How does a player from the coastal town of Busselton, Western Australia wind up in south-east Texas at Lamar University? If you’re Siobhan Longmore, it takes a long and winding road that detours through not one, but two junior colleges, and a little bit of guidance from your family. We caught up with Siobhan to find out more about the Dodge City Community College transfer’s journey to this point.
On the back of a glittering junior career that included state representation and a move from Busselton to Perth to continue her development, Siobhan Longmore has spent the past two seasons as an integral part of the Dodge City Community College women’s soccer team. (Yes, that’s Dodge City as in the term ‘get the hell out of Dodge.’) However, it wasn’t a truly smooth ride to get there in the first place as the Western Australian originally planned on playing at another school altogether.
“My sister, Ariana, was a freshman at Dodge City, and I was originally going to a school in Georgia called Georgia Military College. I got there, and it really just wasn’t what I expected and hoped it to be,” Longmore explained. “So the coach at Dodge City, Tim Romanello, took me in and I came here basically because my sister was here. She’s now graduated and she’s playing in California. So pretty much it’s because of my sister that I came here.”
Ariana’s presence at Dodge City may just have saved Siobhan’s career, because it wasn’t long before she was ready to leave Georgia and head back to Busselton, her college career over even before it started.
“I was going to come home three days into it; I hated it. It wasn’t what I was told it was going to be, so I was going to pack my bags and leave,” Longmore revealed. “But my family’s very supportive, they never want me to give up. My sister’s my biggest fan, I’m her biggest fan; she just said, ‘Nope, you’ve got to give it a chance.’ And I’m glad I did because I’ve made so many friends, and it’s just been amazing.”
But why attend a junior college in the first place? Longmore received interest from four year schools, but her sister’s guidance and the chance to play from the outset made the prospect of using her first two years in the US to set herself up for Division I all the more enticing.
“When I first got recruited, I got a lot of emails from four year schools. But my sister was at a community college, and she pretty much said ‘Listen, it’s going to set you up for a four-year, it’s going to give you the experience,’” Longmore explained. “For most incoming freshmen going to a four year university, it’s hard to get playing time. It was good at the community college, I mean, I played every game and I feel like it definitely has developed me to go to the next level.”
Longmore was certainly thrown in the deep end at Dodge City, though. A centre back throughout her junior years, then-Dodge City coach Tim Romanello had different plans for his newest player, moving Siobhan into a new position from the outset in what proved to be an inspired decision.
“He was an amazing coach, practices were different every day, I learnt so many new things. Honestly, I moved to America to play as a centre back, and the first day I got to America, he put me in as a centre midfielder, and I loved it,” Longmore explained. “I played centre midfield for the last two years, and it’s just developed my game. I’ve created so much more skill and strength and speed that I never had before, that I didn’t know I could have.”
“Over the last two years I’ve gained so much speed that I didn’t know I had. I’m not the best with foot skills, but I’ve got them there, and I have a very strong shot from the left side. I’m very competitive – if someone passes me, I’ll get mad about it and it’ll never happen again.”
“So now I’ve been recruited to play left defender (at Lamar), which is good because I’m left-footed and I love defence, and I also love attacking, which is what I can do in that position.”
However, the chance to play a certain position is never the be-all and end-all when it comes to recruiting, with many other factors coming into play. Hailing from a coastal town, Longmore craved a return to a beachside setting, but clearly there were other factors at play, including the opportunity to play for a team that coach Steve Holeman has turned from a 2 win team in 2016 to conference champions in 2017. However, it wasn’t Holeman who recruited Longmore, but one of his assistants.
“My whole recruiting process didn’t go through him, it went through the assistant coach Henry (Zapata), I knew the background and how (Holeman) has carried the team to be conference winners. I just think it’s amazing how you can turn around in one season. But my whole recruiting process went through Henry, and he was so good, and very open and honest about everything,” Longmore explained.
“We were talking for about a month and a half. I was going to go out and visit, but with school and stuff I couldn’t, and it got to the point where just after Christmas, I actually told him that Lamar probably won’t be a place for me.
“He came back, he offered me a full scholarship, and he pretty much made it sound like everything I wanted it to be. I have family in Texas, so at that point we took the drive up there, and I looked at the campus, and I absolutely loved it. I saw the soccer field, and I’m actually going up there in about three weeks to meet the team and watch them play one of their spring games, so I’m really excited.”
“When I came in as a sophomore, I said to everyone, ‘I am going somewhere on the beach, I don’t care where it is!’ I put it out there to schools in California and Florida, and, there was a school in Florida that I was going to go to, but Lamar came up and it was the best option for me.”
So what does the future hold for Lamar’s newest Australian? The junior certainly has big dreams, with one eye on entering the professional ranks following her two years at the top level of college soccer.
“I’m staying in America for the summer, so I’m going to be training hard, and after the two years, I know that this is big to say, but I really want to get picked up by the Houston Dash. I guess that’s kind of the dream, so I have to go hard from start to finish,” Longmore explains, slightly shyly.
“But you know, if I was to come home, I would hopefully try to get into the Perth Glory team. I’ve tried that before, but then I’ve developed so much as a player, like I didn’t even know I could develop that much. But I definitely want to continue soccer, I want to keep playing at the highest level I can.”
Interestingly, Siobhan will not be the only Australian junior college transfer to be playing in the Southland Conference, with Iowa Lakes Community College transfer Tessa Calabria joining fellow Australians Kristy Helmers and Tenille Harberger at Nicholls State. The pair even faced off in a junior college match last season, with both sides featuring a number of Australians.
