Chua flourishes in midfield, solidifies spot in WKU attack

WKU’s Hannah Chua (2) makes a break for the goal during the Lady Toppers’ 2-2 tie against Valparaiso University, Sunday at the WKU Soccer Complex. Michael Noble/HERALD

Hunter Frint

Sophomore Hannah Chua has been a major asset to the Lady Topper soccer program in 2015. She has started in all five of WKU’s games so far this campaign. 

She has clocked 387 minutes on the pitch—the third most of any Lady Topper behind senior defender Chandler Clark’s team-leading 456 and junior midfielder Haley Baldridge’s 398.

Chua’s journey to becoming such a valued asset to the team begins much farther away from Bowling Green than most other Lady Toppers. 

Her trek to the Hill brought the midfielder across the country, uprooting her from her hometown of Claremont, California, and placing her over 2,000 miles away in Bowling Green.

Being so far away from home has brought out Chua’s passion and appreciation for her roots in California. And while Bowling Green might not be a city in Chua’s long-term life plan, she said it is a perfect fit for her college career.

“From the beginning, I knew I wanted to live in California in the long term, so I kind of wanted four years of a new experience and to just get out and experience something else,” Chua said. “So I got recruited by [WKU] and it just ended up being the best fit. I’ve absolutely loved it.”

At Claremont High School, Chua was a four-year starter and proved an integral part of her high school’s team both as a goal scorer and distributor, racking up over 20 goals and 20 assists. 

Following a highly successful prep career with the Arsenal FC and Legends FC in California, Chua signed her national letter of intent to attend WKU. 

In 2013, Chua led the Legends FC team to acquire a 5-1-1 record in the United States Soccer Association National League. 

With these previous experiences under her belt, Chua said the challenges presented at WKU and her surrounding team and staff have allowed her to flourish in the midfield at WKU. 

“This program is awesome. I think that our coaches and all of our players are super close, and they’ve helped me grow as a player. There’s just a real sense of family on our team that I don’t think I could have found anywhere else,” Chua said. “Even though I’m so far away from home, I don’t feel so homesick because I have my team.”

From the beginning of her soccer career on the Hill as a freshman, Chua has managed to create an impact and help produce results. 

During the 2014 season, Chua was one of two freshmen who played more than 1,000 minutes during the season.  She started 14 of 18 matches as a freshman and was the only of five freshmen last campaign to see minutes in all 18 contests.  

Chua’s other accomplishments during her freshmen year include scoring a game-winner against Evansville and generating assists in games against Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss.

She was tied for most shots by a freshman with 18 shots and six shots on goal.  That sort of attacking output from a freshman midfielder caught the eye of Head Coach Jason Neidell last season and is a major reason Chua’s minutes played are third highest on the team in the current campaign. 

“Hannah’s a really, really quick player and just has a nose for the ball. She’s really smooth and composed on the ball,” Neidell said. “She likes to attack, as you see, down the middle of the field. She’s a really crafty player on the dribble.”

Not everything Neidell likes about Chua comes in the form of physical attributes, though.

“She also brings some intangibles; she’s so coachable,” Neidell said. “She’s like a sponge. Everything you give her she just sucks in and learns from. She’s got a great, positive attitude.”

Even though the 2015 season is still young, Chua has begun to find success similar to last season’s.  So far, she has notched a goal and an assist off four shots (three on goal). 

Chua scored the first goal of the 2015 season in the season opener against UT Martin.

Her assist was to WKU midfielder Haley Baldridge in the fourth game of the season against Stephen F. Austin in the Battle on the Bayou. The assist helped WKU squeeze in a 1-0 win. 

As Chua begins to take roots as a mainstay in the WKU defense—unmatched since the likes of Chrissy Tchoula and Sidney Sissler—questions of soccer after college surface. 

“If the opportunity presented itself, I probably would,” Chua said of pursuing soccer after college. “It hadn’t even crossed my mind before, but I guess only time will tell. We’ll see.”

Teammates and the coaching staff both speak of the positivity Chua brings to the program. 

“Hannah’s got a really infectious smile. She’s just a fun person to be around. She’s one of the most likable kids on the team for sure,” said Neidell.