2018 Week 1 Preview

It looked as if the numbers may be lacking slightly this season, but a late flurry of signings sees 32 Aussies start their 2018 Division I season this weekend, with 12 of those a chance to make their debut this week. We also see a couple of Aussie v Aussie matchups, including one with a difference.

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Laura Farrelly may have travelled halfway around the world to continue her soccer career, but the Marshall freshman just can’t get away from the Aussies as she takes on Fairleigh Dickinson and their Aussie captain Sam Roff in their opening game of the season. Fairleigh Dickinson may play in the much smaller Northeast Conference when compared to Marshall’s Conference-USA, but it’s Roff and the Knights who are coming off a much more successful 2017, having compiled a 9-8-4 record, whilst Marshall managed just five wins last year. Marshall then face Army in their second game of the week, a team also looking to improve in 2018 after a fairly dismal 4-11-2 season in 2017.

There’ll be no bedding in period for Ashleigh Lefevre and her fellow Illinois freshmen as the Fighting Illini travel to the Southeast to take on two national powerhouses in North Carolina and Duke in their first two games of the season. It certainly is a tough start for an Illinois side looking to bounce back from a 2017 in which they finished with just four wins, particularly considering that both North Carolina and Duke will be in the mix for a national championship come the end of the season. If Illinois can pick up even a point on the road in these two games, it will certainly be a confidence boaster for a team playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation.

Claudia Jenkins spent her first season at La Salle as backup goalkeeper, but has the chance to secure a starting berth this season, and with fellow Australian, freshman Alyssa Van Heurck, in the backline, the Explorers could be heavily reliant on their Aussie pair to keep the goals out. Whilst their first game of the season will be against Syracuse, it is their match against UMBC later in the week that looms as the most interesting as UMBC’s new head coach this season is Australia’s own Vanessa Mann. For La Salle, these two games will hopefully form the springboard for a campaign that ends in a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, whilst for UMBC, they will be hoping that Mann’s reign as head coach can start on the front foot.

Of course, there are plenty of other freshmen and junior college transfers looking to kick off their Division I careers in the best way possible. Including those already mentioned, a grand total of 12 Australians could make their Division I debuts this weekend, with eyes especially focused on Tenille Harberger, Lorena Bugden, and Lauren Featherstone, who all missed out on playing in their first seasons for various reasons and will be hungry to make an impact from the outset.

Finally, the title favourite pairing of Beattie Goad’s Stanford side and Teagan Micah’s UCLA outfit kick off their seasons against a pair of in-state opponents as they begin a campaign that both teams will be hoping results in a return trip to the championship game. UCLA host Long Beach State, whilst Stanford will make the short drive north to face UC Davis. Both teams will be expected to win handsomely, and it will be interesting to see if Goad in particular can secure increased playing time in the early stages of 2018.

Full Schedule:

Akron (Freyja Murray)

This week: v Morehead State – 9am, Saturday August 18

Albany (Claire Urquhart)

This week: @ Arizona – 12pm, Saturday August 18; v New Mexico – 5am, Monday August 20

Chicago State (Sarah Clark)

This week: @ Youngstown State – 9am, Saturday August 18; at Cleveland State – 3am, Monday August 20

Colorado (Isobel Dalton)

This week: v Air Force – 10am, Saturday August 18; v Colorado State – 7:30am, Monday August 20

Drexel (Emma Heckenberg)

This week: v Rider – 9am, Saturday August 18; @ Rutgers – 7am, Monday August 20

East Tennessee State (Isabel Hodgson)

This week: v George Mason – 9am, Friday August 17

Fairleigh Dickinson (Sam Roff)

This week: v Marshall – 9am, Saturday August 18; @ Providence – 3am, Monday August 20

Georgia Southern (Hannah Allen)

This week: at Florida Gulf Coast – 9am, Saturday August 18; v Chattanooga – 3am, Monday August 20

Grand Canyon (Sandra Hill)

This week: @ Gonzaga – 12pm, Saturday August 18; @ Washington State – 6am, Monday August 20

Hofstra (Monique Iannella, Grace Watson-Carr)

This week: @ Bucknell – 3am, Saturday August 18; v Fairfield – 3am, Monday August 20