“We actually have a photo together! We we played against them at the start of the season, and one of the other girls who plays on the Iowa team, I went to school with her and lived with her when I went to John Curtin College (in Perth). So it was kind of a big reunion there, and then we got together and there were four Australians on the team. I was like, ‘Let’s take a big photo of all the Australians!’. There’s another Australian on my team, my roommate, who’s also from Busselton, so we have a photo of about six of us, which was cool.”
“We’ve been in contact, we’ve been talking about it, and she told me that’s where she was going to go, and I said that’s awesome, we’re going to be playing against each other. I love playing against other Aussies, and even when I’m at basketball games and I see Australians on the other team’s roster, after the game I go up to them, I give them a hug, we have such good chats, it’s so cool.”
The Australian contingent at Nicholls State has grown to three, with junior college transfer Tessa Calabria joining Kristy Helmers and Tenille Harberger in Thibodaux. A forward out of Adelaide, Calabria spent the past two seasons at Iowa Lakes Community College, helping the team to 15 wins during her stint with the program. A First Team All-Region selection in 2016, Calabria also received an All-Tournament Team selection following her performances in the 2016 NJCAA Region XI tournament, which included a hat-trick in a 5-0 quarter-final win over Dakota County Technical College.
Nicholls State struggled to score goals in conference play last season, an area in which Calabria excelled during her two seasons in junior college. The South Australian scored over 20 goals in her two seasons in Iowa, establishing herself as one of the Iowa Lakes side’s most potent attacking threats due to her ability in front of goal. Having scored just five goals in Southland Conference play and picking up only 3 wins in 11 games last season, the Colonels’ faithful will be hoping that potency can transfer to the Division I level, and in the process turn a couple of losses into draws or wins.
Calabria will no doubt be expected to shoulder at least part of the goalscoring load left by the graduating Emily Werenskiold, who was equal second-highest scorer on the team with three of the Colonels’ 16 goals in 2017. With fellow Australian Kristy Helmers now entering her junior year with the program, Nicholls State fans will surely be hoping that the new pair of Australian attacking players can form the same link that Helmers did with Colonels legend Jess Coates prior to Coates’ graduation following the 2016 season.
Calabria is the second JUCO transfer to join a Division I team this year, alongside Lamar’s Siobhan Longmore, who joined from Dodge City Community College in Kansas. The pair actually faced off last season, with both Calabria and Longmore tallying 3 shots and 2 shots on target in a game that Dodge City won 2-1. The pair will now face off at least once in each of the next two seasons, with both Nicholls State and Lamar playing in the Southland Conference.
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)
Week 5 really represents a leap into the middle portion of the 12 week college regular season. The first third of the campaign is in the book, and slowly but surely conference play is beginning to ramp up, with a couple of Aussies starting their league campaigns this week.
We dip our toes into the waters of conference play this week, with Caitlin Cantrill and LSU kicking off their SEC campaign against Vanderbilt on Monday morning. The pundits have this pegged to be a tough season for the Tigers, so they will certainly need to get some good results early on in the piece before they face some of the conference’s heavy hitters such as Florida and South Carolina later in the season.
Gaby Bentley and Old Dominion kick off their Conference USA slate against Western Kentucky on Saturday morning, with both teams rated an outside chance at making a run at the title. A win in this one would be the perfect start, with points against other top teams a must if the Monarchs are to secure a favourable seeding in the conference tournament.
Kristy Helmers, Tenille Harberger and Nicholls State also kick off conference play this week, taking on Lamar in their first game of the week to begin Southland Conference action. Results have been up and down to this point, with a couple of losses to SWAC teams real sticking points for the Colonels so far. Both teams look set to finish in the middle of the pack in the Southland, but with Lamar definitely the more fancied of the two sides. Kristy Helmers picked up a goal and an assist against Jackson State recently, and if she can maintain that good attacking form, an upset win isn’t out of the question.
Maddy Cornell and Southeast Missouri State round out our teams commencing their conference campaigns, taking on Tennessee Tech and Tennessee-Martin to commence Ohio Valley Conference play. The senior has already tallied two goals this season, one more than she had managed in her entire college career before 2017, forcing her way into the starting lineup and retaining her spot in the process. Neither the Redhawks nor their two opponents this weekend have had particularly good starts to the season, so no combination of results would be completely surprising, but the team from Cape Girardeau should be able to take at least four points from the two games if they play to their potential.
Despite being forced to bide her time at Oregon State, Olivia Ellis made her debut a couple of weeks ago and has seen reasonable playing time since. Ellis saw 45 minutes of action in Oregon State’s 3-0 loss to BYU, putting in a solid shift at fullback which will hopefully see the former Melbourne City defender rewarded with more minutes in the Beavers’ outing against in-state foe Portland on Saturday morning. It’s been a tough start to the season for the Pilots, but they are a program with a lot of history, and with that comes a lot of pride, meaning that this team will no doubt fight for the full 90 minutes and longer if they have to, so Oregon State will need to ensure there are no slip-ups.
Isabel Hodgson took a knock in East Tennessee State’s 4-1 loss to Radford and was forced to miss the Buccaneers’ game against Virginia Tech last weekend. After coming off the bench to play 73 minutes in a loss to Eastern Kentucky in midweek, the South Australian will no doubt be primed to make her return to the starting lineup against George Mason on Saturday morning. Having lost five of their last six matches, the Buccaneers need to start firing on all cylinders quickly, and this game against a 1-6 George Mason side may just be the confidence booster they need – if they can secure a solid victory, that is.
