The long summer months of training are over, now with an expanded competition, the twelve National Premier Leagues 2 Womens teams are ready to get right back into action.
Our first Match of the Round will be the reigning Premiers Sydney Olympic traveling to Marconi Stallions Sunday afternoon.
Match of the Round: Marconi Stallions vs Sydney Olympic FC, Sunday 11th March 2018, 3pm, Marconi Stadium
Kicking off the season is a match of the round which has two teams steeped in tradition – Marconi and Sydney Olympic. This weekend, the women have a chance to create their own memories with the first shrill of the whistle for the 2018 season.
Last year’s premiers have dusted themselves off from their Grand Final loss to Bankstown City, and ready for another tilt at promotion to NPL tier Women’s this season. They farewell long time coach George Beltsos and defender, and co-captain Kalista Tsoupis but Olympic also re-energised the squad with a handful of exciting talents.
Siahn Bozanic, Kristy Rohrer, Lieke De Bever and Amanda Horafios join golden boot winner Madelaine Costanzo and Player of the Year Kate Halaska. New coach Bill Papas wants to continue the work done by Beltsos and have Olympic right in the mix again at the pointy end of the season.
It wasn’t the warmest welcome back for the Stallions in their return to National Premier Leagues 2 Womens as the storied side left their gallop too late, and finished in equal fifth position, on 22 points with Central Coast. Marconi won’t accept back-to-back seasons of failure, so expect them to come out firing from their opening handful of fixtures with coach Matt Turvey surely aiming for a finals berth.
Nepean FC vs Inter Lions SC, Sunday 11th March 2018, 3pm, Cook Park
Last year’s surprise package, Nepean FC host Inter Lions on Sunday afternoon.
Nepean FC had a successful 2017 – finishing fourth and a first round exit in the finals, but the ladies from Cook Park were a resolute defensive unit conceding only 16 goals but down the other end, scored 20 themselves. Coach Alan Tasses was realistic in summing up their chances this season – noting that he will lean heavily on senior figures midfielders Desiree Vassallo and Steph Haaring alongside custodian Danielle Bartels to guide around a youthful team of local juniors in a rebuilding year for them.
For Inter Lions – they also are focused on their values which is to build strong pathways for women at the club, also creating a strong culture. Their coach, Danny Abboud admitted they will be going into the season more on the youthful side but they will compete against all comers this season and improve on their eighth-place finish in 2017.
UNSW FC vs Western NSW Mariners FC, Sunday 11th March 2018, 3pm, Hensley Soccer Field
In the only contest this weekend that pits two of the newly promoted teams against each other, Western NSW Mariners head down the highway to take on the UNSW FC students at Hensley Soccer Field.
Following a successful 2017; UNSW FC come into their new season, full of optimism and hope. They will field a youthful side – heralded by the return of Harley Johnson from outfit Manly United.
She will marshal the midfield while Tara Casserly does the same from the defense as they aim to make use of the pace of striker Christina Lucantonio upfront. Renato Jelen believes the spirit and talent to challenge all teams in the division in which is shaping up to an open competition in 2018.
Enthusiasm is bounding for Western NSW Mariners FC, as they move into NPL 2, with coach Josh Ward heralded the fantastic vibe and culture around his senior squad as they prepare for the season. The Mariners fell short of their goals for State League in 2017, so Ward has strengthen adding Jessica Daymond from Central Coast, Alyssa Armstrong, Meaghan Kempson to name a few, as they build well ready for the game against UNSW FC.
Gladesville Ravens vs SD Raiders, Sunday 11th March 2018, 3pm, ELS Hall Park
Stepping onto a new field in ELS Hall Park, Gladesville Ravens aim to crash the NPL 2 welcoming party for SD Raiders in the opening round.
This time last season, Gladesville Ravens were stepping out for their first NPL 2 game against Inter Lions, now a year wiser and stronger – freshening the young squad from last season has buoyed Technical Director Jose De Costa, who is pumped for the opening day and anticipates the Ravens to better their ninth-place finish and find the net with regularity in 2018.
SD Raiders punched above their weight class throughout much of State League, as the team from South West Sydney finished second last season then picked up a brace of Grand Final victories under the stewardship of former Matilda Catherine Cannuli.
Now under new leadership, the Raiders has retained most of their Grand Final winning squad with captain Cassidy Chidgey with some exciting new talents that Cannuli hopes will “lead them to a top four finish in both grades.”
Southern Branch FC vs APIA Leichhardt Tigers FC, Sunday 11th March 2018, 3pm, South Nowra Football Complex
It’s quite the welcome for APIA Leichhardt Tigers to NPL 2 Women’s as they take the longest journey in the competition to take on Southern Branch FC, a side that likes to take a big scalp or two.
APIA Leichhardt Tigers were one of the big fish in the State League pond the last few seasons, claiming two premierships but were pipped twice in Grand Finals. Now coach Matteo Maiorana takes the majority of that squad headlined by captain Lucy Gilfedder, goal machine Christina Ferreyra into a new world.
They have fleshed out their squad with a trio of additions in Ashleigh Palombi, Karen Saavedra and Olivia Hardaker which gives Tigers some depth, as APIA relish being the hunter rather the hunted of the last few years.
On a prediction for the season, Maiorana is happy for a top half finish with some of the huge clubs that reside in NPL2 as he conceded that a finals place might be a step too far in their first season.
Southern Branch FC resembled a rolling boulder last season as they gained momentum late in the season, picking up ten of their 15 points in the second half of the fixture list. The team from the southern-most point in the competition, Southern Branch are proud to represent their region, and hopefully better finishing seventh in the previous edition of NPL 2 Womens.
St George FC vs Central Coast Mariners FC, Sunday 11th March 2018, 3pm, St George Stadium
Rounding out the new blood in National Premier Leagues 2 Womens, St George FC host Central Coast Mariners at historic St George Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
St George FC were semi-finalists in State League last year, so they hope to bring that success into the higher divisions – they are a side loaded with talent with Marissa Nicopolous and Amy Bennett found the net 26 times between them last season. Coming into 2018 – St George are ready to compete in NPL 2 as they celebrate 40 years of their home ground St George Stadium with new coach Mark Cupitt excited to take the reins from long-time coach Carlo Tini and guide the Saints to a successful season.
2017 was a rollercoaster season for the Mariners, the coastal team started the season slow, before a late surge saw them finish sixth and just finish outside of the finals equation. Dan Barrett has taken over the head coaching role and has retained a majority of the squad from last year – including top scorer Candice Phelan, Katie Oliveira and Georgia Davis.
Speaking on his squad for the upcoming season Barrett said it will “take on a familiar look roster wise, but the style of play and team organisation will give them a whole new look. I am looking for a successful season but we will be a side that gains momentum every week.”
-By Justin Davies, NPL 2 Womens reporter