2015 Players in College Review
December 7, 2015
On December 6, the NCAA women’s college soccer season officially wrapped up across the country. 2015 saw 50 Total Futbol alums on the rosters of 33 different schools, with 29 freshmen making their collegiate debuts while four seniors played in their final college games. Numerous accolades and notable achievements included conference championships, NSCAA Player of the Week honors, and inclusion on Top Drawer Soccer's "Freshmen Top 100" list for five players.
Four Total Futbol alums said farewell to college soccer in 2015, completing distinguished careers for their respective schools.
Seniors Graduate in Style
Senior Madison Smith was a standout for the University of Massachusetts in her final season as a Minutewoman. She started all 18 matches in 2015, tallied her first career goal and was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Academic Team. Smith was a 4-year mainstay of UMass’s defensive back line starting 75-of-77 career matches and logging a total of 6,786 minutes. She was integral to 21 shutouts during her collegiate career. Academically, Smith was honored numerous times on the Atlantic 10 Commissioner’s Honor Roll and the UMass Dean’s List. She is also a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
Senior Jamie Kator contributed several game-winning assists during her final season in the midfield at Vanderbilt University, most notably on Oct. 30 in the regular-season finale against No. 12 Ole Miss. In the 85th minute, Kator dropped a pass to a forward who was outside the box on the left wing and who drilled in a shot for the win, clinching an SEC tournament berth for Vanderbilt for the first time since 2010. As a Commodore, Kator started 48-of-79 career matches, logged a total of 4,451 minutes and scored five goals and 10 assists. Vanderbilt’s 2015 record of 4-4-3 in SEC play marks the team’s first winning season in league action since 2006.
Senior Rachel Ivey capped off an impressive career at James Madison University in 2015, playing in 23 games, logging 924 minutes, notching a pair each of goals and assists, and helping the fourth-seeded Dukes knock off powerhouse William & Mary in thrilling fashion to claim the Colonial Athletic Association tournament title. In her tenure as a Duke, Ivey played in 68 games (starting 13 of them), played a cumulative 2,025 minutes, and scored seven goals (including three game winners) and nine assists. She was named a JMU Athletics Director Scholar-Athlete as a freshman, sophomore and junior (senior awards have not yet been announced) and made the JMU Invitational All-Tournament Team as a junior.
In 2015, senior Danielle Fitzgerald saw action in 11 games at the University of Kentucky, which reached as high as No. 9 nationally in the HeroSports Soccer Poll on Sept. 21, marking the highest-ranking ever for the Kentucky women’s soccer program in its 23-year history. In three of the four years Fitzgerald played for UK, the team made and hosted the NCAA tournament, reaching the “sweet sixteen” round in 2014 for the first time ever. Fitzgerald played in a total of 40 matches as a Wildcat.
Regular-Season Conference Titles
Leading the way with Division I regular-season conference championships were Florida, which took the hotly contested SEC prize in 2015 (freshman Sara Wilson played in 11 games), Howard University (freshman Ta-Tiana Brodie also played in 11 games), which won the SWAC title for the second year in a row, and St. John’s, which shattered records on the way to becoming regular-season champions of the Big East Conference for the first time in their program’s history (freshman Samie Scaffidi saw action in 14 games). As well, UVA won the ACC regular season title, but several of the former Total Futbol players on that team were injured and sat out in 2015.
Christopher Newport University won the Division III Capital Athletic Conference regular-season title in 2015 (junior Katelyn Hurlock played 677 minutes in 17 games), ending with an overall mark of 14-5-1 for the year. Meanwhile, in Division II action, Belmont Abbey claimed the Conference Carolinas title (freshman Ashley Taylor played in 15 matches) and the Davis & Elkins Senators clinched the G-MAC regular-season title and top seed in the conference tournament (freshman Sara Bekenstein played in 13 games, scoring four goals and adding one assist on the season).
Sophomore Hanna Hannesdottir was key in the midfield for the University of Pittsburgh, playing in 18 games.
Sophomores & Juniors Grow into Leadership Roles
After notching two goals and three assists in her first year at Virginia Tech, Laila Gray upped the ante during her sophomore campaign by adding another seven goals and two more assists, including the game-winning goal against Georgetown on Sept. 13. She finished 2015 as the third-leading scorer on a team that has consistently been ranked in the NCAA Division I top ten. Now a key component of VT’s offense, Gray started 20 of 21 games and logged 1,243 minutes. VT finished 5th in the highly competitive ACC (widely regarded as the #1 conference in the country) and made it to round 2 of the NCAA championship playoffs.