UCLA remain unbeaten thanks largely to the performances of Teagan Micah, and this weekend they face the always-dangerous Pepperdine in a local derby of sorts, with just 20 miles of Pacific Coast Highway separating the two sides. The Waves are amongst the favourites in a reasonably strong West Coast Conference, and whilst this isn’t the same Waves team that featured the likes of US national team player Lynn Williams, UCLA will still be wary of Pepperdine’s threats. Micah could be in for a slightly busier day than she had against Weber State, where the Queenslander was forced into a grand total of zero saves, but she has proven time and again that she is a top-class goalkeeper at this level and can face whatever challenges are thrown at her.
Whilst Teagan Micah has been class between the sticks, Harriet Withers has been making life hell for goalkeepers throughout the southeastern United States. The Murray State striker leads the nation in both total goals and goals per game, and the leaky defence of Morehead State will certainly need to shape up if they don’t want to be her next victim. The Eagles have given up 10 goals in their six games to this point, and with just one win to their name, Murray State will have their eye on moving to six straight wins to start the season. Things get tougher in the Racers’ second game of the week against Saint Louis, though. The Billikens are undefeated at 6-0-1 to start the season, and have scored 21 goals in comparison to the 3 that they have conceded. Both Withers and fellow Australian, defender Nyomi Devine, will need to be at their absolute best, as will the remainder of the Murray State side, if they are to take two wins this week.
With Monique Iannella showing her class in a fullback role and Emily Hulbert continuing her emergence as a true box-to-box threat, the Australians at Hofstra are certainly showing their worth out on Long Island. This week, they travel without even leaving that very landmass as they head to Stony Brook, less than 45 minutes’ drive away. It’s been a tough start to proceedings for the Seawolves, who have compiled a 2-5 record to this point, and whilst some of those losses were against much larger programs, they don’t cover up the losses to some of the smaller teams they have faced to this point. Hofstra, on the other hand, sit at .500 with a 3-3-2 record so far, with one of those losses coming to Penn State, and the two others being games that the Pride should probably have sneaked a point in. A complete-game effort from the Pride should see the Hofstra side take bragging rights on Long Island back to Hempstead, with Hulbert and Iannella certain to play large parts in any success the team may have in this contest.
Albany (Claire Urquhart)
This week: at Rhode Island – 9am, Friday September 15; at Missouri – 10am, Monday September 18
Central Connecticut State (Lauren Featherstone)
This week: v Vermont – 9am, Saturday September 16; at Brown – 5am, Monday September 18
Colorado (Isobel Dalton)
This week: at Denver – 11am, Sunday September 17
Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)
This week: v Penn – 9am, Friday September 15; v Villanova – 3am, Monday September 18
East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson)
This week: v George Mason – 9am, Saturday September 16
Fairleigh Dickinson (Sam Roff)
This week: at Gonzaga – 12pm, Saturday September 16; at Eastern Washington – 6am, Monday September 18
Grand Canyon (Sandra Hill)
This week: v Stetson – 9am, Friday September 15; v Hawaii – 9am, Monday September 18
Hawaii (Kiri Dale)
This week: at Arizona State – 12pm, Saturday September 16; at Grand Canyon – 9am, Monday September 18
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert, Monique Iannella)
This week: at Stony Brook – 9am, Friday September 15
La Salle (Claudia Jenkins)
This week: v Delaware – 9am, Saturday September 16; v West Virginia – 3am, Monday September 18
LSU (Caitlin Cantrill)
This week: v Cincinnati – 9am, Friday September 15; v Vanderbilt – 7am, Monday September 18
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
This week: at Morehead State – 9am, Friday September 15; v St Louis – 5am, Monday September 18
Nicholls State (Tenille Harberger, Kristy Helmers)
This week: at Lamar – 10am, Saturday September 16; at Southern – 4am, Monday September 18
Old Dominion (Gaby Bentley)
This week: v Western Kentucky – 9am, Saturday September 16; v Richmond – 8am, Monday September 18
Oregon State (Olivia Ellis)
This week: at Portland – 12pm, Saturday September 16
Pacific (Ellie Papalexiou)
This week: at UC Santa Barbara – 10:30am, Saturday September 16; at Cal Poly – 5am, Monday September 18
St. Francis (Shelby Milton)
This week: at UMBC – 9am, Friday September 15; v Radford – 4am, Monday September 18
Southeast Missouri State (Maddy Cornell)
This week: v Tennessee Tech – 9:30am, Saturday September 16; at Tennessee-Martin – 5am, Monday September 18
Stanford (Beattie Goad)
This week: at Santa Clara – 12pm, Monday September 18
Texas Southern (Paige Hayward)
This week: v LSU-Alexandria – 6am, Monday September 18
Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)
This week: v San Diego State – 10am, Saturday September 16; v Cal State Northridge – 4am, Monday September 18
UCLA (Teagan Micah)
This week: v Pepperdine – 12pm, Saturday September 16
Western Carolina (Kate Swartwout)
This week: at Campbell – 9am, Saturday September 16; at North Carolina State – 3am, Monday September 18
William & Mary (Lorena Bugden)
This week: v UNC Greensboro – 4am, Monday September 18
Three Pac-12 teams that feature Aussies are in the top 25, and all will seek to maintain their position with a pair of games this week. Meanwhile, the Louisiana-based Aussies will face each other, and Claire Urquhart seeks to keep a grip on a starting spot for Albany.
It’s a battle of the Aussies in Louisiana, as Priya Gakhar and Grambling State take on Nicholls State’s Australian pair of Kristy Helmers and Tenille Harberger. The game will be Grambling State’s second in as many days, taking on Southern Mississippi on the road before coming home to host the Colonels. The Tigers have picked up a win over NCAA Division III side Texas A&M-Texarkana before going down to New Mexico State in a respectable 1-0 loss, with Gakhar coming off the bench in both games. On the flipside, it is Nicholls State’s first game in 12 days after last week’s game against Prairie View A&M was cancelled due to Hurricane Harvey. Ordinarily, Nicholls State would be clear favourites against any SWAC team, and the case may remain here, but the Colonels have already fallen to Mississippi Valley State this season to sit at 0-2 to start the season. 2016 Co-Freshman of the Year Kristy Helmers has yet to tally a goal this season, and there would be no more perfect time to get her scoring exploits back on track as the team could really do with a win, either against Grambling State, or Jackson State in their second game of the week, to kickstart their season.
