Oct. 30, 2013
One of the best players in the history of the University of Michigan women's soccer program, Haley Kopmeyer was a four-year starter from 2009-12. She is the program's all-time leader in saves (383), saves per game (4.91), shutouts (27.5), minutes (7,208) and is second in goals against average (0.96) and save percentage (.833). As a senior in 2012, Kopmeyer was named an NSCAA All-American (second team) and Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year, helping lead Michigan to its third NCAA Sweet 16 appearance. After her college days were over, Kopmeyer was drafted in the fourth round (31st overall) by the Seattle Reign of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL).
Q: You were back on campus a few weeks ago, your first time since graduating. Does it feel any different being an alumnus vs. being a student-athlete?
A: It feels a little different. I don't recognize anybody anymore. I definitely feel older. I see people going to class and doing all that. I miss the environment of going to class and it's cool watching people in the Diag, but I don't miss actually sitting in class.
Q: Flashback to the day you were drafted by the Seattle Reign. You were the second-to-last pick. What was going through your head as the picks kept coming and how did you feel when you were finally selected?
A: I was actually driving a car when it happened and I was trying to keep a level head about it. You know, I was like, "Whatever happens will happen," but I kept not getting picked. By the time we hit about the late twenties, I had this little bit of doubt and I started thinking that I probably wouldn't get picked up. I put my phone down to drive safely and all of the sudden I got like 15 texts and I just started bawling. I was crying because I was so happy and nervous and excited all at the same time and I didn't know how to react so I was just driving and crying.
Q: When you arrived at Michigan in 2008, did you ever think that playing professional soccer was a possibility?
A: I did. I wanted to. You know, ever since I was little, this is what I wanted to do, what I wanted to be when I grew up. I think after my junior year, things had gone well but I didn't really know if that would be a possibility or not. I knew it would take a really strong senior season and we really hadn't, as a team, gotten a lot of recognition or broken through to make a name for ourselves. For everything to come together like that during my senior year, I know that definitely helped.
Q: Why did you decide to continue playing soccer?
A: There's part of me that didn't know. It is taxing on your body and you do get tired. You try to make an educated decision in everything you do in life, in whatever job you take, but deep down, I knew that I loved soccer too much to just give it up. I would feel wrong doing anything else right now.
Q: So how was your rookie season?
A: It was such a learning experience. It's very humbling to be a rookie, to go from being at Michigan and being on a team that does so well and being a person that is highly regarded in the soccer community to essentially becoming a freshman all over again. All of the sudden, you're not someone who's a big threat anymore. They think, "They've got a young kid on their team so just shoot on her." That part was humbling and I did have to adapt my game a lot because it was faster, people shot harder and the girls were better. It was just such a different level. I felt like I was prepared but until you see it, it's definitely a different ball game.
Q: Heard a rumor you were rooming with former Penn State standout Christine Nairn? You two had some battles over the years, culminating in last year's NCAA Tournament match. How'd that come about?
A: It's true, I did. We joked about that quite a bit. I had met her one time at a camp when we were like 17 and we didn't really know each other. I felt like whenever we played each other, there was this mutual respect that her and I had after a game and when we said "good game," that respect was there. When we both got drafted, I reached out to her and told her congrats on getting drafted. I told her I wanted to see what she thought about her living situation and what she was thinking. She actually moved out there first and got a place because she was signed before I was, so it was one of those things where if everything worked out, we were going to live together. So I ended up getting my dog up there and we did have some little rivalries. We've actually started this little social media war where we throw out some threatening Instagram selfies and some "Are you ready for this?!" type of stuff, so we do go back and forth but she's a phenomenal soccer player and a great friend. Even when we played, she'd light up a shot every now and then and I'd make a save and she'd yell, "It's not fair! She knows where I'm shooting! We've done this for six years!" And then other times, she'd totally have my number so it's been fun even in practice.
Q: Your name is in the school's record books in multiple spots. Looking at your legacy, what allowed you to grow the way you did to eventually become the best goalkeeper in program history?
First of all, I had great coaching. I think when I signed my letter of intent, there was no coach in place. I kind of came into an unknown situation and for everything to happen how it did, you can't really ask for more than that. They gave me an opportunity to play early and a lot of coaches won't do that, but they were like, "Listen, we'll give you time to develop." While they gave me some free range, they also challenged me a lot and pushed me personally. When I wouldn't have a great game, it was, "Well we know you're better than this. What are you going to do about it?" I really took that head-on and wanted to really perform well and be a top performer, not only for this team but for the Michigan family.
Q: Last year was one of the best the program has ever had. Being a captain of that squad, why do you think last year's team was able to do what it did?
A: It really was a successful group. For us, a lot of things fell together at the right time, but it just was a driven, hardworking, and talented group like nothing I had been a part of up to that point at Michigan. Even this year, the team is so talented. They lost three of us, but there are a lot of girls that are playing their best soccer and a lot of other girls stepping up, and there are some good young players. It's been fun to watch and I think this is a team that can do very well again. I'm proud to say that I've been a part of it and that they can make a push for a national championship this year.
Q: You've seen some of the matches this year and undoubtedly have seen your replacement, Taylor Bucklin. How do you think she is handling things?
A: I have a lot of respect for her. Goalkeeping is hard. It's hard being a freshman and getting thrown out there. You're playing against girls that are a lot older than you and have a lot more experience than you. Goalkeeping is a position where you're either the hero or you're the goat. There are very few games where there's any in between. I think the players around her are doing an incredible job of making it an easy transition. I don't get to see as much as I'd like to but I know she's getting better and better and better. And that's really all you can ask for out of a freshman keeper.
Q: Any regrets?
A: No, I don't think so. Not yet, anyways. We'll see in 15 or 20 years when I can't walk! But right now, I'm pretty happy.
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