Southeast soccer team continues to recruit Australian players
There has been an increase in players from Australia venturing over to the United States to play college soccer in recent years.
The process of integrating Australian players into Southeast's program started about 10 to 12 years ago, according to Southeast coach Paul Nelson.
"Heather [Nelson, Southeast soccer coach] took the team to Canada for an international tour, while up there they played an Australian U-19 team," Nelson said.
A couple years later a contact that Southeast coaches have in Australia called and recommended a player to come to the school.
"We took the recommendation sight unseen, and [she] turned out to be an outstanding player for us." Nelson said.
Freshman midfielder Jenna Collingridge and senior defender Hayley Abbott have traveled from Australia. Both students are from New South Wales, Australia.
Abbott said she chose to come to the United States to play because there are no opportunities in Australia to play at a collegiate level.
"In order for me to make money, further my education and to continue to play soccer I had to come to the United States," Abbott said.
According to Collingridge, Abbott highly recommended her to come to United States to play and said she would enjoy it. Collingridge knew Abbott as well as another friend that had signed at Southeast so her decision to come to Southeast was a much different decision than it was for Abbott.
"I was excited for a new and exciting experience with the chance to meet new people and continue my education," Collingridge said. "I'm really enjoying my experience so far."
Abbott had an athletic trainer in Australia that knew Heather Nelson which is how she got in contact with the school.
"I am from the country and didn't want to live in a big city," Abbott said. "I wanted a small school that would give me the educational experience I wanted."
Paul Nelson said that there are many different reasons he and Heather chose to look outside the United States for players.
"The girls from Australia tend to value the opportunity to play in college more than girls here do," Nelson said.
Nelson said international players bring a different aspect of the game of soccer to the field, have a very good understanding of the game and tend to bring up the soccer IQ of the squad.
It's not always easy for the girls to come this far to play collegiate soccer. Both Abbott and Collingridge admitted to missing their families and friends when being this far from home.