Beattie Goad and Stanford fell to their first loss to Florida in program history last week, and things don’t stand to get much easier as the Cardinal face #10 Georgetown this week, although they do at least have the benefit of playing at home against the Hoyas. Georgetown lost their opener to West Virginia 1-0, but since then have been on a tear, scoring 10 goals and conceding a grand total of zero to improve their record to 3-1. Like Georgetown, Stanford have been banging in the goals, scoring 11 in three games to this point, with Beattie Goad responsible for the most recent of these in the loss to Florida. Stanford’s second opponent of the week, Navy, have also compiled a solid 3-2 record to this point, and the Cardinal would be unwise to take the Midshipmen lightly.
Thanks to a combination of their own success and upsets in other games, Teagan Micah and UCLA have moved to the top of the coaches’ poll this week, and have been rewarded for their success with a trip to Utah to take on BYU and Weber State. It’s been a slightly slow start to the season for BYU following the graduation of now-NWSL striker Ashley Hatch following the 2016 campaign, with the Cougars able to tally just three goals in their four games to this point, resulting in a 1-1-2 record after four games. Admittedly, BYU have kept two clean sheets in those four games, but Penn State’s offence is the only one they have faced which is at the level of UCLA’s, so we could see another Bruin goal fest. The only question is – how much work will Teagan Micah actually get in this game? The Australian goalkeeper hasn’t had a huge amount of work to do so far this season, although she did manage to pick up a Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week award last week. Weber State’s offence has been even more lacklustre than BYU’s scoring just two goals to this point, falling to a 1-3 record after four games. The Wildcats are perhaps, on paper, the weakest non-conference opponent that UCLA will face this season, but the Bruins will still need to ensure that they get the job done as slip-ups in these games can make a real difference in a team’s seed line come NCAA Tournament time.
Isobel Dalton and Colorado also face BYU this weekend as they attempt to maintain their position in the Coaches’ Poll Top 25, but they first must take on Cal State Northridge. The Matadors are undefeated to this point, compiling a 2-0-2 record to this point. Goals could be tough to come by in this one, with CSUN giving up just three goals in four games, and Colorado yet to concede at all in 2017. Isobel Dalton came off the bench to give a good account of herself for half an hour in the Buffaloes’ 6-0 win over UC Riverside last week, which will hopefully lead to more minutes for the former Brisbane Roar midfielder.
Claire Urquhart has seen what at first glance appears to be increased minutes for Albany so far this season. However, a quick look back at the records shows that the junior has been given opportunities in early season games in all three years of her college career to this point, and game time going forward will be the real telling point of Urquhart’s progress. This week, the Great Danes face a pair of in-state opponents in Iona and Siena, a pair of teams probably more at Albany’s level after a challenging first three games saw them drop to an 0-3 record to start the season. Iona also started the season 0-3, and in fact only scored their first goals in their fourth game of the season as they picked up their first win last weekend, 2-1 against LIU Brooklyn. Siena, on the other hand, started the season far more promisingly, picking up a pair of wins before falling 3-0 to Georgia Southern on the road last weekend in a game in which they were significant underdogs. This pair of games will not only show the team where they stand against comparable opposition, but also hopefully ensure that Urquhart can secure a starting berth for the remainder of the season after a pair of false starts in her opening two seasons.
Albany (Claire Urquhart)
This week: at Iona – 5am, Saturday September 2; v Siena – 8am, Monday September 4
Central Connecticut State (Lauren Featherstone)
This week: v Harvard – 9am, Saturday September 2; v Connecticut – 8am, Monday September 4
Colorado (Isobel Dalton)
This week: v CSU Northridge – 5am, Sunday September 3; v BYU – 5am, Tuesday September 5
Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)
This week: at La Salle – 9am, Friday September 1; at Rutgers – 3am, Monday September 4
Fairleigh Dickinson (Sam Roff)
This week: at Monmouth – 9am, Saturday September 2; v La Salle – 3am, Monday September 4
Grambling State (Priya Gakhar)
This week: at Southern Miss – 8am, Friday September 1; v Nicholls State – 8am, Saturday September 2
Grand Canyon (Sandra Hill)
This week: v Nevada – 9am, Saturday September 2; v Detroit – 4am, Monday September 4
Hawaii (Kiri Dale)
This week: at Idaho – 11am, Saturday September 2; at Gonzaga – 6:30am, Monday September 4
Hofstra (Emily Hulbert, Monique Iannella)
This week: v Eastern Washington – 9am, Friday September 1; v Yale – 9am, Tuesday September 5
La Salle (Claudia Jenkins)
This week: v Drexel – 9am, Friday September 1; at Fairleigh Dickinson – 3am, Monday September 4
LSU (Caitlin Cantrill)
This week: v George Washington – 7am, Friday September 1; v Houston – 8am, Monday September 4
Murray State (Nyomi Devine, Harriet Withers)
This week: at Northern Kentucky – 4am, Monday September 4
Nicholls State (Tenille Harberger, Kristy Helmers)
This week: at Grambling State – 6am, Saturday September 2; at Jackson State – 4am, Monday September 4
Old Dominion (Gaby Bentley)
This week: at East Carolina – 7am, Monday September 4
Oregon State (Olivia Ellis)
This week: at San Francisco – 6am, Monday September 4
Pacific (Ellie Papalexiou)
This week: v Navy – 12pm, Saturday September 2; v Portland State – 6am, Monday September 4
St. Francis (Shelby Milton)
This week: at VMI – 6am, Friday September 1; v Loyola Maryland – 4am, Monday September 4
Southeast Missouri State (Maddy Cornell)
This week: at Missouri State – 8am, Saturday September 2; v Louisville – 9:30am, Tuesday September 5
Stanford (Beattie Goad)
This week: v Georgetown – 9am, Saturday September 2; v Navy – 6am, Monday September 4
Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)
This week: v Appalachian State – 10am, Monday September 4
UCLA (Teagan Micah)
This week: at BYU – 11am, Saturday September 2; at Weber State – 11am, Monday September 4
Western Carolina (Kate Swartwout)
This week: v Elon – 9am, Friday September 1; v Charlotte – 4am, Monday September 4
William & Mary (Lorena Bugden)
This week: at Virginia Tech – 9am, Friday September 1; v Wisconsin – 4am, Monday September 4
34 players will represent Australia in NCAA Division I women’s soccer this year, down one from 2016. With players spread as far north as New York and Connecticut all the way to Los Angeles and even Hawaii, you’re never far from a College Matilda if you’re in the US, and we take a look at each and every one of them in this comprehensive preview.
