In early August, Princeton University field hockey players, Julia and Katie Reinprecht, achieved their goal of making the Olympics as they played for the U.S. team in the London Summer Games.
This week, former Stuart Country Day and Peddie School standout Maddie Copeland is accomplishing a long-term goal, hitting the field for the Princeton field hockey program.
The Cranbury resident is currently taking part in the team’s preseason camp as the Tigers prepare for their season opener at Duke on August 31.
Having grown up around the Princeton program, Copeland is thrilled to be donning the orange and black.
“Princeton was my dream; it is something I wanted for a long time,” said Copeland, recalling her emotions when her acceptance to the school was confirmed.
“I have known Kristen [Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn] for a long time; she has been very supportive. I have been to Princeton camps since my freshman year in high school. I went to games in the fall with my parents over the years; it is a really good team to watch.”
Copeland produced a really good high school career, starring at Stuart before transferring to Peddie as a junior.
Although Copeland played just two years for Peddie, she accomplished a lot. The skilled forward scored 33 goals as a junior in 2010, helping the Falcons win both the Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) and state Prep A titles.
A year later, she tallied 41 goals as Peddie repeated as both MAPL and Prep A champions. Copeland was named 2011 New Jersey All-Prep Player of the Year for her role in triggering the title repeat.
“The switch over to Peddie was a really good move for me,” said Copeland, who helped Stuart make the Prep A semifinals and the Mercer County Tournament title game in the fall of 2008 in her freshman season of high school field hockey.
“It was really challenging as a junior; luckily I already knew some of the girls. They chose me as captain the next year; I was really honored by that.”
In reflecting on her success at Peddie, Copeland gives a lot of credit to the girls on the squad.
“My job was to score goals,” said Copeland. “The goals came easily; I played with some really good girls who set me up. I reached 100 goals over my high school career which is something I really wanted to do.”
As she reached her college decision, Copeland came down to two top choices. “I narrowed it down to Duke and Princeton; I also looked at Yale,” said Copeland.
“I had an unofficial visit to Princeton as a junior and then had an official visit after I committed.”
Since the end of her Peddie season, Copeland remained committed to honing her skills.
“I have been playing with my club team; I went to tournaments over Thanksgiving in Arizona and then to the Disneyland event,” said Copeland, who has played club hockey for the Jersey Intensity the last five years. “In late June, I played in the Futures Elite championship event.”
Over the years, Copeland has proven that she can compete on a championship level, succeeding on the national level. She won a Field Hockey National Festival Gold Medal from 2008-11 with the Intensity. She also helped the Intensity take gold at the Disney tournament in 2011 and 2012. Copeland was chosen for the U.S. Field Hockey Junior National Under-17 Squad in 2010 and was a Futures Elite selection in 2010 and 2011.
This summer, Copeland has applied some extra intensity in preparing for her college debut.
“I have spent a lot of time on the conditioning program,” said Copeland. “It is six days a week. It’s about strength and speed. There are sprint workouts, long runs, and weightlifting. I have been doing stick drills with my dad. I have been trying to do as much as I can.”
As she looked forward to the start of preseason practice with the Tigers, Copeland had mixed emotions.
“I am nervous but also so excited,” said Copeland. “I have been waiting for this for so long. I know a lot of girls who are sophomores on the team; I stayed with them during my visit. They have been telling me what to expect.”
Copeland can hardly wait to get on the field with the Reinprecht sisters and Princeton’s other senior national team players, Michelle Cesan and Kat Sharkey. “It is exciting to be playing with them,” said Copeland. “Princeton has the most Olympians returning of any college; it is a great opportunity for me.”
For Copeland, making the most of that opportunity will come down to basics.
“I just want to work really hard and earn a spot on the team,” asserted Copeland, who said she should be getting a look on the forward line but is willing to play wherever the team needs her. “It is going to be difficult with the older girls.”