The Daily Gamecock

Gamecock Samantha Chang talks first national team appearance, being a role model

<p>Redshirt sophomore midfielder Samantha Chang runs to defend a Kansas player in 2019.&nbsp;</p>

Redshirt sophomore midfielder Samantha Chang runs to defend a Kansas player in 2019. 

Gamecocks women’s soccer’s Samantha Chang is a redshirt sophomore but has already made an impact for South Carolina.

Most recently, she played in the  SheBelieves Cup for Canada, her native country, in her first senior national team appearance.

"Inspiring the next generation is something that I'm really passionate about," Chang said to GamecocksOnline. "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." 

Chang is from Mississauga, Ontario and is in her third season playing for the Gamecocks. 

After appearing in 23 matches — including 10 starts — during her freshman season in 2019, she finished fifth on the team in shots on goal and was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team. However, her first season was far from how Chang envisioned her collegiate career beginning as she was sidelined for the entire season, recovering from an ACL injury. 

“More than anything, the ACL rehab taught me what hard work and motivation can do for you," Chang said. "You really can achieve anything you set your mind to if you're willing to work hard enough for it."

In her return to the pitch this season, the midfielder has played in all 11 of her team’s games and was in the starting XI eight times. She is sixth among Gamecock outfielders in minutes played on the year and seventh in points, with five, recording two goals and an assist. 

Because South Carolina had a fall season, it allowed Chang an opportunity to showcase her abilities post-ACL injury, and the Canadian Women’s National Team coaching staff took notice.

"It really meant everything to me," Chang said about representing Canada. "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.”

Chang admitted to being star-struck when she first arrived at the training camp in Orlando, Florida and noted one idol she was able to spend time with.

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

Despite enjoying her current success collegiately and internationally, Chang is not satisfied.

"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.”

Chang also received praise from her head coach and Trenten Gauthier, the assistant director of athletics communications and public relations at the university, for her hard work and dedication directed toward achieving her goals.

"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," head coach Shelley Smith said. "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."

Gauthier lauded Chang's resiliency in working her way back from injury.

“To see her, you know, have those goals finally fulfilled, and obviously she’s not done yet, is just really exciting for not only me as a person in working with her but just for the whole program, the whole school,” sports information director Trenten Gauthier said. 

Chang rejoined the Gamecocks after her debut in the SheBelieves Cup in time for the spring opener at Stone Stadium where she recorded a career high in shots with three, already showing more determination in being involved in the attacking third.

"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.”