With 17 players representing 4 states and the ACT, this year’s College Matildas are definitely a diverse bunch. Take a look at our player previews – you may even recognise a couple from the W-League!
Shelbi Vienna-Hallam (Junior, Defender, Alabama State, Hobart)
Shelbi keeps the Australian flavour at Alabama State intact following Anastasia McCleary’s transfer to Creighton, moving to the Hornets after two successful years with Peninsula College in Washington. The first Tasmanian to play in Division I women’s soccer, Shelbi is a Tasmanian NTC graduate and won two conference titles whilst playing at the junior college level for Peninsula.
Kahlia Hogg (Junior, Defender, Colorado, Canberra)
A former Canberra United starlet, Kahlia has decided to link up with fellow Australian Alexandra Huynh at the University of Colorado after two seasons with ACC powerhouse Florida State. Kahlia made the decision to transfer after playing only 75 minutes last season, down from the 240 she played in her freshman year. Kahlia spent the off-season playing USL W-League for Colorado Rush, where she picked up a Team Of The Week spot in the opening week of the season.
Alexandra Huynh (Sophomore, Defender, Colorado, Sydney)
Alexandra stormed onto the scene in 2013 with Colorado, playing in all 23 games as the Buffaloes advanced to the national Sweet 16 before going down to eventual runner-up Florida State. A solid, versatile defender, Alexandra also tacked on three assists over the course of the season. Alexandra has spent the off-season playing in Australia with Marconi Stallions alongside Wyoming’s Candace Sciberras as well as the likes of Matildas defender Alanna Kennedy and W-League players Helen Petinos and Trudy Camilleri, which will no doubt have helped keep her sharp for the upcoming college season.
Anastasia McCleary (Junior, Forward, Creighton, Gold Coast)
After two years at Alabama State in which she quickly rose to prominence as the top player in the SWAC, Anastasia has decided to chase new challenges by transferring to Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Despite interest from the University of Washington, McCleary decided that Creighton had won her heart and that it would be the place to continue her award-laden college career. Anastasia has an eye for goal, scoring 8 times in 38 games for Alabama State, but it is her ability to tee up her teammates that will have the Creighton program excited – she racked up 13 assists in her two years at Alabama State.
Nicole Calder (Senior, Defender/Midfielder, Kennesaw State, Adelaide)
A dominating presence in any defence, Nicole’s composure complements her ability to play either in a holding midfield role or at the centre of defence, not dissimilar to Clare Polkinghorne in that respect. Nicole is also well-known for her aerial ability, whether it be at attacking set-pieces or in defence. Nicole has popped up to score 6 goals in her 3 years at Kennesaw State, but it is the timing of her goals that is noteworthy – of those 6 goals, five were game winners.
Nyomi Devine (Freshman, Defender/Midfielder, Murray State, Gold Coast)
One half of the Palm Beach duo moving to Murray State, along with Harriet Withers, Nyomi is a solid defensive player with the ability to both break up opposition attacks and find a pass to launch a counter-attack. Nyomi has been almost ever-present in the starting lineup this season for a Palm Beach side sitting near the top of the Southeast Queensland Women’s Premier League table.
Harriet Withers (Freshman, Forward, Murray State, Gold Coast)
The third of the Palm Beach products to move to college this year, Harriet is a striker with all the tools required to make her mark at Murray State. Blessed with the kind of athleticism and speed that thrives in American soccer, Harriet also has an eye for goal, scoring 19 goals this season in the Southeast Queensland Women’s Premier League.
Jess Coates (Junior, Midfielder, Nicholls State, Sydney)
One of the standout players last season for Nicholls State, Jess starts her third season with the Colonels no doubt hoping to make more of a tangible impact than last season. Whilst Jess scored 5 goals on 36 shots last season, 3 of these goals came in the first game of the season, an 8-1 win over fellow Aussie Simone Arthur’s Southern University side. Jess also had two assists last season, a number she will want to improve as she becomes one of the leaders of this Nicholls State team.
