A woman from Aylesbury is taking college soccer in America by storm and looks set to become the next big thing in a sport that has started to make a major breakthrough in Britain.
Shanade Hopcroft, 22, who was born in Aylesbury and attended Aylesbury Vale Academy, plays for Mountain Lions at The University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS), where she has just received the player of the year award.
As we went to press it was announced that Shanade, who tops the goal scoring and assist stats for the league, has also been awarded the South Central states player of the year prize, cementing her place as one of the top college players in the United States.
Hardly surprisingly, her team the Mountain Lions are currently the number one women's soccer college team.
Shanade's remarkable journey began when the dad of fellow Aylesbury-born women's footballer and England star Ellen White put her forward for trials with Chelsea when she was just 10 years old - and she hasn't looked back since.
Shanade explained to The Bucks Herald: “I first played football for a local team when I was about 5 or 6 called Samba.
"It was somewhere to start me off as my brother kept on and on to my parents about how I have something special. Then one day I was given a sheet of paper that was a trials form for trials at Chelsea. It was actually Ellen White’s dad who gave me the form. Ellen White played for Chelsea F.C. at the time, which is why I think her dad was able to get me the trials form.”
Shanade clearly made an impression. She continued: “So, I go for the trials and the Chelsea representatives said that they would email everyone on whether or not they got through. Well the Centre of Excellence director called my parents that day and said that I was the best thing he had seen in years. That was definitely a proud moment for me. So, I played for Chelsea from age 9-14.”
In England, Shanade, who is an attacking midfield player, went on to represent London Bees, where she had her first taste of first team football, and Reading. But the ambitious young star already had her heart set on America, where women's soccer is a major sport, in order to develop her game.
Initially she had to play for a junior college team in Florida to make her way. But she has now moved into the big time at UCCS with the Mountain Lions. When not tormenting her opponents on the soccer field, Shanade also finds the time to study Business Management.
Not everything has been smooth sailing for Shanade in America, though. She missed the whole of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), an injury that has ended the careers of many a footballer. Fortunately surgery was successful and Shanade has shown her fighting qualities to return stronger than ever.
Once she has finished college, professional football surely beacons for this extraordinarily talented player.
Shanade told us: “I hope to play professional football out here in America, ideally for Orlando Pride in Florida - it is a really good club for women’s football. I hope that at some point in the future I can also play for England - that is the main goal. I told my mum that if things really pick up in England that maybe I’ll come back and play for a professional club in England after a few years here in America. I am extremely excited about the future and it is coming up fast, since I only have a year left at university.”
Last week, the England women's team sold out the 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium for their match against Germany, so the signs are promising for women's football in Britain. Hopefully we can soon attract Shanade back to our shores.
Make sure you check out the video of her amazing skills at the top of this story.