Claire Urquhart has had an interesting, albeit possibly frustrating, college career at Albany to this point. In each of her first two seasons, the Queenslander was afforded a couple of starts early in the campaign, but was then rarely seen throughout the remainder of the schedule. With previous coach Caitlin Cucchiella stepping down from college coaching altogether, a new coach may allow Urquhart more playing time as she heads into her penultimate college season. With just six natural defenders on the roster, and two of those being freshmen, Urquhart may even be thrown in the deep end from the outset as she becomes one of the more senior members of the defensive corps.
Lauren Featherstone (Freshman, Midfielder, Central Connecticut State, Sydney)
Following the likes of Erin Herd, Nikola Deiter and Leah Blayney, Lauren Featherstone continues the pathway between Australia and Central Connecticut State, joining as a freshman in 2017. An Australian Schoolgirls representative, Featherstone is a product of the Macarthur Rams program, one of the most successful NPL programs in New South Wales over recent years. Adept at fullback or in midfield, Featherstone’s versatility will no doubt serve her well as she looks to settle into the lineup at Central Connecticut State in her freshman year.
The lone remaining Australian at Colorado following Kahlia Hogg’s graduation, Isobel Dalton comes into her second season with the Buffaloes looking to make more of an impact than in her initial campaign. The former Brisbane Roar midfielder featured in seven matches in 2016, but averaged only 11 minutes per contest as the likes of star freshman Taylor Kornieck saw most of the available minutes not already allocated to the previous year’s starters. However, with minutes in midfield opening up following the graduation of a number of starters, Dalton will have a chance to fight for increased playing time in 2017.
Emma Heckenberg (Junior, Midfielder, Drexel, Melbourne)
A move from the frontline into a deeper position worked wonders for Emma Heckenberg in her sophomore season in 2016, with a spectacular transformation from fringe player to vital part of a Drexel side that reached the Colonial Athletic Association championship game before going down 3-0 to Northeastern. Heckenberg played in 19 of the Dragons’ 20 games, starting on 13 occasions. This allowed the Victorian to increase her playing time from a paltry 246 minutes in 2015 to a comparatively mind-boggling 1378 minutes in 2016. With the Dragons losing a couple of major pieces but returning even more, continuity may be key to another deep conference tournament run, with Heckenberg seemingly vital to these chances.
Isabel Hodgson (Junior, Midfielder, East Tennessee State, Adelaide)
A move out of the backline into a more advanced role worked wonders for Isabel Hodgson last year, culminating in five goals and a tie for team high with nine assists, including the opening goal of the Southern Conference championship game in which East Tennessee State eventually fell 2-1 to Samford to come agonisingly close to securing an NCAA Tournament berth. Hodgson had the most assists of any Australian in NCAA Division I last season, and also picked up the Breakout Player of the Year and Sophomore of the Year awards, and a share of the Midfielder of the Year award with Nicholls State senior Jess Coates. Hodgson is once again listed as a defender on the East Tennessee State roster, but if last season’s successes are anything to go by, the South Australian won’t be spending much time in the backline.
Sam Roff (Sophomore, Defender, Fairleigh Dickinson, Canberra)
Adept in either defence or as a holding midfielder, Sam Roff slotted straight into the Fairleigh Dickinson lineup as a freshman and enjoyed a quite outstanding first season in college. The former Canberra United training partner started 18 of the 19 games in which she played, and her defensive work saw the freshman named to the Northeast Conference All-Rookie team, a just reward for her work in a solid Fairleigh Dickinson defence. The Knights do lose one defensive starter from 2016 to graduation, meaning that Roff will pick up more responsibility in 2017, but it is a challenge that Roff has already shown glimpses of being capable of undertaking.
Priya Gakhar comes into the college ranks a little later than some players, joining Grambling State for her junior year. Primarily a reserve team player for Woden-Weston FC in the ACT National Premier League Women, Gakhar has also stepped up at times for the first team, and also has experience playing in the F-League futsal competition. In a shortened 11 game schedule last season, Grambling State managed just one win, and scored just eight goals, three of which came in their win over Alcorn State. Gakhar will be one player tasked with improving the team’s scoring output, especially as only one player who even scored a goal will be returning to the side in 2017.
