TAMPA ― Denise Schilte-Brown has been around long enough to know that many prolific strikers, especially the ones who have been hyped since prepubescence, brandish a degree of arrogance. Where ball skill abounds, hubris often lurks.
But USF’s veteran women’s coach detected no such pretension from the quiet Canadian who would evolve into her program’s greatest goal scorer. Evelyne Viens arrived from southeastern Quebec seemingly without a trace of ego.
Or English. Kid couldn’t speak a lick of it.
“Zero,” said fellow Bulls senior Aubrey Megrath, Viens’ roomate since the pair’s freshman year. “Every time we would talk like, ‘Hey, how are you?’ every (response) was, ‘Good.’ Anything you’d say to her, ‘Good.’”
Three years later, this superstitious 22-year-old (don’t disrupt her game-day nap or the uniform she sets out just so) is almost as fluent with her second language as she is with a breakaway ball. Almost.
With no fewer than 11 matches remaining in her collegiate career, Viens already has 56 career goals, 15 more than any other player in program history. As a junior, she set a USF single-season record with 20, tied for the most nationally.
She enters Saturday night’s home match against Texas Tech with seven goals in her last three contests, including a double brace (four goals) in a 5-1 romp of Rice two weeks ago.
“She’s so fast,” said Schilte-Brown, whose team (5-1) is 22nd in the latest United Soccer Coaches rankings. “She might not look fast, but she’s so fast.”
She also can turn her body on a dime, shoot with both feet, tackle with ferocity when needed, and possess a ball with uncanny body control.
“She can use her chest, her thigh, her foot,” Schilte-Brown said. “She’s good with all her surfaces to hold the ball, which means she can bring teammates into the play.”
A Canada native herself (born in Nova Scotia), Schilte-Brown discovered Viens (the 's' is silent) nearly by accident.
The daughter of a school principal (mom) and sales representative (dad), she chose not to join a national development-type “provincial” team at a younger age, which likely would’ve required a move away from her hometown of L’ancienne-Lorette, a suburb of Quebec City.
But she was virtually unstoppable in under-17 and under-18 club play, where talent typically flies under the radar of American coaches.
Nonetheless, Viens caught the attention of then-USF recruiting coordinator Jason Dowiak.
“And then I had been recruiting another kid (on an opposing team),” Schilte-Brown said.
“And the coach on that team...said, ‘We’ll win if we can shut down their striker. They have one kid.’ I’m like, ‘Ohh, which kid?’ ... So in Canada, she had a bit of a reputation, but it wouldn’t have made its way down here.”
Eager for a change of scenery, Viens accepted USF’s scholarship offer, the only one she received in the U.S. Despite the initial culture ― and conditioning ― shock, she scored a team-best 16 goals and was named American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year in 2016.
“I remember the fitness was never a great priority for me,” Viens said.
“So just going running, running, I was like, ‘Ooh, I’m not quite sure I like this place.’ Everything was so different, and being able as a freshman to just put my name up there and help the team to win, it was really good.”
Her grasp of English was nearly as immediate as her impact on the team. By her sophomore season, Viens was scoring six game-winning goals (most in a season in USF history), leading the Bulls to their first AAC title, and carrying on normal conversations with peers.
“Ev really tried to get out of her comfort zone," Megrath said. "If she messed up, she always asked the proper word. Or writing papers, if I were to fix them, she sat with me. I think she really put in a lot more effort than a lot of people give her credit for.”
Today, Schilte-Brown said Viens not only talks, but is “vocal.” Moreover, she’ll exit USF with bilingual chops, an accounting degree (she’s set to graduate in December) and more than enough of an NCAA resume to earn a professional opportunity. Schilte-Brown said Canada’s national team ― Viens’ dream squad ― also has shown interest.
“If they don’t take her they’re crazy,” she added.
No translation necessary.
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.