The 2013 World University Games will take place in Kazan, Russia, this year from July 6-17, and a little piece of USF will be in the mix.
Demi Stokes, senior forward for the USF women’s soccer team, will be representing her home country of England in the games. The native of South Shields has already started training overseas, while official preparation starts June 21 before she leaves for Russia.
Though representing her country was always a childhood dream, Stokes isn’t a stranger to the national stage — her dream became a reality on the youth level before coming to USF. Stokes said she represented England on the U-17, U-19 and the U-23 teams.
“I think people are always going to be looking and expecting big things out of me because I’ve represented England, and that’s just natural in the sporting world,” Stokes said. “I don’t think it’s pressure, but I’m aware that people watching will be expecting me to perform regardless who I’m playing for. If anything I think I put pressure on myself because I always want to perform well.”
In the states, Stokes has proven to be an offensive threat for the Bulls in her collegiate career. During her first year as a Bull in 2011, she scored four goals that tied for the team lead while leading the team in with four assists.
She then followed that season with three goals and an assist in 2012 while starting in all 19 games where USF went 11-5-3. USF soccer coach Denise Schilte-Brown said she is excited about the national spotlight Stokes is receiving.
“We’re really excited for her and we feel like she’s deserving of this opportunity, she’s an extremely hard trainer,” Schilte-Brown said. “I think it’s great for the program, it gives us exposure and she’ll bring that experience back to the team.”
Despite the popularity of European soccer compared to American, Stokes said she doesn’t view it as European versus American, but as just soccer.
“I don’t think there’s a difference,” Stokes said. “Yes, some games are bigger than others but soccer is soccer. I don’t compare my games and I don’t prepare any different. As a soccer player you have to prepare the same for each game whether it’s mentally or physically.”
While national-level games are taking priority now, the USF soccer season is just months away. Playing for England will serve as good preparation for that, Schilte-Brown said.
“All the girls that are playing summer soccer are really helping the program,” Schilte-Brown said. “The more competitive environment you can put yourself in now, the better. I think the national level is something that’s hard to find anywhere else. I think it’s really going to keep her sharp and prepare her for the fall.”
Stokes said though sporting the red and white for England is a dream come true, she still can’t help but miss the green and gold.
“What I miss most is just being with the (USF) team and that routine we go through together,” Stokes said. “I love being on the road with them it’s a good feeling being in a team where everyone is striving for the same goals.”
When it comes down to it, the one constant for Stokes is soccer — something that is never-ending in her mind.
“For me soccer season never ends — I like to keep myself ticking over,” Stokes said. “We get Christmas break off, but really you have to keep training so you’re ahead of the game and not starting over again. Once the season finishes you have to start thinking about next season.”