Chance leads Bulls to semis

For a USF womens soccer team preparing for its second Big East semifinal appearance in three years, one of its most valuable assets is preparing for a strong finish to her freshman season.

Three months into the season, coach Denise Schilte-Brown said she feels freshman forward Olivia Chance is beginning to play to the potential they saw when USF recruited the New Zealander.

Chance is second on the team with four goals and ten points, and she has accounted for three game-winning goals this season.

I think were giving her more responsibility and shes starting to show and understand how much potential she has, Schilte-Brown said. Shes explosive on and off the ball. Shes right and left footed and she brings lots of experience.

For Chance, soccer is a sport that runs in her family.

Growing up in Tauranga, New Zealand, Chance started playing soccer at the age of four.

Her father, she said, was her main influence growing up.

My father is Scottish. Soccer was everything to him, Chance said. He made me and my sister tough.

The younger sibling of two children, Chance comes from a family with a strong athletic background. Her father played soccer in semi-professional leagues while he was in the U.S., before moving to England at 19. Her mother was a sprinter and a distance runner.

As a child, Chance played tennis and netball a sport similar to basketball, except players cannot move once they get the ball in their hands.

Chance chose to focus on soccer because it was more physical than tennis or netball.

Its not like any other sport, she said. Im good with my feet and its good endurance.

Chances first international experience came when she was 15 playing for the New Zealand U-17 team.

The team competed in the 2010 FIFA U-17 Womens World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago where it went 0-3 in-group play. She said she enjoyed her time with the team.

I liked it, she said. Definitely all the hard work put in the campaign was worth it once you step on that field.

Stemming from her World Cup experience, Chance was approached by the New Zealand national team when she was 17, and was asked to participate in a three-month trial. She was made the team, playing in the 2011 Cypress Cup, losing to the Netherlands in her debut.

While competing at the international level, Chance began to hear about USF.

Schilte-Brown heard about Chance through a contact from New Zealands national squad.

We had to build a relationship over Skype, Schilte-Brown said. That was the first time Ive ever had to do that. I thought it was an instant connection. I really enjoy her and her family. Shes a mature kid and right away, I was excited about our choice.

Other schools such as the University of Virginia were interested in her.

With her family by her side, Chance chose USF over Virginia. She said her main reason was the coaches and the weather.

Chances experience was put to the test last weekend, when the Bulls headed to a penalty shootout against the Louisville Cardinals in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.

With the teams tied 3-3, Schilte-Brown called Chances number for the final penalty kick opportunity, which she promptly finished, sealing a spot for USF in the semifinals for the second time in three seasons.

We saved (Chance) for last because we knew she could handle the pressure, Schilte-Brown said.

Chance and the Bulls will head to Storrs, Conn. this weekend for the Big East Tournament as they take on Georgetown in their semifinal match on Friday at 6:30 p.m. The winner will advance to the final to take on either Marquette or Notre Dame.