University of Pittsburgh sophomore Hanna Hannesdottir played in 18 games in 2015, helping the Panthers to a 10-7-1 overall record with her tactical proficiency in the midfield. Sophomore Kasey Martino started 10 of 17 games for Randolph-Macon, taking 16 shots on goal. And sophomore Jenna Hamilton contributed two goals against Atlantic 10 conference opponents for George Mason, playing in 16 games.
Junior Kara DeGuisto started 16 of 19 games for Elon University, playing 1,473 minutes, while junior Meghan DiPippa started 16 of her 17 matches for St. Joseph’s and scored a goal. Junior Cassie Smith put in another strong year for Eastern Kentucky, playing in 18 games and contributing two goals and two assists.
Freshmen Shine in 2015
Freshmen usually spend time on the bench as they work to earn a spot in the lineup, but several Total Futbol-trained athletes saw significant field time as rookies. In fact, five alums made Top Drawer Soccer's "Freshmen Top 100" list as of midseason: Virginia Tech’s Alia Abu Hawa (#39), UK’s Katelyn “KJ” Jensen (#43), Boston College’s Amber Stearns (#45), University of Pittsburgh’s Jarena Harmon (#63), and Clemson’s Lauren Harkes (#89).
Katelyn "K.J." Jensen started between the posts for the University of Kentucky in 18 of 19 games during 2015, racking up seven shutouts over 1,783 minutes. On Oct. 2, she delivered a 13-save performance against SEC rival (and ultimate conference champion) Florida that saw the game end in a 1-1 double overtime draw. As a result of that effort, she was named the National Soccer Coaches Association of America's Division I Women's Soccer National Player of the Week, the SEC Defensive Player of the Week and made the College Soccer 360 Primetime Performers Weekly Honor Roll. You can read more about those awards HERE. Her rookie teammate Rebecca Callison played in nine games, adding an assist for the Wildcats.
Rookie Jarena Harmon pulled off a rare feat in her first year as a Panther for the University of Pittsburgh: she scored a team-leading seven goals (scoring on Boston College, Wake Forest and NC State, among others, and netting a hat trick against Robert Morris on Aug. 23) and added an assist in 18 games. You can read more about her standout season HERE. At perennial ACC contender Boston College, Amber Stearns played 1,371 minutes in the midfield in her first year, starting 15 of 20 games as an Eagle, while her teammate Madeline McCracken saw 559 minutes of action and started 5 of 16 games.
Alia Abu El Hawa started 18 of 20 games for Virginia Tech as a stalwart of the back line, racking up 1,454 minutes on the pitch. And her fellow freshman teammates, Caroline Kerns and Kristina "Dino" Diana, both contributed to the Hokies’ goal haul. Kerns notched two goals and an assist for the season (she suited up for 17 games), scoring the game winner against UNC Greensboro on Sept. 4 and scoring on her first touch of the game in a decisive 4-2 victory over eventual NCAA College Cup Finalists Duke on Oct. 4. Diana, who saw action in 15 contests, provided the game-tying goal (and her first collegiate goal) in VT’s match against the University of Tennessee on Aug. 30 in the 86th minute of play.
Audrey Denkler started 17 of 18 games in her rookie season as an American University Eagle, scoring two goals and adding an assist while taking 18 shots total (12 on target). Lauren Harkes notched a goal for Clemson in 10 games played and helped her team win a coveted spot in the ACC Tournament (which includes only the top four conference finishers) for the first time since 2007. The ECNL published a story about Harkes on Oct. 26: you can read it HERE. At Texas Southern University, Alisa Holloway scored a goal and played in 15 games (starting two), amassing 591 minutes on the pitch. Maura Aman appeared in 12 matches for the UCF Knights in her inaugural season, and the ECNL chose to interview her for an article about adapting to the college game: it's available HERE.
In Division III action, freshman Rubii Tamen started 14 of 16 games for Amherst College, which finished the season in 3rd place (6-2-2) in the competitive NESCAC conference.
All in all it was a banner year for our former players in college. With so many players maturing and acclimating to the college game, 2016 promises to be another high impact year for our alums.
With 50 Total Futbol alums competing in NCAA collegiate soccer, it's inevitable that former teammates are facing off against each other in increasing numbers. But the pictures above show that regardless of the outcome, our players are happy to see each other after the game.