Chang settles into spot
Kelli-Anne Chang never considered playing soccer in college until the state high school tournament was finished her senior season.
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Schedule: Today, Hawaii vs. Cornell, 7 p.m.; Tomorrow, San Francisco vs. Cornell, 7 p.m.; Sunday, Hawaii vs. San Francisco, 5 p.m.
Where: Waipio Peninsula Soccer Park stadium.
TV: Sunday's match on KFVE (Channel 5).
In less than two years, the sophomore from Aiea earned one of the two starting midfielder positions alongside Jessica Domingo in Hawaii's 4-4-2 alignment. She has made her presence felt by leading the Rainbow Wahine in scoring with three goals this season.
A four-year letter winner for Aiea as a center midfielder, she helped Na Alii reach the state soccer semifinals each season. Chang was an All-Oahu Interscholastic Association selection twice and was named to the Star-Bulletin All-State first team as a senior.
"One of the UH coaches approached me about joining the Wahine as a walk-on after the state tournament," Chang said. "I really didn't know if I should play soccer or if I should concentrate on my studies."
Chang's friends encouraged her to play. They told her she had to try it, at least for a year, or some day she would regret missing the chance to play at the college level.
Chang concluded she would really be upset at herself if she didn't take advantage of the opportunity. She did not consider any other schools because she wanted to stay home, hence UH was the only option.
"I worked out with the team (the summer before entering UH) and got to know the girls early on," Chang said. "They were nice and helped me get a feel for what college soccer was all about. I was comfortable (when fall practice began) and that made it a lot easier."
A year ago, Chang appeared in 10 matches, mostly as a reserve forward for the Wahine. She took eight shots and put two on goal without scoring.
Her approach to life is to set little goals, take it step by step and gradually go up. She again trained with teammates over the summer while attending school.
"I guess my goal was to pass the running test. It took me a couple of tries, but I did it. Then I wanted to start and get playing time," Chang said.
UH coach Pinsoom Tenzing announced at the end of the final practice before the opener against Washington that he would e-mail the starting lineup to the players that night.
"I checked my e-mail six or seven times, just kept clicking on refresh," Chang said. "They said it would come by 9 p.m., but it was almost 10. The first thing I did was call my mom (Gwen) and told her to look at this (message)."
Chang was named a starter, was more relieved than anything else and has held the position every match this year.
The UW match would be her first collegiate start. She was nervous, excited, about to experience something new and different.
"As soon as the whistle blew, I settled down," said Chang who has a better understanding of the team strategy this year.
"Last year went by fast. This year it is game by game and I remember every moment."