The Wellington Phoenix women have kept hold of their vital last line of defence.
First-choice goalkeeper Lily Alfeld has re-signed with the Phoenix for the 2022-23 Liberty A-League season, after captaining the side during its inaugural campaign in Australia.
Alfeld, 26, started all but one of the Phoenix’s matches in their maiden season and led the team to breakthrough wins over Canberra United and Western Sydney Wanderers after they claimed an historic point on debut.
Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis says Alfeld “was key for us last season” on and off the pitch.
“Lily kept us in a lot of games, she did her job really well consistently and was one of the better ‘keepers within the league,” Lewis said.
“Off the field she was a leader, she brought all the team together, the players looked up to her and in extreme circumstances she held herself in the utmost professional way. She really did a great job leading the team as captain.”
Alfeld says it was “a no brainer” to re-sign with the club she’s supported since she was a kid.
“I’m beyond stoked,” Alfeld said. “I’m very, very excited to now have the chance to be able to play back at home and to be based out of New Zealand.
“To play for the Phoenix means a lot because I grew up watching them. I love the club and I really believe in what the staff are asking us to do.”
Her performances for the Nix last season led to Alfeld being recalled to the Football Ferns after a 27-month absence. She now has her sights set on securing a place in the Ferns squad for next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“I think the club is going to help us. There will be a few of us trying to push for World Cup selection and we’ll have a really competitive training environment with a lot of quality players coming into the side.
“It’s such a big year for football in New Zealand. The Phoenix can ride the wave of the women’s game which is getting more and more popular.
“We have a huge opportunity as a club to really take advantage of that and hopefully we pick up a few more supporters along the way.”
Alfeld is “absolutely buzzing” about the prospect of playing in front of Phoenix fans in New Zealand for the first time, when the A-League women’s season starts in November.
“I can’t wait. When we watched the men in Wellington it hit us that ‘wow, we’re actually going to get the opportunity to do that’.
“We had such amazing support last season from everyone back home and we could feel that across the ditch, but to actually get the chance to play in front of friends, family and supporters is really exciting.”
And she realises they will all have greater expectations next season.
“We don’t really have that excuse of being the new team any more so we’re really going to push and be competitive in the league.
“We’ve proven we deserve to be in the league and can compete, and now I think there will be a little bit more pressure to come away with results this season.
“I’m really excited to see how far we go and hopefully we cause a lot of upsets.”
Lily Alfeld is the club’s fourth women’s signing for the 2022-23 A-League season, joining fellow foundation players Mackenzie Barry and Alyssa Whinham and Football Ferns forward Paige Satchell in the Phoenix squad.
The club expects to announce further signings over the coming weeks.