Ellie Papalexiou (Freshman, Defender, Pacific, Gold Coast)
The first of the three Palm Beach products to commit to a school, Papalexiou’s commitment to Pacific was announced on National Signing Day. A pacy left back, Ellie is equally adept at playing higher up the pitch as a left winger. Also a dead ball specialist with an ability to put the ball on a sixpence, Ellie has all the attributes required to succeed in her four years at Pacific.
Jenna Collingridge (Junior, Midfielder, SE Missouri State, Cootamundra)
Cootamundra product Jenna has become one of the mainstays of the Southeast Missouri State side, playing in 16 games in each of her first two seasons with the Redhawks. After only two starts in her first 8 games in 2012, Jenna has gone on to start 19 of the last 26 games in which she has played, playing a majority of minutes in most games. Generally sitting in a deeper midfield role, Jenna’s impact has not shown in the stats, but has definitely been felt on the field.
Maddy Cornell (Freshman, Defender/Midfielder, SE Missouri State, Nowra)
A skilful yet assured player, Cornell joins Southeast Missouri State from NPLNSW Women’s 2 club Southern Branch as a player who may prefer to play on the left wing, but has the ability to play on either wing or at left back, and switch between these positions in a single game. Maddy’s versatility and ability to read a game, coupled with her technical ability, should see her right in the mix for a starting berth at Southeast Missouri State from the outset.
Bridget Sankey (Sophomore, Defender, SE Missouri State, Brisbane)
After playing in only 3 matches for the Redhawks last season, the Annerley FC (Brisbane) product will be hoping to make more of an impact this season in a Southeast Missouri State side that is slightly lacking in defensive numbers in comparison to previous seasons. Notably, in the 3 games and 85 minutes that Bridget played last season, the Redhawks did not concede a single goal.
Simone Arthur (Senior, Midfielder, Southern, Gold Coast)
After bouncing around Div II and junior college for her first two college seasons, 2014 will be Simone’s second season at Southern and her final college season. The lynchpin of the Southern midfield, Simone’s presence has coincided with an upturn in the side’s fortunes. Simone played in all 18 of the Jaguars’ games last season, starting 17, with a return of two goals and two assists as Southern reached the SWAC conference semi-finals, going down to Jackson State 2-1.
Lilly Rydon (Senior, Midfielder, UMBC, Adelaide)
Where to go for Lilly Rydon? 2 seasons ago, Lilly and UMBC finished rock bottom of the America East conference standings. Last season, they steamrolled the competition, finishing top of the standings and winning the conference tournament before narrowly being defeated by eventual semi-finalists Virginia Tech in the first round of the national tournament. On a personal level, Lilly scored her first collegiate goal last season, finishing with 3 for the year, as well as 2 assists in the 16 games she played.
Alisha Bass (Freshman, Midfielder, Wyoming)
Having been in and around W-League setups for three years, firstly at Sydney FC and then Western Sydney Wanderers, as well as being part of last year’s Young Matildas squad, Alisha definitely has the ability to succeed at the college level. After redshirting last season, Alisha performed well in the spring exhibition games earlier this year, scoring a hat-trick in a 4-0 over Division II Fort Lewis College.
Georgia Rowntree (Freshman, Goalkeeper, Wyoming, Sydney)
After serving as a backup to the likes of Thora Helgasdottir, Mackenzie Arnold, and Dimi Poulos at Western Sydney Wanderers for the past two seasons, Georgia will hope to compete for a starting berth at Wyoming in her freshman season. Wyoming does have a fairly settled goalkeeping hierarchy at the moment, but this will not dissuade the young Florida-born Sydneysider, who has previously captained the Australian schoolgirls side.
Candace Sciberras (Freshman, Midfielder, Wyoming, Sydney)
After redshirting last season, Candace will be looking to step straight into the Wyoming lineup this season. Yet another former Western Sydney Wanderers W-League player to move to Wyoming, Candace has spent the off-season playing alongside Alexandra Huynh at Marconi Stallions in NPLNSW Women’s 1 in preparation for the upcoming season.