by Ashley Columbia, Contributing Writer
The week of Oct. 5 is the week Manhattan College took the MAAC by storm when it swept the weekly awards.
Lizzy Carlson and Kristen Skonieczny registered performances that garnered the Player of the Week and Defensive Player of the Week awards, respectively. But it was another player who stole the show.
Nicole Copping finished off the two-game stretch with one goal and four assists, earning herself the MAAC Rookie of the Week honor.
This season, Copping leads the team in assists and has formed a partnership with Carlson and Emily Ude that has made Manhattan’s midfield one of the most explosive in the conference.
“Nicole is a very dynamic player and brings a great work ethic to the team,” Ude said. “When she steps on the field, there is a great change of pace and this overwhelming drive to do well.”
On a crisp Thursday afternoon in October at Gaelic Park, Copping can be seen huddled around her team and making small talk with her teammates before practice gets underway. She hikes up her knee-high, emerald green socks and hustles over to discuss her recent Rookie of the Week status, her cleats kicking up dirt behind her.
However, the conversation takes a refreshing twist as she insists that she would not be where she is today, if not for the other girls on the roster.
“I look up to the older girls on the team,” she said. “It makes it easier to do well when you feel good with a team, and I feel really comfortable with this team.”
Periodically looking over her shoulder to catch a glimpse of the team workouts, it is evident that she is just itching to get back to work, losing herself in a sea of green and grey uniforms.
“Nicole has gelled really well with all of the players,” Ude said. “It has been a great experience to watch the program change and progress because of players like her that are making a difference.”
Having played the sport since kindergarten, Copping has familiarized herself with the ins and outs of soccer and knows what it takes to get to the top. Among her many achievements, she was a second-team honoree her junior year at Bayport-Blue Point High School and the first-team all-state selection her senior year.
Being one of the youngest players on the team, she exhibits qualities that are both unique and unexpected of a freshman.
Brendan Lawler, head soccer coach, said he looks for talented and intelligent soccer players with speed who are willing to put in the work.
“During the recruiting process, you learn that it is hard to bring out those skills in players who do not already have them,” he said. “Nicole is all about the work right now, and she had the highest fitness score on the team coming in as a freshman.”
Copping is currently tied for second in the MAAC and 56th nationally with six assists.
“All of our players are told to come in and work hard, which they have,” Ude said. “Nicole, however, has really stepped up for the team.”
Copping’s selfless nature, paired with her constant need to give back, is both contagious and admirable. Although her obvious talent and genuine desire to be there places her front and center, she would rather take a backseat to her team any day.
“Every team has to look at their rookies and see what they did that week,” Lawler said, “and that rookie of the week performance was as much about goals as it was assists. She draws a lot of the defenders to her and, in a very unselfish way, brings the rest of her teammates in and helps them to score goals.”
However, that does not take away from Copping’s ability to take shots of her own. Not only did she have three assists during the first game of the week against Saint Peter’s on Oct. 7, but she had a goal under her belt as well.
“When she knows she can finish she does,” Lawler said. “Nicole is very balanced that way.”
Copping’s ability to set up goals works both on and off the field. As a student-athlete, it is important to find a happy medium between having an athletic and academic career.
“Soccer is a nice stress reliever,” she said, “and helps get my mind off of school. However, I feel like I give a pretty fair amount of time to both and work hard at both.”
Apart from the qualities that Lawler looks for, Ude mentions other intangible qualities that are just as important to a player’s overall character.
“This is a full-time job to us,” Ude said, “so time management is very important to have. In the end, keeping up in the classroom and with each other is definitely worth it.”
Copping may wear No. 23 on her back, but she sure has earned the number one spot in her team’s heart. She possesses all of the traits of a leader and has the support of the other 27 girls.
“The great thing about Nicole is that she is willing to do all of the small stuff that usually takes freshmen more than one season to get,” Lawler said. “That is the basic ground work you need in order to lead by example. She wasn’t starting at the beginning of the year, but she fought her way through that and now she is.”
Copping has the potential to lead this team in the near future, but, in the meantime, she has earned all the rave reviews. However, she tries not to make a big deal out of it. She appreciates the honor, but will never stop looking for ways to improve.
“I feel like a lot of people can get Rookie of the Week,” she said, “but I try to not expect anything. This was a team effort that got me to where I am now.”