Shanade Hopcroft always wanted to play NCAA soccer in the United States. And it wasn’t long after her arrival from England that she fell in love with the state of Colorado.
After a circuitous and successful college soccer journey, Hopcroft joined the women’s soccer program at the University of Colorado earlier this year. With just one season of eligibility remaining, the well-traveled native of England hopes to help ease the Buffaloes into life after Taylor Kornieck, who was the third overall pick in the NWSL draft in January.
“I didn’t really know a lot about D-1 soccer or which teams were pretty good. I didn’t know much at all. I really didn’t,” Hopcroft said. “I knew the little things, but along the way there definitely were things I had to learn quick like rules and conference play and stuff like that, because it’s completely different in England.”
In order to meet the academic requirements of the NCAA for international students, Hopcroft spent two seasons at Daytona State College in Florida. She transferred to CU-Colorado Springs and enjoyed a monster season for the Mountain Lions last fall, recording 13 goals and 12 assists to set UCCS records for points and assists in a season. Hopcroft was named the Player of the Year in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Hopcroft could have remained in Colorado Springs but still craved a bigger challenge, and the decision of former UCCS coach Sian Hudson to leave Colorado Springs for the head coach job at LSU once again put Hopcroft’s soccer career in transition. She found her bigger challenge at CU, where she could be a key figure in coach Danny Sanchez’s quest to replace Kornieck, who left the Buffs as the program’s all-time leader in points. In four seasons at CU, Kornieck either scored or assisted on 41.7% of the Buffs’ goals.
Sanchez, who coached a number of Division II All-Americans more than a decade ago at Metro State, is confident Hopcroft is capable of making a smooth transition into the Pac-12 Conference.
“At Metro I always said our best players, our All-Americans, they could have an impact at a place like Colorado,” Sanchez said. “Not all of them, but a lot of them. Especially the high-end ones. And (Hopcroft) has done really well. She’s going to be a senior next year, so she comes in with a sense of urgency of wanting to make an impact and wanting to be a professional and wanting to play at a high level and challenge herself in the Pac-12. Obviously we didn’t see her in any games, but in the training we had we’ve been really pleased.
“It’s not like we’re expecting her to come in and replace any of our superstars. However, having said that, we’re excited to see what she can do. We feel she can really help the squad next year.”
Hopcroft began classes at CU at the start of the winter semester but, like all of the Buffs’ student-athletes, her spring workouts were shelved indefinitely when all NCAA activities were put on hiatus due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Her first semester at CU and the ongoing assimilation with her teammates has continued to unfold virtually.
“I just hope that I can add an attacking mix to the team,” Hopcroft said. “Obviously they did end up getting to the NCAA Tournament, but hopefully I can help them get a little bit further and a little higher up the table as well in the Pac-12.
“I do already feel a part of the team. I love that so much, because I know how important that is to connect with your teammates to get the best results. I’m really happy with where I’m at with the team.”