkeeper to head home into an open net and extend the Bruins’ winning streak over their arch-rivals to three games, as well as see UCLA jump the Trojans to finish in second spot in the Pac-12 behind Stanford.

Monique Iannella has been ever-present in the Hofstra back four this season, and the Pride’s defensive line came up in a massive way as the Pride secured the CAA title and an NCAA Tournament berth with a 2-0 win over James Madison. Hofstra conceded just two shots on target all game, with Iannella coming up with a goal-saving block from close range in a contest that saw the Pride take an early lead through Lucy Porter before doubling the margin in the 57th minute courtesy of Sabrina Bryan.

Caitlin Cantrill and LSU faced South Carolina in the SEC semi-finals, having already won their way through from the first round last weekend. The Tigers had already upset the Gamecocks once this season in a 2-1 win at home, but South Carolina on paper stil looked to be the favourites. However, LSU would secure the 1-0 victory courtesy of a 66th minute South Carolina own goal that sent the Tigers through to the championship game against Arkansas. LSU went down 1-0 just 13 minutes in, but Shannon Cooke’s long-range screamer in the 72nd minute tied the game at 1-1. Overtime couldn’t split the teams, but cooler heads prevailed in the shootout as a far more confident LSU team converted all four of their penalties for a 4-1 shootout victory that secured the team’s first conference championship. Unfortunately, Cantrill did not feature for the Tigers in either game.

Claire Urquhart and Albany had just one game to get through this week, but it was a big one – the America East Championship against UMass-Lowell. It was hardly a contest befitting a championship game, but Albany won’t mind as they dominated for the entire 90 minutes to roll to a 5-1 victory and book their spot in the NCAA Tournament, with Urquhart featuring in garbage time in the final couple of minutes.

A Texas Tech side featuring Demi Koulizakis couldn’t quite grab the upset win over Baylor in the Big 12 semi-finals, but their season looks set to continue into the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid. The Red Raiders gave up an equaliser just before halftime, but responded with an equaliser ten minutes after the break. An even game that saw each team finish with 18 shots rightly went to overtime, but Baylor found the golden goal in just the third extra minute. Demi Koulizakis played just two minutes in the loss, but the junior will likely have at least one more chance this season as Texas Tech will certainly hear their name called as an NCAA Tournament team on Selection Monday.

Illinois aren’t quite as comfortable as Texas Tech, but some big early season results against Duke and Oklahoma State may have padded the Illini’s resume just enough to see them sneak into the NCAA Tournament. A Big Ten semi-final loss to Penn State on the back of a 67th minute own goal ended the team’s charge for a conference championship as Ashleigh Lefevre played just a minute off the bench, and whilst they can’t get too comfortable yet, those in the know are predicting that Illinois will find their name in the NCAA Tournament bracket come Monday afternoon.

Colorado have been flying for most of the season, but after a tough back end to the season that saw the Buffaloes face Stanford, UCLA, and USC before this week’s game against Utah, the team from Boulder have slipped onto the bubble and they’ll have a sleepless Sunday night before the selection show on Monday afternoon US time. A win against Utah might have been enough to make them safe, but the Buffaloes fell to a 1-0 loss in a game in which Isobel Dalton did not feature. Now, with a solid 13-4-3 record offset by a less-than-stellar strength of schedule and just one RPI Top 50 win, Colorado will be keeping their fingers crossed and collecting every four-leaf clover and rabbit’s foot they can find in the hope that the selection committee looks favourably upon them.

The dream All-Aussie championship game in the Northeast Conference unfortunately did not come to pass this week, with All-Conference selection Sam Roff playing the full 90 minutes but Fairleigh Dickinson falling to a 2-1 defeat in their semi-final against a Central Connecticut State side that has dominated for the majority of the conference season. However, Shelby Milton and Saint Francis did make it through to the final, with the junior playing 27 minutes in the Red Flash’s 4-0 demolition of Mount St. Mary’s in the other semi-final. Unfortunately, though, Central Connecticut State could not be stopped in the championship game. Saint Francis equalised in the 78th minute having given up the opener 11 minutes earlier, but an 89th minute winner was enough to see Central Connecticut State secure the conference title and an NCAA Tournament berth in a game in which Shelby Milton unfortunately did not feature.

Wyoming came into their Mountain West Conference semi-final evenly matched with New Mexico after the pair finished as two of the league’s three co-champions. As it turned out, the match ended up going to overtime as the Cowgirls secured a 78th minute equaliser to cancel out New Mexico’s 33rd minute opener. Unfortunately, it would be New Mexico who grabbed the golden goal winner in the 102nd minute, bringing Wyoming’s season to an end, and with it, the conclusion of Jessie Gentle and Annika Clayton’s brilliant college careers. All four Aussies started for the Cowgirls, with Indianna Asimus managing two shots on target but not finding the back of the net, whilst Clayton and Gentle were solid in their final collegiate appearances and Caitlin Pickett saw 42 minutes of action as a starter. However, it wasn’t all bad news as Clayton rounded out her career with an All-Mountain West Conference second team selection.

We also bade Isabel Hodgson farewell after four outstanding years as East Tennessee State fell to a heavy 5-1 defeat to UNC Greensboro in the Southern Conference semi-finals. Although East Tennessee State had defeated their opponents in the regular season, UNC Greensboro were certainly the favourites to win this, and they came out strongly to grab a goal inside the first 20 minutes on their way to a 2-0 halftime lead. That lead would be doubled in the second half before East Tennessee State picked up a consolation in the 67th minute, before UNCG added one more from the spot with 12 minutes to play. Hodgson played 78 minutes in her final collegiate appearance, tallying one shot that was on target in rounding out a career that sees the South Australian finish as the team’s career appearances record holder and one of just two ETSU players to collect multiple All-Southern Conference Tournament selections after adding to her 2016 nod with another for her performances this year.

Two more players saw their seasons come to an end this week without having much impact on their team’s fortunes, but both will be back for another crack next season. Neither Gaby Bentley and Lauren Featherstone were called upon as their Old Dominion and North Dakota State sides unfortunately fell in conference tournaments, putting an end to their campaigns with both out of the running for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.

Full Schedule:

Albany (Claire Urquhart)

This week: defeated Massachusetts-Lowell 5-1

Claire Urquhart came off the bench to play the final minute in Albany’s America East Championship game victory over Massachusetts-Lowell. 

Colorado (Isobel Dalton) 

This week: lost 1-0 to Utah

Isobel Dalton did not feature in Colorado’s loss to Utah.

East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson) 

This week: lost 5-1 to UNC Greensboro

Isabel Hodgson played 79 minutes and tallied a shot on target in her final college match as East Tennessee State fell 5-1 to UNC Greensboro in the Southern Conference semi-finals. 

Fairleigh Dickinson (Sam Roff) 

This week: lost 2-1 to Central Connecticut State

Sam Roff played the full 90 minutes in Fairleigh Dickinson’s Northeast Conference semi-final loss to Central Connecticut State.

Grand Canyon (Sandra Hill)

This week: lost 2-1 to Utah Valley

Sandra Hill scored Grand Canyon’s only goal in the loss to Utah Valley in the WAC tournament quarter-finals. 

Hofstra (Monique Iannella, Grace Watson-Carr)

This week: defeated James Madison 2-0

Monique Iannella played the full 90 minutes in Hofstra’s CAA Championship win over James Madison, whilst reserve goalkeeper Grace Watson-Carr did not feature.

Illinois (Ashleigh Lefevre)

This week: lost 1-0 to Penn State

Ashleigh Lefevre came off the bench to play a single minute in Illinois’ Big Ten semi-final loss to Penn State.

LSU (Caitlin Cantrill) 

This week: defeated South Carolina 1-0; defeated Arkansas 4-1 on penalties (1-1 after extra time)

Caitlin Cantrill did not feature for LSU in either game this week as the Tigers secured the SEC Championship.