Sandra Hill (Freshman, Defender, Grand Canyon, Canberra)
One of five freshman amongst the eight defenders on Grand Canyon’s roster in 2017, Sandra Hill will commence her college career with an immediate battle for a starting spot as the Antelopes head into their first season as a full member of NCAA Division I. A fairly regular fixture in Tuggeranong United’s NPL side over the last two seasons, Hill played alongside Nicholls State’s Kristy Helmers at club level, as well as former Sydney FC and Canberra United player Meg McLaughlin. Hill joins a team that has compiled seven wins in each of the past two seasons, so it is certainly becoming time for Grand Canyon to kick on and put together a 10 win season, especially now as the team is eligible for the postseason for the first time.
Kiri Dale (Sophomore, Midfielder, Hawaii, Mullumbimby)
Following two seasons at Iona, Kiri Dale has transferred to Hawaii for a challenge at a higher level, which she will certainly receive playing for the Rainbow Wahine. After redshirting her first season at Iona, Dale slotted straight into the lineup for the Gaels, starting in nearly every game of 2016. Earning that level of playing time will certainly be tougher in Honolulu, but Dale’s versatility as a defender with a certain attacking prowess may see her gain time in different positions throughout the season. However, that remains to be seen, and as is the case with any transfer student-athlete, there are a lot of questions that will be answered as the season progresses.
A mainstay for her first two seasons at Hofstra, Emily Hulbert’s junior season was unfortunately cut short due to injury. The former Melbourne Victory player played in 20 or more games in each of her first two seasons, but was restricted to just nine appearances in 2017. However, Hofstra compiled a 6-2-1 record with Hulbert on the pitch, a significant contrast to their rather indifferent 4-5 record whilst the Australian was out. Able to play either in defence or midfield and on either flank, Hulbert’s ability to get forward has seen her chip in three goals and an assist, including two game-winners, as she heads into her final season of college soccer.
Originally recruited by Hofstra before eventually choosing Texas for 2016, Monique Iannella has transferred to the Pride, where she will play alongside fellow Victorian, Emily Hulbert. Despite injury, Iannella enjoyed a relatively successful first college season, starting 12 of the 13 matches in which she played and tallying over 900 minutes of playing time as Texas finished with an 8-9-1 record in a perhaps slightly disappointing season for the Longhorns. Iannella now moves to Hofstra, where her presence will no doubt be cherished among a roster with just seven other recognised defenders, many of whom are likely to slot into the midfield at times.
Julia De Angelis (Sophomore, Midfielder, Indiana, Canberra)
Touted as one of the best Australian freshmen in 2016, Julia De Angelis has unfortunately suffered through a frustrating run of injuries since arriving at Indiana. The Young Matildas and Canberra United midfielder had the start of her college career delayed, but did manage to accumulate 15 appearances, albeit on apparently restricted minutes. Whilst on field though, De Angelis, looked right at home in the Big Ten, one of the premier conferences in NCAA Division I. However, yet another injury will see De Angelis miss out on playing this season after undergoing surgery in March.
Claudia Jenkins (Freshman, Goalkeeper, La Salle, Adelaide)
For a couple of years, there had been just one Australian goalkeeper in NCAA Division I: Georgia Rowntree. Last year, Teagan Micah doubled that number, and now Claudia Jenkins has made it a trio by joining La Salle University in Philadelphia. The former Adelaide United W-League player, who spent 17 games on the bench for the Lady Reds, has been ever-present for Fulham United in NPL South Australia over the last two seasons. Jenkins helped her side to a 2016 preliminary final appearance where they forced Adelaide City all the way to penalties, eventually going down 5-4 in the shootout. Jenkins was among a number of players with college experience in that side, including East Tennessee State’s Isabel Hodgson, former Colgate midfielder Dylan Holmes, and former Middle Tennessee State defender Nenita Burgess. Jenkins will have a challenge on her hands attempting to unseat redshirt senior goalkeeper Larisa Zambelli from the starting job at La Salle, but even if her freshman season is more of a learning experience, the South Australian will be in the box seat for a starting spot between the sticks going forward.
The lone Australian on a power conference team without W-League playing experience, Caitlin Cantrill nonetheless made her mark at LSU in her freshman season after training with Canberra United in previous years. The midfielder started the first four games of her college career and made 12 appearances in total, also picking up the first goal of her career against Julia De Angelis’ Indiana side, albeit in a game that De Angelis missed through injury. Cantrill will have to fight off the challenge of LSU’s handful of incoming freshman midfielders, but with a season of experience under her belt, the Canberran is certainly in the box seat to continue to receive playing time in her sophomore year.
Nyomi Devine (Senior, Defender, Murray State, Beaudesert)
The rock at the back for Murray State, Nyomi Devine has been a vital part of the Racers’ defence since her freshman season. From starting 13 of her 17 appearances in her freshman season, Devine started all 21 games in Murray State’s Ohio Valley Conference championship run in 2015 before 2016’s campaign was hindered slightly due to injury. As well as being an outstanding defender, Devine also added an attacking string to her bow in 2016. The Queenslander tallied the first assist of her career, whilst her only goal of the season – and her career to this point – was the game-winner against Tennessee-Martin. With 7 of her 11 shots for the season on target, her 64% clip is certainly a number worthy of any attacking player.
If Nyomi Devine is a defensive rock for the Racers, then Harriet Withers is an attacking weapon, and will be hoping to lead the line as the Racers look to atone for last year’s disappointing 2-1 overtime loss to SIU-Edwardsville in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament that cut their almost two-season long unbeaten streak at the worst possible time. An exceptional goalscorer, Withers has tallied 25 goals and 13 assists in her 58 games for the Racers to this point. A ten goal this season would not only cap an outstanding college career for Withers, but deliver the Palm Beach product the all-time goalscoring record for Murray State.
