Women’s Match Preview: Wellington Phoenix vs. Western Sydney Wanderers

Lily Alfeld believes the Wellington Phoenix have a point to prove in their inaugural Liberty A-League Women season.

The experienced goalkeeper will captain the Phoenix in their maiden match against the Western Sydney Wanderers at WIN Stadium in Wollongong tomorrow night.

At 26, Alfeld is the second oldest player in the squad and one of only a few with A-League experience.

“There’s a huge hunger and ambition,” she said. “I think everyone has a point to prove [as] as lot of us wouldn’t have got this opportunity had this team not been formed.

“I’m really excited for what lays ahead. The girls are just chomping at the bit to get out there and play our first game.

“I really truly believe we’ve going to cause some upsets, make a positive start and lay a good foundation for the club going forward in this league.

“You can definitely expect a whole lot of hungry girls that are quite happy to take the underdog role going into these games but they’ve got nothing to lose, it’s an exciting time.”

The former New Zealand age-group representative joined the Phoenix from Perth Glory, where she started all 12 of their matches last season and led the league with 53 saves.

The Glory finished bottom of the competition ladder, with just one point, but Alfeld believes she is better for the experience.

“My time at Perth was a really difficult one but I took so much away from it. The majority of the season we had our backs against the wall so I’ll be able to use those learnings and guide our team.

“We’re in a very similar situation in we’ve had a team put together last minute, a lot of these girls haven’t played together and that was very similar to Perth.

“I know how to navigate through that now, help us out and steer us in the right direction.”

Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis says there a mixed emotions with the squad ahead of their historic match.

“There’s excitement, because everything has been building towards this but then I think there’s a bit of nervous energy as well, some trepidation and a bit unsure until it all happens what we’re really going into,” Lewis said.

She expects to learn a lot about her young side tomorrow night.

“Are they able to control their nerves? Are they able to control the adrenaline and those sorts of feelings because they haven’t been in these big situations before.”

Lewis’ squad has an average age of just 20, with the majority born this century, but she believes they can “cause Western Sydney some problems”.

“We don’t really have a whole lot to lose.

“We can throw everything at them and be a bit more aggressive to see if we can really shake them up and disrupt them.

“The girls are ready to go full guns blazing so to speak and really try and take the game to them rather than sit back a bit and weather the storm.”

The Wanderers finished sixth in last season’s nine team W-League, but have a new coach in Catherine Cannuli and a new-look squad including Football Fern Malia Steinmetz.

Gemma Lewis has struggled to learn too much about tomorrow night’s opposition.

“It’s hard to comment on to be honest. Everything’s been a pretty closed shop, closed games and you hear about results here and there.

“It’s hard to know what to expect. New head coach. Yes she’s been an assistant coach before but she’s a character and she’ll want to put her stamp on how they play and they’ve had some turnover of players as well.”

New signing Talitha Kramer won’t feature against Western Sydney, having only just started training with the squad and Lewis may also be without another of her players who suffered a knock at training tomorrow.

The Phoenix are waiting on the result of a scan before making a decision over her availability.

The Wellington Phoenix play their historic first match against the Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday at 5:05pm AEDT (7:05pm NZT), with the game LIVE on Sky Sport 2 and free-to-air on Prime.

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Lily ALFELD (gk) (c), 2. Saskia VOSPER, 3. Kate TAYLOR, 4. Mackenzie BARRY, 5. Jordan JASNOS, 6. Isabel GOMEZ, 7. Chloe KNOTT, 8. Grace WISNEWSKI, 9. Ava Pritchard, 10. Grace JALE, 11. Kelli BROWN, 12. Brianna EDWARDS (gk), 13. Te Reremoana WALKER, 14. Cushla RUE, 15. Zoe MCMEEKEN, 16. Hannah JONES, 17. Talitha KRAMER, 18. Annabel MARTIN, 19. Charlotte LANCASTER, 20. Alyssa Whinham.

Unavailable: 17. Talitha KRAMER