North Dakota State (Lauren Featherstone) 

This week: lost 3-0 to Denver

Lauren Featherstone did not feature in North Dakota State’s Summit League quarter-final loss to Denver.

Old Dominion (Gaby Bentley)

This week: lost 3-2 to Louisiana Tech (OT)

Gaby Bentley did not feature for Old Dominion in their overtime loss to Louisiana Tech in the Conference USA quarter-finals. 

St. Francis University (Shelby Milton) 

This week: defeated Mount St. Mary’s 4-0; lost 2-1 to Central Connecticut State

Shelby Milton came off the bench to play 27 minutes in St. Francis’ Northeast Conference semi-final win over Mount St. Mary’s, but did not feature in the championship game against Central Connecticut State. 

Stanford (Beattie Goad) 

This week: defeated California 2-0; defeated Arizona State 4-1

Beattie Goad played the full 90 minutes in Stanford’s win over California, tallying two shots with one on target before playing 53 minutes off the bench against Arizona State.

Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)

This week: lost 2-1 to Baylor (OT)

Demi Koulizakis came off the bench for Texas Tech in their Big 12 semi-final loss to Baylor, playing just two minutes. 

UCLA (Teagan Micah)

This week: defeated USC 3-2 (OT)

Teagan Micah played all 105 minutes of UCLA’s overtime victory over USC, making 8 saves.

Wyoming (Indianna Asimus, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Caitlin Pickett)

This week: lost 2-1 to New Mexico (OT)

All four Australians started in Wyoming’s loss to New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference semi-finals. Annika Clayton was a star in midfield, playing 86 minutes and registering a single shot in the process. Jessie Gentle was ever-present at fullback, whilst Caitlin Pickett played 42 minutes. Indianna Asimus had her chances, finishing with four shots including two on target in a 78-minute performance.

Player of the Year Points:

3: Teagan Micah (UCLA)
2: Sandra Hill (Grand Canyon)
1: Isabel Hodgson (East Tennessee State)

2018 Week 12 Preview

15 teams featuring Australians remain standing heading into the final week of the regular season, and all have a shot of reaching the NCAA Tournament. How close each team is varies wildly, but nonetheless it looks set to be a thriller of a week.

(Featured Image Credit: University of Wyoming Media Relations)

It may be conference tournament season, but ironically enough the team with the best shot at a title won’t actually be playing in a tournament at all. That team is Beattie Goad’s Stanford outfit, whose Pac-12 conference champion is decided on league results. Coming into the final week, Stanford are tied atop the standings with USC, but have a rescheduled game against Arizona State in their pocket and as such are the only team to play two games this weekend. First up, the Cardinal take on local rivals California on the road at Berkeley, and with the Golden Bears sitting in 11th spot in the 12-team league, a win to clinch no less than a share of the title looks especially likely for a Stanford team that continues to roll on during an undefeated streak that now stretches the best part of two seasons. Stanford can then secure the title for themselves against Arizona State, where any points would be enough to make the result of USC’s game against third-placed UCLA game moot in terms of Stanford’s position.

Speaking of UCLA, Teagan Micah’s Bruins will play that game against local rivals USC at the StubHub Centre, home of the LA Galaxy, in a game that drew a crowd in excess of 10,000 last season when played on campus at UCLA. A win is the only way that UCLA can mount an unlikely challenge for the Pac-12 title, but even if Stanford’s results don’t go their way, a win against another top team will do wonders for their seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

Rounding out the Pac-12 is Isobel Dalton and Colorado, who need to get a result against Utah in their final match of the regular season to secure their own NCAA Tournament spot. As it stands, the Buffaloes are just about in, but dropping points to a Utah side that sits well below them in the RPI rankings would just about destroy any chance of Colorado holding onto that tournament spot. After a 16-game unbeaten run to start the season, making the tournament is essentially non-negotiable for the Buffaloes at this stage, but they’ll have to put in the work to get there, particularly after Utah were able to snatch a draw against USC last week.

Moving onto conference tournaments, two teams have already secured their spots in championship games in tournaments that started last weekend. Monique Iannella and Grace Watson-Carr’s Hofstra put together a pair of 1-0 wins against Delaware and Northeastern to secure their passage through to the CAA Championship game against James Madison, whilst an Albany side featuring Claire Urquhart has only Massachusetts-Lowell standing between them and a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Meanwhile, four other teams have made their way through to conference tournament semi-finals and find themselves two games away from capturing a conference championship and an NCAA Tournament berth. Caitlin Cantrill’s LSU side have probably done enough to secure an at-large bid regardless, but will still want to capture the SEC crown. They’ll face national title contender South Carolina, whilst in the Big 12, Demi Koulizakis and Texas Tech are in the same boat with a solid record to this point and a game against potential national #1 seed Baylor in the semi-finals not threatening to do any damage to their CV even if they were to suffer a loss.

Ashleigh Lefevre and Illinois sit right on the bubble, and facing Penn State in the Big Ten semi-finals not only gives the Illini a chance to reach the conference championship, but also really bolster their CV against a team that sits in the top 25 of the RPI rankings. Like LSU and Texas Tech, they may not need a conference title in order to reach the NCAA Tournament, but they  Isabel Hodgson and East Tennessee State, on the other hand, are in a completely different situation. Completely out of the race for an at-large bid, winning the Southern Conference championship is the only way the Buccaneers are going to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. They’ll face #2 seed UNC Greensboro in the semi-finals, and whilst the yearly body of work suggests that ETSU come in as underdogs, they do have a win against UNC Greensboro this season under their belts.

Five more teams start their own conference tournaments this week, but we can only see a maximum of four champions from this set as Sam Roff’s Fairleigh Dickinson side and Shelby Milton’s St. Francis outfit both reached the Northeast Conference tournament. The two sides faced off in last year’s championship game, with St. Francis emerging victorious on penalties, and with one team in each of the semi-finals in 2018, there is no reason the same matchup can’t occur again in this year’s tournament.

Lauren Featherstone and North Dakota State will also start in the semi-final round in the Summit League’s four-team tournament, facing Denver in the 2 v 3 matchup. All the numbers point towards a Denver victory in this one, but North Dakota State ran the Pioneers close in their regular season contest, falling 3-2 in a barnburner of a contest.

The Australian quartet at Wyoming earned their way to the semi-finals of the Mountain West Conference tournament through their regular season performance, securing a bye as the 2nd seed in the six-team tournament. The Cowgirls will take on fellow co-champions New Mexico, who defeated Colorado College in the 3 v 6 matchup earlier in the week. With the teams tied atop the table in the regular season, this looks certain to be a tight one, but Wyoming did defeat New Mexico 3-2 in the regular season.

Sandra Hill’s Grand Canyon and Gaby Bentley’s Old Dominion have also reached the WAC and Conference USA tournaments respectively, but if they’re going to secure an unlikely conference title, it’s going to happen the hard way as both will start in the quarter-finals. Grand Canyon will face Utah Valley in their first game of the WAC Tournament, and will start as slight favourites despite playing out a 0-0 draw with the Wolverines just 10 days ago. Meanwhile, Old Dominion will face Louisiana Tech in the 4 v 5 matchup in Conference USA. This is a game in which Old Dominion will start as slight favourites, but Louisiana Tech will be confident after winning their regular season matchup 3-2 in late September.

