By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA – Demi Stokes has traveled more than 4,000 miles to become a Bull.
The USF’s women’s soccer team’s new sophomore forward had the dream of playing in the United States since she was “tiny” in South Shields, England, and has made it become a reality in Tampa.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Stokes said Wednesday. “I feel knowing that it was something that I wanted to do as a child, I’ve succeeded in that.”
Stokes has been in the U.S. for only about two and a half months and it didn’t take long for her to make an impact on the field. She scored a goal in USF’s second game against Indiana on Friday and added a second score in a victory over Alabama A&M on Sunday.
“We had really high expectations for her and she comes in and she’s meeting those expectations on the field,” USF head coach Denise Schilte-Brown said.
Schilte-Brown said Stokes is awesome off the field as well, staying after practice to go over things with teammates and has stuck to a strict training regimen.
“She’s just that kid that you can build the team around,” Schilte-Brown said.
Stokes, 19, has possessed those leadership skills for a while and acquired them in an uncharacteristic manner.
The 5-foot-4 speedster captained her school team of all boys at age 11 or 12.
“My school teacher, he believed in me and he encouraged me to do well,” she said. “I feel that he thought I was the right person to do that captaincy and obviously help the team come along.”
The boys didn’t play nice all the time, as one should expect.
Stokes said the play was physical and other teams weren’t always nice.
“I had boys laughing like, ‘Ha, she’s a captain?” Stokes admitted.
The jokes didn’t last long, however, once the boys saw that the girl had a lot of game.
“I had people coming up and apologizing after the game,” she said. “The boys on the team were respectful and they thanked me for that.”
Stokes stepped up her play since then and brings a ton of experience to Tampa.
She helped her England team win the U-19 European Championship in 2009 and made another appearance in the title game the following year. She also represented England in the U-20 World Cup in 2010.
“We were excited when we signed her,” Schilte-Brown said.
The transition to college can be a tough for a student leaving home from a few miles away let alone another country, but Stokes has remained strong in her long journey.
“My lifestyle is pretty much the same – training all the time, school,” she said. “That was nothing new.”
Still, the big move does take time to get used to and Stokes is finding out on the field.
“The style of play is a little bit different and also the heat of course,” she said with a smile.
People also have had to get adjusted to Stokes. Talk to her for a few minutes and you’ll know she comes from far, far away.
“I think it’s funny when she says something and people don’t understand her, so they just keep nodding and agreeing,” Schilte-Brown said with a laugh.