As Maxime Hoppenot looked forward to playing college soccer, he dreamed of following in the footsteps of his older bother, Antoine, a star at Princeton University.
“Ideally I would have been going to Princeton to play with my brother,” said Hoppenot, a star midfielder at Princeton Day School who helped the Panthers win both the Mercer County Tournament and state Prep B tourney in his senior campaign in 2010.
“They only saw me three times and each time I had bad luck. One game I got hurt after 10 minutes. They didn’t see me enough to recruit me.”
But Hoppenot’s luck changed in 2010 when he spoke to Josh Shapiro, the newly installed coach of the Tufts University men’s soccer team.
“I really liked the coach at Tufts,” said Hoppenot. “I was in his first recruiting class. I talked to him on the phone and he was so excited about the program.”
Hoppenot ended up matriculating to Division III Tufts of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) and produced an exciting debut season in 2011, scoring six goals, second most on the team.
Last fall, Hoppenot was even better, tallying seven goals and three assists to lead Tufts in scoring, making first-team All-NESCAC honors as the Jumbos went 9-4-4 on the way to the NCAA Division III tournament.
With the Tufts preseason kicking off next week, Hoppenot is primed to make even more progress this fall.
“We are all excited to get started; we think we can do some special things,” said Hoppenot. “We have to pull it together as a team.”
It took Hoppenot a while to pull things together in his freshman season. “In the first game, I was going in and fouling a lot of players,” recalled Hoppenot.
“I was sliding late into tackles, I had a lot of energy and excitement. The coach told me he liked the way that I played but that I had to calm down.”
Hoppenot had to change the way he played as he was moved to forward from his customary spot in the midfield.
“I had to make the transition from midfielder to point striker; I had to learn to hold the ball up and finish,” said the 6’0, 170-pound Hoppenot.
“In the fourth or fifth game, I started to get comfortable; I was getting more playing time.”
Notching his first goal in a 2-1 win over Colby helped increase Hoppenot’s comfort level. “Late in the first half, there was a through ball and the goalie was trying to waste time; Jono [Edelman] battled him, the ball came loose and he passed it to me and I scored,” said Hoppenot, recalling his initial tally which took place in a September 24, 2011 contest.
“It was a big weight off my shoulders, getting the first goal of the season and particularly your first college goal.”
Three weeks later, Hoppenot produced a breakout performance, scoring both of Tufts’ goals in a 2-1 victory over Williams.
“It was a homecoming and a huge crowd,” recalled Hoppenot. “I scored on my first touch; I came on and scored with my left foot to the side of net. About 10-12 minutes later, I scored again.”
By the end of October, Hoppenot’s scoring prowess earned him a promotion.
“I got to start against Bowdoin and I scored two goals and I have started ever since,” said Hoppenot.
Starting his sophomore season with a bang, Hoppenot emerged as one of the top performers in New England.
“I got four goals in the first four games,” said Hoppenot. “My sophomore year was a big step in the right direction. I only went from six goals to seven goals but I felt like I was playing much better. I was getting more attention from the other players.”
Hoppenot’s heroics drew the attention of his foes as he earned first-team All-NESCAC honors.
“I felt like I was playing well but I didn’t expect that,” said Hoppenot, who had two goals in a 3-0 win over Suffolk in mid-October and then tallied a goal and an assist in a critical 2-1 league victory over Hamilton.
“I have never been one of those guys who gets much recognition. I am the guy that does the dirty work and I am fine with that.”
Working with former PDS teammate Rui Pinheiro, who joined the Tufts program last fall as a freshman midfielder, was a bonus for Hoppenot.
“At first, he wasn’t on the field as much but he played more and more,” said Hoppenot, who is one of three Princeton residents on the Tufts squad with classmate Peter Lee-Kramer, a Philips Andover alum, being the other. “It is great having him there, he is one of my best friends off the field.”
While Tufts didn’t play its best in falling 1-0 in overtime to Vassar in the NCAA tournament, Hoppenot drew positives from the experience. “We didn’t take as big a step as I would have liked,” added Hoppenot.
“We lose our heads at times and play down to our opposition. Making the NCAAs was great, we lost on a penalty kick in OT. We had dominated the game. It was a cause for optimism.”
Hoppenot, for his part, is optimistic that he can be even more of a force in his junior campaign.
“I would like to be the NESCAC Player of the Year; I would like to score more goals,” said Hoppenot, who played for the Central Jersey team this summer in the Premier Development League (PDL) in addition to doing arduous fitness work.
“I don’t have a specific target, I just go from game to game and try to play my best. I need to finish my chances better; I have been working on that a lot this summer.”