Full Schedule:

Albany (Claire Urquhart) 

This week: v Massachusetts-Lowell – 5am, Monday November 5 (America East Conference Championship Game) 

Colorado (Isobel Dalton)

This week: v Utah – 8am, Saturday November 3 

East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson)

This week: v UNC Greensboro – 9:30am, Saturday November 3 (Southern Conference Tournament Semi-Final)

Fairleigh Dickinson (Sam Roff)

This week: @ Central Connecticut State – 4am, Saturday November 3 (Northeast Conference Tournament Semi-Final)

Grand Canyon (Sandra Hill)

This week: @ Utah Valley – 8am, Thursday November 1 (WAC Tournament Quarter-Final) 

Hofstra (Monique Iannella, Grace Watson-Carr) 

This week: @ James Madison – 4am, Sunday November 4 (Colonial Athletic Association Championship Game) 

Illinois (Ashleigh Lefevre) 

This week: v Penn State – 2am, Saturday November 3 (Big Ten Conference Tournament Semi-Final) 

LSU (Caitlin Cantrill) 

This week: v South Carolina – 10am, Friday November 2 (SEC Tournament Semi-Final) 

North Dakota State (Lauren Featherstone)

This week: v Denver – 10am, Friday November 2 (Summit League Tournament Semi-Final) 

Old Dominion (Gaby Bentley) 

This week: v Louisiana Tech – 10am, Thursday November 1 (C-USA Tournament Quarter-Final) 

St. Francis University (Shelby Milton) 

This week: v Mount St. Mary’s – 7am, Saturday November 3 (Northeast Conference Tournament Semi-Final) 

Stanford (Beattie Goad) 

This week: @ California – 9am, Saturday November 3

Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)

This week: v Baylor – 8am, Sunday November 4 (Big 12 Conference Tournament Semi-Final) 

UCLA (Teagan Micah)

This week: v USC – 1pm, Saturday November 3 

Wyoming (Indianna Asimus, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Caitlin Pickett)

This week: v New Mexico – 10am, Friday November 2 (Mountain West Conference Tournament Semi-Final)

2018 Week 10 Preview

We’re getting right down to crunch time now, with plenty of Aussies either fighting to secure a conference tournament berth or simply work themselves back into the hunt. The biggest matchup of the week is in a league with no postseason tournament though as Colorado take on Stanford with both teams eyeing the league crown.

Sam Roff’s Fairleigh Dickinson faced Shelby Milton’s Saint Francis side in last year’s Northeast Conference championship game, with Saint Francis emerging on penalties to take the title, and this week they meet for the first time since that thrilling match. This match sees the teams currently sitting in 2nd and 3rd behind high-flying Central Connecticut State, but with the conference tournament featuring just four teams, neither will want to drop points and potentially open themselves up to being caught by the chasing pack. Both teams are solid at the back, but Fairleigh Dickinson certainly have the edge up front, having scored 14 goals in conference play whereas Saint Francis have scored just six. Nevertheless, this should be a tight game that will do a lot to decide the makeup of the conference tournament.

Stanford v Colorado isn’t a matchup that springs to mind when talking about the Pac-12 conference title race, but Beattie Goad and Isobel Dalton face off this week with the winner moving into pole position alongside USC for the title in a league that features no postseason tournament. Colorado have racked up 17 goals in their six conference games to this point, but Stanford have conceded just two in their five wins in a perfect league slate to this point. Stanford would be favourites in this one at any venue, but on their home patch they are simply unbeatable over the last three seasons, and will no doubt come in with the utmost confidence. Don’t count Colorado out though – the Buffaloes are in this title race on merit and will certainly give things a fair shake.

Claudia Jenkins and Alyssa Van Heurck find themselves right in the mix for the final conference tournament spot in the Atlantic 10 as their La Salle side sit one point behind eighth-placed Dayton heading into the final two games of conference play. They’ll certainly have to be at their best this week though, as the Explorers face 2nd placed VCU and 4th placed George Mason in their final two league games, needing wins in both games and relying on Dayton to drop points at least once to secure that last postseason spot. Jenkins has had her hands full for much of the season, averaging almost five saves per game, and will surely face a lot of work this weekend against two of the better offences in the league. Whilst this isn’t the spot La Salle would have liked to be in at this stage, they do at least have the opportunity to sneak into the tournament, and from there, who knows what may eventuate?

Aussie-laden Hofstra may have already clinched their Colonial Athletic Association tournament berth, but for William & Mary, Drexel, and Towson, their seasons will hinge on this weekend’s results. Lorena Bugden’s William & Mary side are in the best position of the three, sitting in fifth and four points clear of elimination with just two games remaining. They will want to get things wrapped up in the first game of the weekend against seventh-placed Delaware though, as a loss there would leave Delaware within one point of them and also see the Tribe needing a result against second-placed Northeastern to secure their tournament berth. Emma Heckenberg’s Drexel outfit sit in the sixth and final tournament spot as things stand, but play Northeastern first up this weekend. Fortunately, they play bottom side Elon in their second game of the weekend, but three points may not be enough, so they will be hoping to at least sneak a draw against Northeastern. Then there’s Jodie Burchell and Towson, who need to beat UNC Wilmington and hope for a whole raft of results to go their way if they are to rise from their ninth spot in the standings.

Full Schedule:

Akron (Freyja Murray) 

This week: v Bowling Green – 10am, Friday October 19; v Toledo – 4am, Monday October 22 

Albany (Claire Urquhart)

This week: v UMBC – 10am, Friday October 19; @ Binghamton – 4am, Monday October 22 

Chicago State (Sarah Clark)

This week: v UTRGV – 5am, Saturday October 20

Colorado (Isobel Dalton)

This week: @ California – 6am, Friday October 19; @ Stanford – 6am, Monday October 22 

Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)

This week: @ Northeastern – 9am, Friday October 19; v Elon – 4am, Monday October 22 

East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson) 

This week: @ Mercer – 10am, Saturday October 20; @ The Citadel – 5am, Monday October 22 

Fairleigh Dickinson (Sam Roff) 

This week: v Saint Francis – 6am, Sunday October 21 

Georgia Southern (Hannah Allen) 

This week: @ Arkansas State – 10am, Saturday October 20; @ Arkansas-Little Rock – 4am, Monday October 22

Grand Canyon (Sandra Hill)

This week: v New Mexico State – 1pm, Saturday October 20; v Utah Valley – 7am, Monday October 22

Hawaii (Kiri Dale)

This week: @ Cal Poly – 1pm, Saturday October 20; @ UC Santa Barbara – 11am, Monday October 22 

Hofstra (Monique Iannella, Grace Watson-Carr)

This week: v Charleston – 4am, Monday October 22 

Illinois (Ashleigh Lefevre)

This week: @ Northwestern – 11am, Friday October 19; @ Nebraska – 5am, Monday October 22

La Salle (Claudia Jenkins, Alyssa Van Heurck) 

This week: v George Mason – 10am, Friday October 19; @ VCU – 4am, Monday October 22 

LSU (Caitlin Cantrill)

This week: @ Tennessee – 10am, Friday October 19; v South Carolina – 4am, Monday October 22

Marshall (Laura Farrelly)

This week: v Louisiana Tech – 4am, Monday October 22

Nicholls State (Tessa Calabria, Tenille Harberger, Kristy Helmers)

This week: @ Central Arkansas – 11am, Saturday October 20; @ Northwestern State – 5am, Monday October 22

North Dakota State (Lauren Featherstone) 

This week: v Oral Roberts – 11am, Saturday October 20; v Nebraska-Omaha – 5am, Monday October 22

Old Dominion (Gaby Bentley)

This week: @ UTSA – 10am, Friday October 19; @ UTEP – 9am, Monday October 22

Southeast Missouri State (Siena Senatore)

This week: @ Belmont – 10:30am, Friday October 29; v Austin Peay – 6am, Monday October 22

St. Francis University (Shelby Milton) 

This week: @ Fairleigh Dickinson – 6am, Sunday October 21

Stanford (Beattie Goad)

This week: v Utah – 11am, Friday October 19; v Colorado – 6am, Monday October 22 

Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)

This week: @ TCU – 11am, Saturday October 20 

Towson (Jodie Burchell)

This week: @ UNC Wilmington – 5am, Monday October 22

UCLA (Teagan Micah) 

This week: v Oregon – 12pm, Friday October 19; v Oregon State – 6am, Monday October 22 

Western Carolina (Kate Swartwout) 

This week: @ The Citadel – 4am, Saturday October 20; @ Mercer – 5am, Monday October 22

William & Mary (Lorena Bugden)

This week: @ Delaware – 4am, Friday October 19; v Northeastern – 4am, Monday October 22 

Wyoming (Indianna Asimus, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Caitlin Pickett)

This week: v Nevada – 8am, Saturday October 20; v UNLV – 6am, Monday October 22

2018 Week 2 Preview

With a number of Aussies coming up with match-winning performances last week, there are plenty of teams looking to keep perfect records alive or build on momentum generated from an upset result. La Salle and Wyoming in particular will once again be looking for their Aussies to fire after outstanding starts to the season.

