You might have seen UCLA goalkeeper Chante Sandiford sing the national anthem to open a soccer match in front of a hushed crowd at Drake Stadium before you’ve seen her play.

“It gets nerve-racking just because you’re singing in front of a lot of people who never heard you sing before ““ and half of them didn’t even know I could sing before I sang it,” Sandiford said.

Sandiford is far more just a soccer player ““ she is also a musician.

From Villanova Wildcat to UCLA Bruin

According to coach Jill Ellis, the UCLA redshirt sophomore from Owings Mills, Md., who transferred from Villanova to UCLA, displays a commendable soccer skill set.

“She’s athletic, she’s comfortable with her ball at her feet, her distribution is sound,” Ellis said. “I think she organizes the players in front of her well, and she is a good shot-stopper.”

Sandiford redshirted her freshman year at Villanova but realized that she wanted something more.

“I’ve always wanted to play for a team that could compete for a national championship because that’s always been my dream since I was really little ““ to play in a national championship game and win,” Sandiford said.

Sandiford contacted Ellis, who said that UCLA was looking to increase its depth, especially in the position of goalkeeper.

The starting position was voided by the graduation of former Bruin goalkeeper Ashley Thompson, who spearheaded last year’s school record of 19 shutouts.

“It’s definitely going to be a challenge, trying to match and even maybe beat (the 19 shutouts), but Ashley was awesome last year,” Sandiford said. “I just hope that we as a defense, and me as a goalkeeper, can at least match what she did last year because that was amazing.”

Sandiford said that Ellis was very excited for her to step in and hopefully make a difference on the team.

“(Ellis) also said that it’s going to be hard to replace Ashley just because she was so great last year, but she thinks I can do it,” Sandiford said. “Her confidence in me is really going to help me stay confident.”

Sandiford arrived in Westwood last fall. She practiced with the team but was unable to dress for games. During that time, she trained with Thompson, who passed on some words of advice.

“Mostly (Thompson) just told me to be confident because a lot of times you can doubt yourself,” Sandiford said. “But if you just make sure you stay confident, the entire team stays confident, because (as goalkeeper), you’re the rock back there, you have to make sure you’re a leader.”

Even as a newcomer last fall, Sandiford believed that everyone on the team welcomed her immediately.

“I feel like I fit right in, and everyone is just super nice,” Sandiford said. “I have lot of close relationships with the people on the team, especially with my class. They’re a great group of girls, I just really enjoy spending time with the team and practicing with them and playing.”

The goalkeeper always had the support of her coach, who calls Sandiford “a great personality.”

“Off the field, she’s just very well-liked,” Ellis said. “She’s a good teammate, she’s a quality person.”

On the field, Ellis said that Sandiford is focused and intense at practice and that she is mentally in every training exercise.

“She doesn’t check in and check out,” Ellis said. “I think she sets high standards for herself. I don’t have to go over to tell her, “˜You need to do this, this and this.’ She’s constantly trying to correct herself.”

The W-League

Sandiford played the past three years for the Washington Freedom, an organization in the W-League, which is an open league that allows college players, while maintaining their college eligibility, to play alongside other athletes aspiring to compete in the professional league.

“It’s just been a really great experience getting game time playing against high-level players, and it’s a really great league,” Sandiford said.

This past summer, the goalkeeper helped her team advance to the finals of the W-League tournament. Sandiford made two key saves during a penalty kick shootout in the tournament semifinals, which lifted her team to a 3-1 victory. Her performance earned her the W-League Under-19 Player of the Year award.

“Obviously it’s fantastic for her,” Ellis said. “She’s had a really good season, she’s been an impact player for her team.”

In comparing collegiate competitions and professional play in the W-League, Sandiford pointed out that a lot more pride is involved in college games.

“Collegiate soccer is always really competitive,” Sandiford said. “The teams are definitely a lot closer because we spend so much time together, but the level of talent is the same just because a lot of the players you see during the year playing in your conference or the NCAA Tournament are the same players in the W-League. The only difference, I think, the pride factor is a lot higher in collegiate soccer.”

However, despite her terrific play in the W-League, Sandiford did not make the trip to North Carolina to play for the Bruins on Aug. 22.

Instead, sophomore Yiana Dimmitt started at goalkeeper for UCLA in its season opener, which the Bruins lost, 7-2.

“We’re hoping we’ll have a competitive battle for the starting position at goalkeeper,” Ellis said. “Chante has some experience on her because last year she played in the W-League, but Yiana has been with us a full year. Chante and Yiana both have the attributes to evolve into starters, and then it’s just going to become a battle of who’s in form.”

Sandiford took her turn at starting goalkeeper Friday night against San Diego. Although the game ended in a 1-1 draw, Ellis said that Sandiford had the best performance of the night.

“Chante was spectacular,” Ellis said after Friday’s game. “It was her first college start, first college game. She got stitches in her face, took a cleat to her face, she played on. She was certainly our MVP tonight.”

Chante, the Musician

Coincidentally, Sandiford’s first name stems from the French word “chanter,” which means “to sing.”

“Music has always been a huge part of my life just because I’ve loved it ever since I picked up a recorder in the third grade,” Sandiford said. “It’s always been a good escape for me, especially when I’m stressed out. I just go and I jam out or I just sing to myself in the shower.”

Sandiford enjoys classical clarinet and jazz saxophone. Her musical heroes include Miles Davis, Beyonce and her music teacher Chris Lamarca, who has given her private lessons in the clarinet and the saxophone since the third grade.

“He’s an awesome musician and taught me everything I know and laid the groundwork for me,” Sandiford said.

The goalkeeper played first chair clarinet and saxophone in her high school orchestra while singing for her school choir and a cappella group. Thus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Sandiford was asked to sing the national anthem at several of last season’s home games.

“When I first got here, I didn’t know the team that well, so I didn’t know what their reaction would be,” Sandiford said. “But everyone was so excited and so impressed. It’s really awesome that they supported me.”

When Ellis discovered that Sandiford was a musician, the coach said that she appreciated her players having a life outside of soccer.

“I think it gives them great balance,” Ellis said. “It shows a kid that’s dedicated and committed to learning in all aspects of her life. To be a musician takes a lot of commitment. The fact that Chante can exceed in separate areas, I think, says a lot about her as a person. … She’s a very talented young lady.”

Sandiford said that soccer and music were the two biggest things in her life, and they can complement each other.

“They can both feed off of each other,” Sandiford said. “Practicing for both soccer and music ““ you’d have to be really focused and disciplined. … In the end, it’s really going to benefit me, and I’m really glad I can do both things.”

However, Sandiford decided to pursue soccer over music for her collegiate and possibly professional career.

“I chose soccer to take up most of my time because it needs to take up most of your time,” Sandiford said. “If you want to be able to compete with the players at this level, you have to really commit to it and put time into it. The thing with music is that you can practice on your own time and become great. … Soccer needs a lot of constant work, you can’t ever get a step behind.

“Sometimes you have to make choices ““ I love soccer, so I picked soccer. But music will always be my backpocket, it’ll always be my escape.”