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Chang Fulfills Lifelong Dream While Inspiring Others
Women's Soccer  . 

Chang Fulfills Lifelong Dream While Inspiring Others

by Brad Muller, Director of Content

South Carolina midfielder Samantha Chang is living the dream, but the ability to do that has come through hard work, while overcoming some adversity along the way. The redshirt sophomore midfielder from Mississauga, Ontario, was called up to the Canadian National Team for the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando, Fla., last month and earned her first international cap, playing alongside some of her childhood heroes. After overcoming a torn ACL at the outset of her collegiate career, she serves as an inspiration to other young players.

“It really meant everything to me,” Chang said of representing her country. “I’ve been dreaming about playing for the national team ever since I was a little kid. To get that call that I was coming to camp was pretty unexpected. I was super excited to get in there and train with some of my heroes growing up.

“Getting my first cap was a dream of mine since I was a kid. It was really a surreal moment to be there and playing with those players and to wear the Canada badge for the senior team.”

Chang previously played in the Canadian youth programs before she came to South Carolina. She represented Canada at the U20 level and participated in the U17 FIFA World Cup in Jordan in 2016 and won medals at the 2016 Concacaf U-17 championship and the 2014 Concacaf U-15 Championship. Having the opportunity to come to camp with the senior national team meant she would be along side some of the players she looked up to.

“I did get to meet Desiree Scott, who has been the starting holding midfielder for Canada for like 10 years. She was a huge role model for me growing up because I play holding mid. She made the experience really welcoming.”

Chang recalled a letter she had received from an Asian-Canadian, telling her how inspiring it was to the woman’s daughter to see her playing at the highest level.

“Inspiring the next generation is something that I’m really passionate about. A huge thing for me is that I’m half white, half Asian, and my last name is Chang, so growing up, I never had an Asian role model on the women’s national team. Asian people can make it at this level!”

“We’re thrilled when someone like Sam has that opportunity and can be on the world stage.”
– Coach Shelley  Smith

Motivation has never been a problem for Chang, and she said her family is a big reason why.

“I think it stems from me having two brothers and I’m the middle child. We were always playing games and playing sports. My brothers are the most competitive people ever. That’s where it started from. Growing up, I hated to lose, and I loved to win. Every time I go out there, I want to compete. Whenever I’m out there on the practice field or on the game field, I always want to be the best competitor I can be. When that comes, it means I’m working really hard and I’m doing everything I can for the team to succeed.”
Samantha Chang headshot
While she was thrilled to be there, the opportunity to get in the lineup was another milestone. After proving herself in camp, Chang played in Canada’s 1-0 victory over Argentina.

“The best part for me was definitely getting my first cap and just seeing the level I was at compared to those players was also amazing,” Chang said. “I see myself succeeding at that level eventually, working on the things I need to work on so I can get there. It’s definitely in my sights.

“It was amazing to see my last name on that jersey. Luckily, the coach gave me a heads up on the day of the game that I went on. That night when I got back to the hotel room, I literally sat there and cried out of just pure joy. I thought about every team that I had been on and all the players that I played with, and me being the one that made it. I was so happy and excited to get that opportunity.”

While family and friends couldn’t be in the stands due to COVID restrictions, Chang knew she had plenty of support.

“It was amazing to look at my phone after the game and see all the love from everybody! It was a very emotional moment for me to see everyone supporting me. I had to keep it together on the bus, so I didn’t burst into tears on the bus on the way home.”

“We love to see that in players that have that goal to be their best while they’re here and to also want to play beyond,” said South Carolina head coach Shelley Smith. “We want them to thrive here. We’re thrilled when someone like Sam has that opportunity and can be on the world stage. That’s something that we’re proud of. We’re thrilled to have people like Sam.”

Chang is not a stranger to making the most of an opportunity. She earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors with the Gamecocks in 2019 and is a regular starter in the midfield. Earning those honors didn’t come without hard work and struggles as Chang tore her ACL in 2018 and had to work her way back while being a long way from her home.

“It was definitely really hard,” Chang said. “I had all these expectations to come in as a true freshman and be able to make an impact. That was very difficult. More than anything, the ACL rehab taught me what hard work and motivation can do for you. You really can achieve anything you set your mind to if you’re willing to work hard enough for it.”

“It’s a great example of someone that has improved her game even after going through what she did,” said Smith. “A lot of it had to do with her determination. She had the work ethic to get past that for sure, and she has natural athleticism. She came back stronger than ever from that. I knew she was going to be fine. I never doubted Sam’s ability. When you pair what she has gift-wise, plus her work ethic and determination, she had all the tools to come back even better than before.”

Now that she is back with the Gamecocks as they prepare for their spring season after a conference-only fall slate, Chang is excited to apply what she has learned from the experience with the national team.

“Even when I was at camp, I was looking forward to coming back to my school and playing with my team,” Chang said. “The area I want to grow in is my attacking contributions. I want to be scoring more goals and providing more for the attack. I really want to be focusing on my dribbling ability and my goal scoring, finishing with the ball well.

“The college level is a lot faster. American soccer and NCAA soccer in general is a lot more fast-paced because the brand of soccer leans on athleticism a bit more than the international game. The international game is a bit more thought; work smarter, not harder. That’s what I noticed in practices.

“It’s a lot more thought-involved.”

The Gamecocks open their spring season at home on Sunday against the College of Charleston.