(Featured Image Credit: Rand Bleimeister)

Wyoming got their season off to a flyer last week courtesy of some well-timed goals from Australian pair Annika Clayton and Caitlin Pickett, and the Cowgirls will be looking to extend their perfect start to the season in their only game of the week as they host Northern Iowa. Like Wyoming, Northern Iowa played South Dakota last week, but could only manage a 0-0 draw whereas Wyoming stormed home to a 4-2 comeback victory courtesy of Clayton’s second-half brace. With fellow Aussies Indiana Asimus and Jessie Gentle also playing solid minutes, the Cowgirls are once again looking to be a sure bet if you’re searching for Aussies to watch even in the post-Georgia Rowntree and Alisha Bass era.

Ashleigh Lefevre and Illinois travelled to North Carolina last week and put the entire nation on notice after running the Tar Heels close before knocking off Duke in a 2-1 victory, and the Illini will look to build off that momentum as they play a couple of games closer to home. Making the short drive to Chicago to play DePaul in their first game of the week, Illinois will face a Blue Demons team that may have lost its opener to Southern Methodist, but flexed its offensive muscle in a 7-0 win over lowly UMass-Lowell to round out the weekend. The Illini then round out their week by hosting Northern Illinois, a side looking to bounce back from a 3-0 loss in their opener against Milwaukee. If Lefevre and Illinois can put together performances like the ones they did in the opening weekend, they’ll certainly be a better than even-money chance to end the weekend on a 3-game unbeaten run.

Claudia Jenkins and Alyssa Van Heurck both made solid impacts last week as La Salle opened their 2018 campaign with a pair of wins, but this weekend’s opponent is a bit of an unknown entity as Manhattan are yet to play a game in 2018. The Jaspers did pick up 10 wins in 2017, but eight of those victories came in league play, where they play in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, a far weaker league than the Atlantic 10 which La Salle won last season. The Explorers will still have to play to their potential to get the win, but come into this game as prohibitive favourites, particularly with Jenkins in good form between the sticks and the La Salle defence unlikely to give up a high number of shots.

Claire Urquhart and Albany came up with a pair of wins last week on their cross-country trip to Arizona, but play far closer to home this week with road games at comparatively nearby Boston College and Colgate. Both teams will provide a significant challenge to the Great Danes, with Boston College coming off a pair of wins over Quinnipiac and Northeastern, with the latter a perennial challenger for the Colonial Athletic Association. Meanwhile, Colgate fell 2-1 in a tight one against #8 Virginia last week, showing that they will by no means roll over. It will also be interesting to see how many minutes Claire Urquhart sees this week, having only played in one of the two games last week, playing 46 minutes against New Mexico State.

Beattie Goad and Stanford opened up their season with a dominant 5-0 win over UC Davis, and the Cardinal are poised to bang in the goals once again as they take on one of their local rivals in San Francisco. Stanford won last year’s encounter 8-0 as part of a four-game in run in which they scored 26 goals without conceding, and this year’s Cardinal side hardly looks less potent on offence. Beattie Goad snagged an assist last week in the win over UC Davis, and if the Stanford offence continues to fire on all cylinders, expect to see the junior have plenty of chances to tee up teammates from out wide not only in this game, but throughout the season.

Stanford’s title rivals UCLA face a far tougher challenge this week, making the cross-country trip to play fellow championship contenders Penn State. The Bruins may have picked up the win over Long Beach State last week with a final minute goal, but will need a far more polished performance to get by the #3 team in the nation, who defeated the always-strong West Virginia 1-0 and demolised Duquesne 6-0 in the opening week of the season. However, with Teagan Micah already showing her penchant for coming up with big saves at vital times, Penn State’s offence won’t have things all their own way in this one in what could be one of the games of the regular season.

We also have the potential for a couple of Aussie v Aussie matchups this week, as Jodie Burchell has the chance to make her debut against Gaby Bentley and Old Dominion. These two sides have plenty of history as former conference rivals prior to Old Dominion’s move from the Colonial Athletic Association to Conference-USA, and if Burchell was to make an impact on debut in a game like this it certainly would be a memorable one. We could also see Shelby Milton take the field for St. Francis University against a UMBC side coached by Australian first-year head coach Vanessa Mann, and whilst the pair obviously wouldn’t face each other on the field, it certainly provides another little point of interest in an early-season game. 

Full Schedule:

Akron (Freyja Murray)

This week: @ Charlotte – 9am, Saturday August 25; @ Wofford – 4am, Monday August 27

Albany (Claire Urquhart)

This week: v Boston College – 7am, Friday August 24; @ Colgate – 3am, Monday August 27

Chicago State (Sarah Clark)

This week: @ South Dakota – 4am, Monday August 27

Colorado (Isobel Dalton)

This week: v Missouri – 5am, Sunday August 26

Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)

This week: v Columbia – 7am, Saturday August 25

East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson)

This week: @ Tennessee Tech – 9am, Saturday August 25

Fairleigh Dickinson (Sam Roff)

This week: @ Lehigh – 2am, Friday August 24

Georgia Southern (Hannah Allen)

This week: v Jacksonville State – 9am, Saturday August 25; @ Gardner-Webb – 3am, Monday August 27 

Grand Canyon (Sandra Hill)

This week: v Houston Baptist – 9am, Saturday August 25; v Northern Arizona – 12pm, Monday August 27

Hofstra (Monique Iannella, Grace Watson-Carr)

This week: v Boston University – 9am, Friday August 24

Illinois (Ashleigh Lefevre) 

This week: @ DePaul – 7am, Friday August 24; v Northern Illinois – 5am, Monday August 27

La Salle (Claudia Jenkins, Alyssa Van Heurck)

This week: v Manhattan – 8am, Friday August 24

LSU (Caitlin Cantrill)

This week: @ Liberty – 8am, Friday August 24; v Texas State – 4am, Monday August 27

Marshall (Laura Farrelly)

This week: v Tennessee-Martin – 6am, Saturday August 25

Nicholls State (Tessa Calabria, Tenille Harberger, Kristy Helmers)

This week: at Mississippi Valley State – 9am, Saturday August 25; v Prairie View A&M – 4am, Monday August 27

North Dakota State (Lauren Featherstone)

This week: v Weber State – 4am, Monday August 27 

Old Dominion (Gaby Bentley)

This week: v Towson – 9am, Friday August 24; v Old Dominion – 8am, Monday August 27

Southeast Missouri State (Siena Senatore)

This week: v Illinois-Springfield – 9:30am, Saturday August 25 

St. Francis University (Shelby Milton)

This week: v UMBC – 6am, Friday August 24; at Loyola Maryland – 6am, Monday August 27

Stanford (Beattie Goad) 

This week: v San Francisco – 1pm, Saturday August 25

Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)

This week: @ San Diego State – 12pm, Saturday August 25; v Abilene Christian – 10am, Monday August 27

Towson (Jodie Burchell)

This week: @ Old Dominion – 9am, Friday August 24; v Longwood – 3am, Monday August 27

UCLA (Teagan Micah)

This week: @ Penn State – 6am, Sunday August 26

Western Carolina (Kate Swartwout)

This week: v Elon – 9am, Friday August 24; v Belmont – 3am, Monday August 27

William & Mary (Lorena Bugden)

This week: v Virginia – 9am, Friday August 24; v Coastal Carolina – 4am, Monday August 27 

Wyoming (Indianna Asimus, Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle, Caitlin Pickett)

This week: v Northern Iowa – 8:30am, Saturday August 25

2018 Player Previews

30 players will represent Australia in NCAA Division I women’s soccer this season, including 2017 national champion Beattie Goad at Stanford and national runner-up Teagan Micah at UCLA. However, with players such as Georgia Rowntree, Alisha Bass, Harriet Withers, Nyomi Devine, Emily Hulbert, and Paige Hayward having now graduated, it is almost a new era for College Matildas.

