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