In a program as steeped in success as Penn women’s soccer, it is hard to single out any one player as the best, or most important. Yet it is hard to imagine where the Quakers would be without one player in particular: Haley Cooper .
Last year, the senior back from Palatine, Ill. started 13 games and netted the game-winning goal in Penn’s victory over Brown last November.
Over her three years with the Red and Blue, the veteran has established herself as a grounding presence for the team, both in the backfield and in day-to-day life. In the words of coach Darren Ambrose, “she has always been kind of the glue on and off the field.”
Although the team has yet to take to the field for a regular season game — Penn’s first match is Sept. 5 against Mount St Mary’s — Cooper is already thinking about her legacy with the program.
“I want to leave the program in a better place than when I came in whatever way I can,” she said. “If that means mentality wise, or anything I can do day-to-day in practice to help improve the team.”
According to her teammates and coaches, a big part of this legacy is Cooper’s role as team jokester.
“I like to provide some comic relief,” she said with a laugh.
This humor helps keep her teammates sane during practices that can become quite intense.
“Our coach is fairly serious and practice can be pretty high intensity,” junior back Shannon Hennessy said. “But when Cooper cracks a joke or does something outrageous, Darren can’t help but smile and laugh.”
Despite Cooper’s lighter side, she is serious about embracing her role as one of the team’s three captains.
“Seeing my role grow from freshman year goofing around all the time to becoming more of a leadership type position has been really cool to see how I can impact the younger kids,” she said. “That is really important to me.”
She draws much of her inspiration as captain from the players in the Class of 2012.
“When I was a freshman I had a lot of people go out of their way and talk to me, which was really huge,” Cooper said. “Something that’s really unique about it is that we’re all pretty much on the same page from freshman to senior year.”
In the two weeks that the team has been practicing together on campus this year, Cooper has already gone out of her way to welcome the team’s eight freshmen to their new team and incorporate them into the Red and Blue’s dynamic.
“It’s kind of like everything comes full circle,” she said.
But Cooper hasn’t just stopped with the freshmen. She’s admired by Penn’s returnees for far more than just her quick wit.
“She’s an amazing leader on and off the field,” Hennessy said.
“I trust her completely in soccer and in life.”