Claire Urquhart (Senior, Defender, Albany, Brisbane)

Claire Urquhart was finally given a more extended run in the Albany side in her junior year, playing 12 games in 2017, compared to her seven total appearances in her first two seasons. The senior’s ability to slot into either midfield or the back four helped Urquhart in finding more opportunities last season, and with a number of defensive starters returning in 2018, it may again be the case that Urquhart finds herself splitting time across a number of positions. The Great Danes finished with a 6-11-1 record in 2017 and were knocked out in the first round of the America East tournament, but have scheduled a tough non-conference slate in 2018 that should leave them battle-tested and ready for an improved charge at a conference title this season and a return to the NCAA Tournament following 2016’s appearance in which they fell 4-2 to Connecticut in a tough first-round matchup.

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

Shelby Milton and Lauren Featherstone will face each other in conference play in 2018.

After redshirting her first year at Central Connecticut State, Lauren Featherstone comes into her first year of collegiate play with a year of experience under her belt. What effect this has on the Sydneysider’s play remains to be seen, but there is no doubting that not having to settle into college life whilst playing her first season will be an added positive for Featherstone. Already earmarked for a starting position in the CCSU midfield, Featherstone will still have to ensure she earns that spot in preseason, but it shapes to be an exciting year for the versatile midfielder. CCSU return the majority of players from last year’s Northeast Conference tournament semi-final team, meaning that this year shapes to be one of their best chances at a conference title and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Isobel Dalton (Senior, Midfielder, Colorado, Sunshine Coast)

Having played in just 7 times for a total of 86 minutes in 2017, Isobel Dalton will certainly be hoping that her senior year brings more playing time at Colorado. The Buffaloes return the majority of last season’s midfield, but as always there will be some new opportunities opening up with a couple of players graduating after the 2017 season. With a pair of NCAA Tournament berths in the last two seasons, both of which ended in second round defeats, there is no doubt that Colorado will be looking to, at the very least, reach the Sweet 16 in 2018 and finally get over that hurdle.

Emma Heckenberg (Senior, Defender, Drexel, Melbourne)

Heckenberg started her career at Drexel up front, but has eventually found her niche in the backline, forming part of a stellar Dragons defence that conceded just five goals in conference play. The Victorian was limited to 13 appearances last season, but if she can remain fit in 2018, expect to see Heckenberg as a mainstay in a back four where stability will be vital given former goalkeeper and program stalwart Christiana Ogunsami graduated after last season. Having reached the CAA championship game in 2016 and semi-finals last season, Drexel will once again be gunning for a spot in the conference tournament in a generally tough and evenly-matched conference. If the defence remains as strong as in 2017, there is no reason that can’t happen.

Isabel Hodgson (Senior, Defender, East Tennessee State, Adelaide)

Isabel Hodgson will be looking to help ETSU return to 2016 form. (Photo Credit: Dakota Hamilton)

Isabel Hodgson has played just about every position bar goalkeeper in her three years at East Tennessee State, and whilst she has been successful in every one of them, it appears that fullback will be her position going forward as the Buccaneers look to rebound from a 2017 campaign that saw the team finish with a 6-12 record and a dismal 0-8 road record. Hodgson was one of a pair of Australians in Division I to score more than one goal last season, proving that whilst her chances may not be as plentiful as when she was playing in a more advanced role, the South Australian still has the ability to get forward and join the attack when the opportunity presents itself.

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

One of the first names on the team sheet for Fairleigh Dickinson, Sam Roff has been among the best defenders in the entire Northeast Conference throughout her two seasons in New Jersey. Fairleigh Dickinson finished third in the NEC for average goals conceded per game in 2017, but the majority of those goals came during an extremely tough non-conference slate that set the Knights up for a conference season that saw them reach the conference championship game before falling to Shelby Milton and St. Francis in a shootout in the decider. Roff was rewarded for her outstanding performances in 2017 with a selection in the Northeast Conference All-Conference First Team, and with still two years left in her college career, the Canberra product could yet become one of the greats of the Fairleigh Dickinson program.

Hannah Allen (Freshman, Midfielder, Georgia Southern, Brisbane)

Listed as a forward for Georgia Southern but certainly able to play multiple positions, Hannah Allen joins an Eagles side looking to continue its upward trajectory, having improved from 6-10-1 in 2016 to 8-9-2 in 2017. Having played at school level under Brisbane Roar W-League coach Mel Andreatta, Allen has no doubt benefitted from that elite coaching and will now look to force her way into the team as part of a slightly large 30-player Eagles squad.

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

Sandra Hill will be looking to further cement her spot in the Grand Canyon side. (Photo Credit: Michael Rincon)

Although Sandra Hill won 2017’s College Matildas Freshman of the Year award, there is certainly plenty more to come from the Grand Canyon fullback. Fresh off her first appearances for the Cambodian national team at the AFF Championship, including an appearance against the Young Matildas, Hill returns to Arizona with priceless experience under her belt. Having made a reasonably decent 13 appearances in her freshman year, Hill will no doubt want to increase her playing time in her sophomore season, and with three of Grand Canyon’s eight defenders in their freshman season this year, Hill is now one of the more experienced players in the backline in just her second year of college soccer.

Kiri Dale (Junior, Midfielder, Hawaii, Mullumbimby)

Kiri Dale took a risk last season by transferring from Iona to the much more highly-rated Hawaii, but the move paid off in spades as the versatile wide player secured a spot in the Rainbow Wahine’s rotation. Dale made an instant impact in 2017, coming up with the assist on an overtime golden goal in the very first game of the season. That was Dale’s only assist of the season, but the Iona transfer made her mark in other ways, making 11 starts and 17 appearances for a Hawaii team that finished 6-10-1 but whose progress was hindered by a 1-6-1 conference record. If the Rainbow Wahine can improve that conference record, it will make for a vastly improved season and 10 wins is by no means out of the question. Dale will also not be the only Aussie at Hawaii this season, with former Washington State star and Matildas representative Rachael Doyle joining the program as an assistant coach.

Monique Iannella (Senior, Defender, Hofstra, Melbourne)

Monique Iannella’s ability to deliver crosses could prove vital for Hofstra this year. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Heisler)

2017’s College Matildas Defender of the Year, Iannella has proven herself to be a weapon at both ends of the pitch for Hofstra. Her ability to whip the ball in, particularly from corners, led to six assists last season, whilst her defensive prowess has rarely, if ever, been called into question during her time with the Pride as the team gave up just 14 goals in 21 games last season on the way to an NCAA Tournament appearance in which they were somehow forced to travel to Auburn for their first-round game, where they fell 1-0. Hofstra’s senior class in 2017 was absolutely stacked with talent, so the onus will now be on the likes of Iannella and her own senior class to lead the Pride and ensure that the team remains among the top sides in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Ashleigh Lefevre (Freshman, Defender, Illinois, Melbourne)

The most accomplished of the seven new additions to the list of Australians in Division I, Ashleigh Lefevre is also the only freshman joining a power conference team in 2018. A member of the Young Matildas side that finished 3rd at the 2016 AFF Women’s Championship, Lefevre tallied a goal in the side’s 20-0 demolition of Timor-Leste in that tournament before returning to play 25 games for Alamein FC in 2017’s Victorian NPL competition. The versatile defender returned in 2018 to play 12 games before heading to Illinois. The Fighting Illini finished with just five wins in 2017, their second straight season finishing below .500, but with the vast majority of the most integral parts of the starting lineup returning, the team looks to be on the upswing. But with six seniors graduating, many of whom started at least a few games, there will still be plenty of minutes up for grabs for Lefevre in her senior season even if she doesn’t secure a starting berth from day one.