A five-sport athlete at St. Patrick’s College in Mackay, Tenille Harberger becomes the latest in what is becoming a long line of Australians to join Nicholls State. Aside from representing her school, Harberger has developed into a goalscoring midfielder in the Mackay regional competition, with 18 goals in her 22 appearances for Mackay Lions in 2016. Harberger will no doubt be hoping to pick up some of the minutes that have opened up following the graduation of fellow Australian Jess Coates, but there will be quite a fight for that spot amongst what is a young midfield corps for the Colonels.
An instant sensation at Nicholls State, Kristy Helmers comes into her sophomore season in Thibodaux on the back of an outstanding freshman year. The Canberra product was behind only fellow Australian Jess Coates in terms of attacking output, tallying six goals and five assists and starting all 16 of the Colonels’ games. Helmers received a share of the College Matildas Freshman of the Year award in 2016, and if she can handle the additional responsibility that will surely come her way following Coates’ graduation, she may just parlay that into a Sophomore of the Year award in 2017.
Gaby Bentley (Sophomore, Midfielder, Old Dominion, Adelaide)
Gaby Bentley was used sparingly in her first season at Old Dominion, and will certainly be hoping to increase her playing time in 2017. The former Adelaide United W-League midfielder featured in just two games in 2016, but was used far more in the team’s 2017 spring exhibition games, playing both in midfield and up front. A number of attacking options from the 2016 season have since graduated, leaving some playing time on the table, but Bentley will still have to fight off the challenge from the incoming freshmen if she is to pick up those additional minutes.
Lulu Pullar and Kahlia Hogg may be gone from the Pac-12’s Aussie contingent, but Melbourne City fullback Olivia Ellis has shored up the numbers by joining Oregon State. Whilst Ellis featured just twice for Melbourne City in her two seasons with the club, the young fullback featured 19 times for FC Bulleen in NPL Victoria in 2016 as the Lions finished third before going down to Geelong Galaxy United in the first week of the finals. Ellis was also involved with the Young Matildas at the 2016 AFF Women’s Championship, picking up two goals in the team’s 20-0 demolition of Timor-Leste’s full national team. With the Oregon State roster featuring just seven defenders, there will certainly be chances for Ellis to play, either as an immediate starter or off the bench, as Oregon State look to improve on last season’s 3-8 record in Pac-12 play, as well as their overall record of 8-10-2, their fifth consecutive season under .500.
After an extended stint on the sidelines in 2016 with yet another knee injury, Ellie Papalexiou returns for her senior year at Pacific desperate to make an impact on her final season in college soccer. Papalexiou’s freshman season saw her play in 17 games and become a vital part of the Tigers’ side, before injury cruelly struck the Palm Beach product down and forced her to miss the entire 2015 season. 2016 saw Papalexiou play seven games, before succumbing to injury for a second time. In her brief stints on the pitch, Papalexiou has exuded class, and it will now be a matter of putting that together for a full season for the first time since 2014 for the predominantly left-sided utility player.
Maddy Cornell (Senior, Defender, Southeast Missouri State, Nowra)
After starting her college career as a utility player who slotted in where required, Maddy Cornell has well and truly cemented her spot in the rotation up front for Southeast Missouri State heading into her final season. Cornell has played in 18 games in each of the last two seasons, and earned three starts in her junior year on her way to averaging 40 minutes per contest. Despite playing over 700 minutes, Cornell failed to find the back of the net in 2016, and this will be one facet in which she will need to improve if she is to increase that playing time yet again in 2017. Junior Lauren Kaempfe will lead the line for the Redhawks following the graduation of 12-goal striker Natasha Minor, but with Minor taking nearly half of the team’s goals with her, all of the forwards, including Cornell, will have to step up and take on more of the scoring load in 2017.
Shelby Milton (Sophomore, Defender, St. Francis, Wollongong)
After a year playing in NCAA Division II with St. Joseph’s in Indiana in 2015, Shelby Milton got out just in time as the university suspended operations earlier this year. Milton then transferred to St. Francis University in Pennsylvania, and hit the ground running with the Red Flash, making 19 appearances in her first season, and starting 9 games. Whilst the St. Francis defence was in the bottom half of the national rankings for goals conceded in 2016, they were certainly a young group last season. With a year of experience under their belts, they should see their defensive numbers improve this season and potentially improve on their 10-12 record from 2016.
Probably the most well-known of the Australian college players among the wider football community, Beattie Goad came to Stanford as a winger but reinvented herself as a fullback in the opening stages of her career with the Cardinal. Making her debut at left fullback, Goad was utilised on both sides of defence before making a move to a more attacking role later in the season for a Stanford side whose chances for a title were hindered by an injury to US national team midfielder Andi Sullivan and then extinguished by Santa Clara in a penalty shootout in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Victorian also picked up her first goal with literally the last kick of the regular season, tying a bow on a 4-1 win over arch rivals California. Having shown her ability to play in a number of positions, there will almost certainly be a spot for Goad somewhere after she made 10 starts in 21 appearances in 2016.
The reigning College Matildas Player of the Year, Paige Hayward was recently named to the All-SWAC preseason second team, a nod to her supreme goalscoring ability amongst all players in the conference. The Sydneysider banged home 13 goals in 2016, including a perfect five of five from the spot and three game-winning goals, as well as chipping in five assists in 19 appearancesto secure a spot in the All-SWAC Second Team. Alongside her College Matildas Player of the Year award, Hayward was also the top goalscorer amongst Australians, and was awarded Junior of the Year, Forward of the Year, and Most Consistent Player.