Illinois (Ashleigh Lefevre)

This week: @ North Carolina – 7am, Friday August 17; @ Duke – 3am, Monday August 20

La Salle (Claudia Jenkins, Alyssa Van Heurck)

This week: @ Syracuse – 8am, Friday August 17; v UMBC – 3am, Monday August 20

LSU (Caitlin Cantrill)

This week: v Villanova – 4am, Monday August 20

Marshall (Laura Farrelly)

This week: @ Fairleigh Dickinson – 9am, Friday August 17; @ Army – 3am, Monday August 20

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

This week: v North Dakota – 7am, Saturday August 18; v Grambling – 4am, Monday August 20

North Dakota State (Lauren Featherstone)

This week: @ Wisconsin – 10am, Friday August 17; at Green Bay – 4am, Monday August 20

Old Dominion (Gaby Bentley)

This week: v East Carolina – 9am, Saturday August 18; v Mount St. Mary’s – 8am, Monday August 20

Southeast Missouri State (Siena Senatore)

This week: v Evansville – 9:30am, Friday August 17

St. Francis University (Shelby Milton)

This week: @ Radford – 9am, Friday August 17; v Canisius – 4am, Monday August 20

Stanford (Beattie Goad)

This week: @ UC Davis – 9am, Saturday August 18

Texas Tech (Demi Koulizakis)

This week: v New Mexico – 10:15am, Saturday August 18; v Pepperdine – 10am, Monday August 20

Towson (Jodie Burchell)

This week: @ South Florida – 9am, Friday August 17; @ Stetson – 3am, Monday August 20

UCLA (Teagan Micah)

This week: v Long Beach State – 12pm, Saturday August 18 

Western Carolina (Kate Swartwout)

This week: @ Kennesaw State – 9am, Saturday August 18; v UNC Asheville – 2am, Monday August 20

William & Mary (Lorena Bugden)

This week: v Maryland – 6:30am, Friday August 17; v Dayton – 1:30am, Monday August 20

Wyoming (Annika Clayton, Jessie Gentle)

This week: @ South Dakota – 7am, Friday August 17; v Utah Valley – 5am, Monday August 20

Lorena Bugden – Wandering To William & Mary

With a season of W-League experience under her belt, former Western Sydney Wanderers player Lorena Bugden has decided to take her talents to Virginia to play for William & Mary. Bugden will link up with fellow Australian, assistant coach Vanessa Mann, and play in the Colonial Athletic Association, a conference that already features a pair of Australians. Emily Hulbert is entering her senior season at Hofstra, whilst Emma Heckenberg is about to start her junior year at Drexel, making for plenty of matchups between the Aussies in 2017.

The process began early for the young star from Glenmore Park in Western Sydney, who had her eye on college from day 1.

“Well, going to college in America has always been a dream of mine throughout my high school years. But, it first started to become a reality when I was in Year 9,” Bugden explained. “I was approached at a Combined High Schools tournament by a scout from Wyoming who was impressed by my game and gave my coach a business card to give to my parents. That then led to them getting in contact with me and coming to watch me play twice a year.”

The University of Wyoming is certainly one of the premier destinations for Australians looking to make the move to college. Through previous coach Danny Sanchez and current coach Pete Cuadrado, the school has lured several players with W-League experience to the United States. These names include Alisha Bass, Georgia Rowntree, Candace Sciberras, Liz O’Reilly, Loren Mahoney, and 2017 recruit Brooke Miller. Bugden would talk to Sydney University NPL teammate O’Reilly about playing in college, but the new Tribester’s journey would take a turn of its own as she began to promote herself more actively.

“In April last year, I put together a highlight video of myself playing and uploaded it to YouTube. I also forwarded the link to my friends in the USA so they could show their coaches,” Bugden revealed. “I didn’t realise my video was going to have the impact it had. It resulted in me receiving a number of offers to attend college in the US.”

Suddenly, there was competition for the Sydneysider’s signature. Several schools that have featured Australians on their roster took an interest in Bugden. Fairleigh Dickinson and Albany, two schools which currently have Australians on their rosters in the form of Samantha Roff and Claire Urquhart, both saw something in the former W-League player. Troy University in Alabama also tried to keep their link to Western Sydney alive following Alex Huynh’s graduation, but William & Mary soon had the inside running.