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

Jenkins spent her freshman season playing the backup role as La Salle stalwart Larisa Zambelli saw the vast majority of minutes between the sticks for an Explorers side that won two consecutive overtime games to win the Atlantic 10 title and reach the NCAA Tournament in 2017. With Zambelli’s graduation following the 2017 season, Jenkins is now the only goalkeeper on the La Salle roster with any college experience whatsoever as the Explorers look to make a return trip to the national stage. La Salle kept clean sheets in all but three conference games last season, and return the majority of starters in defence, whilst at the other end, sisters Madison and Maci Bower combined for 21 goals last season to ensure those solid defensive efforts wouldn’t go to waste and both will return for their senior seasons in 2018.

Alyssa Van Heurck (Freshman, Defender, La Salle, Perth)

Alyssa Van Heurck becomes the second Australian on the La Salle roster this season, making the move from Perth to join the Explorers alongside Claudia Jenkins. A product of the Football West NTC program, Van Heurck will bolster a strong La Salle defence that returns most of its starters, but only five experienced players. With La Salle’s success in 2017 built on defence, Van Heurck, like Jenkins, will be expected to help maintain the team’s level at the back in 2018 as the versatile defender looks to slot straight into the lineup.

Siobhan Longmore (Junior, Midfielder, Lamar, Busselton)

Siobhan Longmore joins a highly successful Lamar side after two years in junior college.

A versatile defensive player with the ability to get forward from the back, Longmore joins a Lamar side that bulldozed its way through the Southland Conference in 2017. Whilst this will be the Busselton product’s first season in Division I, Longmore is no stranger to the world of college soccer, having played the last two seasons at Dodge City Community College in Kansas, and clearly did enough to draw the attention of the coaches at a program that is clearly on the rise after winning 18 of their 23 games last season and battling #6 seed Texas A&M all the way before falling to a 1-0 defeat in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Caitlin Cantrill (Junior, Midfielder, LSU, Canberra)

After featuring 12 times for LSU as a freshman, Cantrill managed just three appearances in 2017 and competition for playing time will be just as fierce in 2018 in a squad with 13 listed midfielders including freshman sensation Abbey Newton, who was recently named Florida’s Gatorade Player of the Year. The junior will be hoping for a return to the kind of playing time she saw in her freshman year, and LSU could do with not only Cantrill but all players firing on all cylinders as they look to hit double figures for wins for the first time since 2015, a season in which the roster featured former Western Sydney Wanderers and current Utah Royals defender Alex Arlitt.

Laura Farrelly (Freshman, Midfielder, Marshall, Central Coast)

Hailing from the same club as former College Matildas Freshman of the Year, Tia Gavin, Laura Farrelly joins a Marshall side looking to make some vast strides in 2018 after finishing 5-11-1 in 2017, missing the Conference USA tournament in the process after collecting just three wins in league play. Although Farrelly is primarily an attacking midfielder, the Manly United product can slot into a variety of positions in the centre of the park, and in a team overflowing with midfielders, that versatility could prove to be the ace up Farrelly’s sleeve that secures her more playing time than a player that is only comfortable in one position. With two senior midfielders in the starting lineup this year, 2018 may very well be Farrelly’s proving ground in an attempt to secure one of those spots that will open up in 2019.

Tessa Calabria (Junior, Forward, Nicholls State, Adelaide)

Tessa Calabria joins Siobhan Longmore as junior college transfers joining the Division I ranks this season, and the pair will face off at the top level as Calabria makes the move to Nicholls State, a Southland Conference foe of Longmore’s Lamar side. Calabria becomes the third Australian at Nicholls State, alongside Kristy Helmers and Tenille Harberger, continuing the pipeline from Australia to Thibodaux. Having established a reputation as an outstanding goalscorer during her time at Iowa Lakes Community College, the Nicholls State faithful will be hoping that this transfers to the Division I level for a team in severe need of improved scoring in 2018 after finishing 265th of 335 teams in Division I for total goals in 2017.

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

Kristy Helmers will once again lead the line for Nicholls State. (Photo Credit: Misty McElroy)

Helmers comes into the 2018 season as one of just two returning Australians to have scored more than one goal in 2017. However, the Canberra product will be hoping for a return to 2016’s output of 6 goals rather than last season’s 3 goals as the Colonels struggled to find the back of the net as a team in 2017, tallying just six goals in conference play. The team will no doubt be helped by the fact that 12 of their 19 games in 2018 will be played at home but will have to make sure that home advantage counts after finishing 2-5 on their own patch in 2017 despite registering a 4-6-1 record on the road against many of the same opponents they will face in 2018.

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

Having redshirted her first season in Thibodaux, Tenille Harberger will now look to make an impact on the pitch in 2018 after a year easing into college. Now one of three Australians on the Colonels roster, Harberger will be tasked with providing midfield service to her countrywomen in Tessa Calabria and Kristy Helmers, but will have to earn her spot on the pitch in a roster stacked with midfielders. With no less than 13 players on the roster listed as midfielders, Harberger will have to carve out her own spot in the rotation, perhaps with a view towards taking a spot held by one of the senior midfielders once they move on in 2019.

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

Gaby Bentley barely saw any playing time in her freshman season, but 2017 was a vastly different affair as the sophomore midfielder developed into an integral part of the Old Dominion team. Having appeared in just two games in 2016, Bentley finished with a single goal in her 17 appearances in midfield for an Old Dominion team that finished with a 9-5-4 record, a slight improvement on their 7-12 record in 2016. Whilst the Monarchs will have to replace C-USA Defender of the Year Jackie Stroud and starting goalkeeper Krista Moisio, who both graduated after the 2017 season, most of the team’s other starters return, including Bentley, who comes into this season as one of the more experienced midfield players for the Monarchs. Having finished 6-2-2 in conference play last season, Old Dominion will no doubt be seeing this season as the time to make that final jump to secure a conference title and make an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Siena Senatore (Senior, Defender, Southeast Missouri State, Canberra)

Senatore had a year away from the game due to injury in 2017 after a solid first two seasons at Southeast Missouri State, but now returns to shore up the Redhawks’ defence in her senior season. The only Aussie on the roster following Maddy Cornell’s graduation after the 2017 season, Senatore’s return is a timely one as the Redhawks feature only five pure defenders on the roster, although two other players have been known to slot into the backline. Having been just about ever-present in the Redhawks lineup prior to her injury, if Senatore can return to the form she showed before her absence, it will be a significant advantage for a team that finished 8-8-4 last season but was let down by their play on the road, finishing 1-5-4 away from Cape Girardeau.

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

Shelby Milton and St. Francis secured the Northeast Conference on penalties last season, delivering the team an NCAA Tournament berth in the process. However, the defender out of Wollongong was rarely sighted on the pitch for the Red Flash, playing just six games and 233 minutes, although two of those appearances were starts. There will be a spot opening up in the backline at St. Francis in 2018 though, as captain and NEC All-Conference First Team selection Allison LaDuke recently graduated. If Milton can return to the form that saw her feature in 19 games in 2016, that spot could certainly become hers in 2018 as the Red Flash look to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Beattie Goad (Junior, Midfielder, Stanford, Melbourne)

Having won a national championship in 2017, Beattie Goad and Stanford will be gunning for back-to-back titles and they will come into the season among the favourites after returning the vast majority of their title-winning team from last season. On a personal level, Goad will no doubt be hoping to secure more playing time than she managed in either of her first two seasons. Whilst the Victorian played in the majority of the games in both of her first two seasons, much of her playing time came in short stints, resulting in about 40 minutes of action in most of her appearances. There aren’t many spots opening up in the starting lineup for the Cardinal, so Goad will have to do plenty in preseason to earn a starting spot, where the junior’s improving versatility may prove to be another asset.