Demi Koulizakis returns to Lubbock in 2017 looking to make just as many appearances as she was able to in 2016, but perhaps turn those into more extended stints on the pitch. The former Sydney University forward featured 18 times for Texas Tech in her freshman year, but averaged only just over 20 minutes per contest despite starting on three occasions. In spite of this, things did start looking up for Koulizakis late in the season, as she played 47 minutes against TCU before rounding out the regular season with 69 minutes of playing time in a final day win over Oklahoma that clinched a Big 12 Tournament berth for the Red Raiders. The former Western Sydney Wanderers W-League player will now be aiming to ensure those extended outings become the norm, rather than the exception in 2017.
Teagan Micah came to UCLA seemingly set for a major battle for the starting goalkeeper berth at UCLA, but instead slotted seamlessly into the Bruins’ lineup, playing the whole season for a team that eventually went down to national runner-up West Virginia in a penalty shootout (that Micah didn’t take part in) in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The freshman won two College Matildas awards for an outstanding season, earning a share of the Freshman of the Year award with Nicholls State’s Kristy Helmers, as well as a share of the Goalkeeper of the Year award with Wyoming’s Georgia Rowntree. Micah became the first true freshman to start a game for UCLA since 2004, and was also named Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week three times in an outstanding first season in Westwood. Recently, Micah was an emergency call-up to the Matildas squad that won the Tournament of Nations against the United States, Japan, and Brazil, filling a spot on the bench for the 6-1 win over Brazil after regular starter Lydia Williams suffered an injury.
Kate Swartwout (Sophomore, Defender, Western Carolina, Gold Coast)
Gold Coast born but North Carolina raised, Kate Swartwout slotted straight into the lineup at Western Carolina, a college that could almost be considered local for the Lake Norman product. Swartwout featured in 16 games for a Catamounts side that finished with an 8-12 record, not flash by any means, but certainly something to build on in 2017. Although primarily a defender, Swartwout does have the ability to play in midfield, and did pop up with one assist last season, helping Western Carolina to a 3-2 win over Kennesaw State. Assists are nice, but Swartwout’s main focus is keeping the ball out of the net rather than putting it in the one at the other end.
Lorena Bugden (Freshman, Midfielder, William & Mary, Sydney)
William & Mary’s first Australian recruit since fellow Australian, Vanessa Mann, became assistant coach for the Tribe, Lorena Bugden arrives at Williamsburg with significant club experience. With a season of W-League experience at Western Sydney Wanderers under her belt, and two NPLNSW titles, one each with FNSW Institute and Sydney University, Bugden has carved out quite a career even at this early stage. Having played everywhere from fullback to up top, the freshman can certainly slot in wherever she is required, but will hopefully play in her preferred advanced midfield position. An Australian Schoolgirls representative and national youth team camp invitee, Bugden will certainly be one to watch this upcoming season.
Alisha Bass (Senior, Midfielder, Wyoming, Sydney)
Whether it’s in the centre of defence, up front, or in behind the strikers as an attacking midfielder, Alisha Bass has been one of the standout players in the Mountain West Conference for the last few seasons. Having redshirted her first year at Laramie, this will be Bass’s fifth year with the Cowgirls, but the senior has long been one of the leaders of the team. Bass topped the Cowgirls in minutes played and assists in 2016, tallying four of the latter in addition to three goals, which included a stunning header with 10 seconds remaining in double overtime against Utah Valley. A highly technically adept player, Bass put nearly 60% of her shots on target last season to also lead Wyoming in that category.
Alisha Bass may be the creative force of the Wyoming attack, but Annika Clayton provides an industrious counterpoint in midfield for the Cowgirls. Ever-present in the middle of the park in her freshman season, 2016 was a slightly more stop-start campaign for the former Sydney University midfielder. Clayton was only able to garner one start in her 11 appearances as injury forced her to sit out at various times. However, Clayton was able to tally three assists for the season, which were enough for third in the team, and tallied a goal against Idaho State. With 2016’s injury problems hopefully behind her, 2017 looks to be far more promising for the Sydneysider.
An occasional starter but a regular fixture in the side, Jessie Gentle has carved out a position for herself within the Wyoming roster, being deployed in a number of positions over the last couple of years. Whether up front on the wing or in a fullback role, Gentle is now one of the mainstays of the Cowgirls’ lineup, playing 39 games over her first two seasons, 22 of those as part of the starting lineup. Although Gentle tallied just one goal last season, it was an important one: the game winner against Fresno State which earned Wyoming its first away win in conference play of the 2016 season.
Jemma House (Junior, Forward, Wyoming, Newcastle)
Already a star of college soccer in Wyoming after two emphatically successful years at Laramie County Community College, Jemma House has made the 50 mile journey to the state’s flagship university for the final two seasons of her college career. With 47 goals and 14 assists in 44 junior college games, House was a two-time All American at LCCC, and was also named to the NJCAA All-Tournament team in both 2015 and 2016. Now, House comes to Wyoming ready to fight for the chance to lead the line and potentially be on the end of some of the magical passes that fellow Australian Alisha Bass has delivered time and again for Cowgirls strikers over the last few seasons.
Georgia Rowntree came into the 2016 season fighting for a starting berth, but emerged as the primary option between the sticks for the entire season to play all but seven minutes of the season and also earn a share of the 2016 College Matildas Goalkeeper of the Year with UCLA’s Teagan Micah. Having started games since her freshman year, Rowntree sits firmly in the Wyoming top 10 lists for minutes played and career shutouts, and is also second all-time for goals against average. Her eight clean sheets in 2016 also set a single-season record for the Cowgirls, and the Sydneysider needs just four more to move into the top 3 all time for career shutouts at Wyoming. Although Rowntree will face competition from the other two goalkeepers in the Cowgirls’ squad, she certainly has the inside running at this point.