“[William & Mary Head Coach] John Daly got in contact with me after watching my video and we spoke over Skype. He told me he was coming to Sydney to watch me play.

“He came 2 weeks later and was impressed with how I played and asked if I wanted to be a Tribester!”

Soon after, Bugden had made the decision to make the move to Williamsburg to continue her football career, with her reasons for making the change crystal clear.

“I chose to go to the US as it is an unbelievable opportunity for me as a player and person to experience life in another country,” Bugden explained. “I will be playing football at the highest level and I will be studying at a fantastic college. I believe I will be a better player when I return to Australia.”

“My long term goals in football are to represent my country, continue to develop my game and be the best player I can be. I also want to be drafted to a professional team in the NWSL.”

Bugden spent the 2014/15 W-League season with Western Sydney Wanderers. (Photo credit: Eric Berry)

William & Mary is certainly a college that brings an excellent balance of academics and athletics, especially in non-revenue sports such as women’s soccer. The Colonial Athletic Association is one of the better mid-major conferences in the sport, and is referred to as a “public Ivy” for its academic standing and ability to attract high level students in a similar manner to the Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Bugden certainly has her sights set on securing her future beyond football, and moving to an academically elite university is one of the best ways to set about doing exactly that.

“Having a degree is very important; whilst I love football I won’t always be able to play so I need to have a degree and profession to fall back on,” Bugden explained. “I want to major in psychology.”

(Photo credit: Eric Berry)

“Off the pitch I want to be the best student I can be.”

On the field, the Tribe women’s soccer team will be looking to bounce back in 2017, having slipped from 14 wins in 2015 to just scraping by with 10 wins from their 20 games in 2016 to continue their NCAA record-equalling streak of consecutive winning seasons. It is often tough to judge just how much playing time a freshman will get, especially coming in from overseas, but Bugden believes she has a skillset that can assist her team from the outset.

“Firstly I pride myself as being a team player, I am creative and skillful and I have a style of play that is very versatile,” the Sydneysider outlined. “I believe I will be an asset for William and Mary and my goal is to be part of a team that will win their conference and the NCAA Championship.”

An NCAA Championship is an incredibly lofty goal for any mid-major side, but winning a Colonial Athletic Association title is one that is on William & Mary’s agenda every season, with ten conference titles and 25 NCAA Tournament appearances already in the books.

Bugden won’t be the only Australian in the program – former Nevada player Vanessa Mann is now assistant coach at William & Mary. Bugden is understandably happy to have another Australian around, but never let the fact cloud her judgement when choosing a school.

“[Having another Australian at the program] didn’t influence my decision to choose William and Mary but it certainly is a bonus to have a fellow Australian at the college.”

However, Bugden is certainly hopeful that William & Mary can become a destination for Australian players in the same way that programs like Wyoming, Colorado, and Nicholls State have become.

“I can only speak for myself but I will definitely be promoting the college every chance I get. So hopefully in the future other Australian players will have the opportunity to attend William and Mary.”

Slightly ironically, Lorena has another university program to thank for helping her get to college in the US. Having moved to NPL NSW club Sydney University in recent seasons, it was this club that assisted Lorena in bouncing back after suffering a knee injury last season.

Bugden was a member of the championship winning Sydney University NPL side in 2016.

“I sustained a contact ACL injury last year in June which has been the only major injury I have had in my career. My ACL rehab is being managed here by highly qualified surgeon, physiotherapists and also by a great strength and conditioning coach and team from Sydney University,” Lorena explained. However, she also has full confidence in the William & Mary program to ensure she returns to her best.

“The facilities at William and Mary are world class and I am sure they will manage my return to full fitness.”

Many players who have played in the W-League have found success at the college level, and Bugden is well placed to become another, with many coaches of high pedigree in her corner to this point providing her with outstanding guidance, including Australian football legend Heather Garriock and former Matildas player Catherine Cannuli.

“I would like to thank Catherine Cannuli, [Sydney University coach] Heather Garriock and [Westfield Sports High School coach] Rob Bradshaw for their ongoing mentorship and support,” Bugden revealed. “And to thank everyone else involved in this process as this is truly a dream come true.”