Demi Koulizakis (Junior, Midfielder, Texas Tech, Sydney)

‘Vastly underutitlised’ would probably be the most accurate way to describe Demi Koulizakis in 2017. Having played in 18 games in 2016, Koulizakis was afforded minimal playing time her sophomore year, with most of her 10 appearances allowing her far too little playing time to have any realistic chance of impacting a game. The forward stocks aren’t quite as overflowing at Texas Tech this season, but the Red Raiders do return a number of starters from 2017 in attacking roles. Whatever the case may be with regards to Koulizakis’ playing time this season, there is no doubt the Red Raiders could use some more goals, scoring multiple goals just three times in their nine conference games in 2017 as the team finished with a 9-7-3 record and a first-round exit in the Big 12 conference tournament.

Jodie Burchell (Freshman, Forward, Towson, Gold Coast)

A club teammate of former Colorado and Troy star Alex Huynh at Souths United in Queensland’s NPL competition, Burchell’s addition to the Towson lineup brings the number of Colonial Athletic Association teams featuring Aussies to four, alongside William and Mary, Drexel, and Hofstra. A target player with the ability to hold the ball up, Burchell has made 16 appearances for the third placed Souths United in Queensland’s NPL competition in 2018, scoring two goals in the process with most of her appearances coming as a substitute in the last 20 minutes. Towson struggled last season, finishing with just five wins and a fairly dismal 2-6-1 conference record, scoring just 6 goals in their Colonial Athletic Association schedule. With senior Maddie Bove taking 5 of the team’s 14 goals with her after graduating following the 2017 season, the onus will be on Burchell and her fellow forwards to not only make up that deficit, but add a few more in an effort to improve on last season’s record.

Teagan Micah (Junior, Goalkeeper, UCLA, Brisbane)

Having reached the College Cup championship game in 2017 before going down to Stanford in a classic at Orlando City Stadium, only one ending will suffice for Teagan Micah and UCLA in 2018: lifting the NCAA Championship trophy on the final day of the season. Micah has been all but ever-present between the sticks for the Bruins for the last two seasons, establishing herself as one of the better goalkeepers of her class in the process and a vital piece of the UCLA lineup. The Bruins lost a number of players to graduation after last season, but return a stacked team featuring recent US national team debutant Hailie Mace, bona-fide Canadian national team star Jessie Fleming, and a range of US youth team players in front of Micah as they look to make another run to the championship game in 2018.

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

A starter in six of her 17 appearances in 2017, Kate Swartwout will no doubt be hoping to convert more of those appearances into starts in her junior season. Primarily a defender, Swartwout’s height is a particular advantage in the backline, standing at 6 feet tall, a full two inches taller than any other player on the Catamounts roster. However, there is more to Swartwout’s game than standing tall and heading away crosses. Solid on the ball with a history of playing multiple positions during her younger years, the Gold Coast-born but North Carolina-raised junior has tallied an assist in each of her first two seasons in college. Western Carolina came from the clouds to reach the final of the Southern Conference tournament in 2017 before falling to UNC Greensboro in the final, with that run hopefully serving as a launchpad for this season.

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

Lorena Bugden spent her first year at William & Mary recuperating following a serious knee injury, and returns to a vastly changed program as head coach John Daly retired and Australian assistant coach Vanessa Mann took the head coaching job at UMBC. It was a disappointing season in 2017 for the Tribe as an 8-10-2 record saw the team’s 36-season streak of winning records snapped. The former Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder has been preparing herself well for the season, spending the winter regaining her fitness playing for APIA Leichhardt in the New South Wales NPL2 competition. Whilst she may not have been able to play in her freshman year, Bugden still has as good a chance as any player of securing solid minutes in 2018 as an inexperienced Tribe midfield looks to step up in a roster that features just four seniors and a total of eight upperclassmen, two of which are goalkeepers.

Annika Clayton (Senior, Midfielder, Wyoming, Sydney)

With the graduation of Alisha Bass and Georgia Rowntree after the 2017 season and Jemma House’s transfer to Nova Southeastern, Annika Clayton is now one of just two Australians on the Wyoming roster. Bass and Rowntree were two of the undoubted leaders of last year’s Cowgirls side, and as a senior, Clayton will no doubt be expected to step up to fulfil that role to some degree in 2018. The senior’s role in midfield will no doubt consist more of providing service to the frontline than creating her own chances, but nonetheless, Clayton will surely be hoping to improve on last season’s tally of a single goal as the Cowgirls look to replace the six goals that Aussie pair Alisha Bass and Jemma House tallied last season which represented one-third of the team’s total scoring for the season. Wyoming finished last season on a five-game losing streak that dropped them from 6-4-2 to 6-9-2, missing out on the Mountain West Conference tournament in the process, and ensuring the same thing does not happen again will be paramount in 2018.

Jessie Gentle (Senior, Forward, Wyoming, Woolgoolga)

Jessie Gentle forms the second half of Wyoming’s Aussie duo alongside Annika Clayton, and with both players in their senior season, we may be looking at the conclusion of an extended era of Aussie presence in the Cowgirls’ squad. However, Gentle, like Clayton, is an integral member of the Wyoming side, so the Australians are unlikely to go quietly into the good night. Able to play in any wide position, Gentle has been utilised both on the front line and as a wingback in her time at Laramie and has performed admirably in all positions. Although scoring hasn’t been Gentle’s forte, tallying just one goal in her three seasons, the Woolgoolga product did pop up with two assists in 2017 to move to four for her career, and a further increase in that number would surely go a long way to helping Wyoming improve on last season’s 6-9-2 record.

Worth The Wait: Lauren Featherstone on redshirting her first year at CCSU

Imagine this: you’ve been heavily recruited by a school, decided it’s where you want to go, you’re all set to head there and start playing college soccer, and then suddenly – not so fast. Well, that’s what happened to Lauren Featherstone as she prepared to make the move from southwest Sydney to Central Connecticut State University, with the freshman falling foul of the NCAA’s academic rules for incoming freshmen. Whilst she could still head over, she wouldn’t be playing that first season.

“Basically, I didn’t have enough academic credits,” Featherstone explains. “I didn’t do the right subjects, and I also dropped one of my classes in Year 12. I really didn’t realise about the college credits, which didn’t help my case. I basically didn’t do the right subjects.”

“It was around signing day in 2017 that I found out that was going to happen, so it was pretty late in the process. I had been talking to CCSU for about 10 months before that. It was an every week thing. I had to send them transcripts, then they’d ask for something I’d have to send to the NCAA or something, so it was pretty late.”

However, Featherstone’s journey to college started much earlier, as many of her teammates at Westfields Sports High School started heading over, piquing the midfielder’s interest.

“I’d say about Year 9 I heard about it, and then ever since then I was interested in it,” Featherstone reveals. “It was actually pretty early on during high school, because the older girls, like (former Colorado and Troy defender) Alex Huynh, they were there and they were going to college and ever since then it’s been like, a dream of mine to go to college.”

So how does a player who has been interested in college for so long end up being forced to sit out her freshman season due to academic ineligibility?

“I think the problem with me was that I was kind of naïve,” the Macarthur Rams product revealed. “I thought it would be fine, I didn’t really look into it, or think it was that much of a process.”

