Maddie Copeland relished the challenges she faced as she joined the Princeton University field hockey program in 2012.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking; in the first two days, we ran fitness tests,” said Copeland, a former standout at Stuart Country Day and the Peddie School.
“The level of play was much higher; it was nice to be in an intense atmosphere like that. I jumped right into things, the team was welcoming.”
Thriving in the highly-charged atmosphere, Copeland scored five goals in 17 appearances that fall before breaking her arm when she got hit by a shot from Tiger star Kat Sharkey. Princeton went on to win the NCAA championship that fall with Copeland waving her cast in support.
Fully recovered from her injury, Copeland took a greater role last fall, making 19 appearances and five starts, contributing five goals and an assist to help the Tigers go 14-5 and advance to the NCAA quarterfinals.
As the 5’6 striker looks ahead to her junior campaign, she is feeling a comfort level with the college game.
“I definitely understood the systems that Kristen [Princeton head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn] wants us to run,” said Copeland. “It is more of a team sport in
college. You have to use each other more, there is a lot of passing. It is definitely a faster game.”
It didn’t take long for Copeland to show her offensive game in her debut campaign as she scored her first career goal in a 10-2 win over Delaware in the team’s sixth contest in 2012.
“It is always great to score a goal but it is even better to win,” said Copeland, who tallied a career-high two goals in a win over Yale in late September that season.
Although the broken arm sidelined her for the rest of 2012, Copeland relished the memories from Princeton’s national championship campaign.
“It was a bummer to not play in the tournament; it was nerve-wracking on the sidelines,” recalled Copeland, who ended up having two operations on her arm.
“It was an an unreal experience, it was incredible and hard to put into words.”
Last fall, Copeland got the chance to play in the NCAA tournament and she responded with aplomb, tallying a goal and an assist as Princeton overcame an injury to star defender Julia Reinprecht to edge Penn State 5-4 in the opening round and avenge a regular season defeat to the Nittany Lions.
“When Julia got hurt, I played the rest of the game,” recalled Copeland. “We were all like we have to win this game for Julia. It was so exciting; we were so happy with the end result. We wanted to play them again, we knew we had developed a lot since the first game.”
Developing deep bonds with her teammates and coaches has impacted Copeland’s total Princeton experience.
“The team does everything together on and off the field,” said Copeland. “It is like a family and the coaches are like our second mothers. They are intense at the right time. Off the field, they couldn’t be nicer, you can talk to them about anything. They want to know everything that is going on with you.”
Taking courses at the University of Miami this summer has led Copeland to be creative about her training.
“The focus is showing up in shape,” said Copeland. “I brought my stick so I am doing things on my own.”
With Princeton starting preseason practice later this week as it prepares for its opener at Duke on September 5, Copeland knows the Tigers will be bringing their customary fervor.
“The season is going to be difficult because we lost a lot of good players,” said Copeland.
“Everyone has to step up, we are really intense and really motivated. We will have trouble scoring as much as in the past.”