Although she would not be able to play in 2017, Featherstone maintained a positive mindset. Secure in the fact that Central Connecticut State had gone all-out to secure her signature, the midfielder came in knowing that even though she couldn’t impact games in her first season, she would be able to make her mark on the field in the long-term. Featherstone also had someone with plenty of experience in her corner: former Matildas midfielder and conference player of the year at CCSU Leah Blayney, who now coaches at Westfields Sports High as well as in the Matildas setup, helped kickstart the process for Featherstone.

“So, Leah helped me a lot in the recruiting process, she said that she had these three schools for me that said that they have full scholarships. It was Fairleigh Dickinson, William & Mary, and Central Connecticut State,” Featherstone revealed.

“I was emailing all three of them at first.  I sent them each a highlights video and a player resume which is like a timeline of all my achievements.”

All three schools have pre-existing links to Australia. Defender Sam Roff is a rock at the heart of defence for Fairleigh Dickinson, whilst Lorena Bugden was part of William & Mary’s freshman class last season and current UMBC head coach Vanessa Mann was an assistant for the Tribe until last season. But the women’s soccer program at Central Connecticut State almost resembles an Australian embassy, with Blayney and Featherstone just two of a handful of Aussies to feature for the Blue Devils in recent seasons, including Sydney FC W-League winning goalkeeper Nikola Deiter, who started for the Sky Blues’ title-winning team in 2009 even before heading over to college.

“Leah told me about the others, and that they definitely love their Aussies over there,” Featherstone explained.

“it’s a great place for us over there, they’re really accepting. They were definitely very keen. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Central, they were very keen on me.

“Pretty early on I decided on Central. They really stood out to me, the coach seemed like he really wanted me. We did a lot of Skyping, and he showed me around the school, he just made everything really clear, and pretty early on I knew I wanted to go there.”

However, it hardly matters how much a coach wants a player to play and how much a player wants to play for the team once the NCAA gets involved. Despite this, CCSU coach Mick D’Arcy did everything he could to ensure Featherstone would get to school as soon as possible, and once she was there, the team’s newest Australian took it all her in her stride.

My coach, he really fought the NCAA on the case. He said ‘we’ll take her and she can just redshirt for the first semester’, so it was an official redshirt. I wasn’t allowed to practice, wasn’t allowed to travel, I had to stay on campus when they travelled and everything. So it was just a whole lot of sidelining for that first semester, and next semester I was back into it.

“To be honest, I didn’t really have any concerns because I knew it would happen wherever I went. It’s just credits, it’s not Central’s fault or anything,” Featherstone states philosophically. “They told me they had a lot of stuff I could do still, like I still did workouts. Even though I wasn’t allowed to practice with the team, I could still lift. So it wasn’t like I was just sitting there studying, I was still doing a lot.”

Whilst she may have been doing a lot of training, Featherstone couldn’t do any of it with the team, either on or off the field. Rather than lament the situation, the freshman chose to see the positives that she could take from redshirting.

“At first it was tough, but then I enjoyed it. I was there by myself, but I was still getting the workout in,” says Featherstone.

“I really felt like when I got back into training like my strength got up, like I had more endurance, I feel like it prepared me.”

Lauren (#12) with a pair of CCSU teammates

For all that preparation though, Featherstone still had to come back into the team with a group of players who had no doubt heard about how good their new player might be, and that she’d been training hard by herself, but to whom she had yet to prove herself. It didn’t take long for the Australian to settle into the team dynamic.

“It was quite challenging at first, because they all knew me and I felt like there was a lot of anticipation to see how good I really was, and if I was as good as the coaches said,” Featherstone reveals. “But they were all very welcoming. They’re a great group of girls; I felt at home from my very first practice. The nerves were there but I felt at home.”

Whilst the playing group may have been welcoming, impressing the coaching staff can often be a completely different case. Clearly, Featherstone has the class that the coach saw when recruiting her in previous years, as shown by what the midfielder has been told during spring practice.

“Basically, they said that the midfield role is going to be my role. They did try me out at right back, so they know I can do that as well. But for this season I think I fit in pretty well in midfield, at the 6 or 8,” Featherstone revealed.

“The 8 role is probably my favourite. I can play the 10 as well, but we’ve got a really great 10 at the moment, she does a really good job there. But I said to the coach I think I’d work well in the midfield in that team, because I understand the playmaker role, distributing from defence to forward.”

They did say that I have a good chance of getting that starting role when the season comes around, but it’s obviously not just going to be given to me, I have to work for it.

“From the start of spring semester to the end we did weekly fitness tests, and I did really well. They basically said ‘you’re doing well, just keep doing that,’ and that’s basically what I have to do, keep maintaining the improvement and I’ll be in there.”

Featherstone appears to have come into the team at the perfect time. Having finished 6-2 in conference play last season and reached the conference semi-finals, and with only a small number of players graduating earlier this year, CCSU are primed for a run at the conference championship this season, and the entire team is motivated, Featherstone included.

“The last spring semester, all the senior players said it’s the hardest spring semester they’ve ever had. So, I think the coach is really pushing us this year, and he’s really motivated all of us; we really want to win the NECs and get into the NCAA Tournament. I definitely think we’re very ready for the season that’s coming up.”

If they are to win the conference championship, the Blue Devils will have to get through two teams featuring Australians. Sam Roff’s Fairleigh Dickinson reached the championship game last season, but it was St. Francis University that got past them in the final to win the championship and ultimately reach the NCAA Tournament. That St. Francis team features Shelby Milton, not just another Aussie, but someone who Featherstone knows quite well, to say the least. Although Featherstone couldn’t travel to road games last season, the pair did get to see each other when St. Francis travelled to CCSU for the conference semi-final, where St. Francis picked up a 2-1 victory.

Shelby Milton and Lauren after the NEC Semi-Final in 2017

“Shelby is actually a really close family friend, and it’s funny because they’re our rivals. Luckily, that (semi-final) was at home so I got to see Shelby after the game. It was good to see another Aussie. It’ll definitely be a funny thing, because after the game, some of the girls barely look each other in the eye to say good game, but we’ll run up to each other and give each other a hug,” Featherstone explains. When asked if she wants to get revenge on Milton and SFU, she simply laughs and says “Yeah.”

Whilst academics and athletics combined get you that college scholarship, academics last much longer than athletics and Featherstone realises this, which was the basis for her decision to go to college as she looks to achieve her long-term goals both on and off the field.

“I knew what I wanted and I really wanted to go to Central. But I did really look at William & Mary in the early stages because of how well they do academically, as that’s really important to me as well,” Featherstone revealed.

“My grades in high school were kind of up and down; they weren’t really that great. I did have some trouble outside of school that affected my grades pretty early on, but they said ‘It wasn’t the easiest path for you throughout high school, but we’ve got this study hall specifically for athletes, we’ve got tutors, we’ve got advisors,’ and it’s been great. I’m best friends with all these advisors, I go in there every day, they help me with any issues I have, and they’ve been really helpful.

“One of the main reasons I wanted to go overseas is so I could play my sport and get the degree. I could’ve done it here, but it just meshes together over there. It’s a lifestyle. I think that’s one of the main reasons, to get my degree and achieve my goals in soccer as well.”

“Basically, my main goal is to get that degree, and get a good job set up, because soccer isn’t forever. I was majoring in exercise science the first two semesters. I really enjoyed all the science stuff, but I realised I didn’t want a job from that degree so I changed to sociology. I did some research into it before I switched, and I think I’d enjoy an advisor role or a human resources officer, something like that.”

“On-field, I think my long-term goals would be to make the Matildas, get recruited into the NWSL, and just enjoy my college, win some championships, win some rings if I can.”

Whatever the future may bring, Featherstone’s first year has provided her with the opportunity to provide some sage advice for players so that they can avoid winding up in the situation that she found herself in.

“Just do your preparation, do your research, talk to the colleges, ask them any questions, they’ll tell you everything. Just don’t be scared to ask questions. It’s definitely a long process, so it’s never too early to start preparing yourself for it.”