Photo by Diane Cox
Annabelle Copeland ended her junior season with the Marquette Catholic girls’ soccer team in style on May 28.
Copeland, a forward, not only recorded the first hat trick of her high school soccer career, she also helped her team finish its season with a victory.
Copeland scored three goals to help the Explorers pull off a 4-2 win over Williamsville in the third-place game of the Class 1A state tournament at Naperville. With the three goals, Copeland finished the season with a career-high 14 goals, surpassing her benchmark of 12 from her freshman year.
“I think it was a little surprising at first,” Copeland said. “I don’t think I realized then that it was something special. It’s just that we had to keep the game going and we had to keep playing. It’s exciting now to look back at it.”
Copeland also helped the Explorers pick up their fourth state trophy. Marquette also had a third-place finish in 2013, placed second in 2009 and won it all in 2011.
Despite missing three games because of an ankle injury, Copeland still finished as the Explorers’ leading scorer with 38 points. She was the only Marquette player to finish in double figures in goals. She also finished with a team-high 10 assists.
The outstanding junior season helped Copeland earn this year’s AdVantage News Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year award.
“She’s very important to the team,” Marquette coach Steve Mitchell said. “Without her, we’re a whole different squad. Each kid brings her own dimension to the game. She brings a lot. She can play anywhere. She’s fast and she’s a goal scorer, so she’s a tremendous player.”
Copeland helped the Explorers finish with a 15-10- 3 mark this season. Marquette qualified for state by beating Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin in penalty kicks in the super-sectional round. The team also beat Gibault and Columbia in penalty kicks in the Class 1A Althoff Sectional tournament.
“I’m proud to be part of that team,” Copeland said. “The beginning of the year was really rough for sure. We didn’t have very many wins and we were playing really big schools. To win three straight games in penalty kicks toward the end of the season was crazy. I don’t think that usually happens.”
Copeland said when the season began in March, her goal was to get her team to the state tournament. The Explorers lost to Rochester in the super-sectionals in back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015.
“The whole year, I was thinking about the two previous years losing in the super-sectionals,” Copeland said. “I was ready to play when I came.”
All of Copeland’s goals in the third-place match against Williamsville were unassisted.
She scored two goals in the first half to give the Explorers a 2-1 halftime lead. Copeland completed the hat trick with 20 minutes left in the match.
Copeland said the Explorers’ loss to Wheaton Academy in the semifinals gave her some motivation for the third-place game.
“I was upset after losing the day before,” said Copeland, who now has 32 career goals. “I wanted to take care of business. It wasn’t really fair to our defense that they kept us in almost every single game of the year. A few games before that, we couldn’t score. We came out ready to play.”
Copeland also had goals against Gibault, Metro-East Lutheran, Providence Catholic, East Alton-Wood River, Roxana, Lebanon, Edwardsville, Hillsboro and Alton. She also scored two goals against Normal.
Copeland said she was thrilled to play in the state tournament for the first time in her high school soccer career.
“It was fun, but it was nerve-racking,” Copeland said. “I was nervous to go and play. The field with the bleachers was really big. But I was telling myself that it’s another game. It was exciting.”
Copeland is playing for St. Louis Scott Gallagher this summer. Her team has played in tournaments in Minnesota and California.
Copeland said playing for Scott Gallagher was a big help to her in her junior season at Marquette.
“We practice three days a week and it gets you on a mindset to want to get better,” Copeland said. “Being around other girls who also want to get better helps a lot. We have a lot of talented players and a lot of talented coaches. It gave me the best opportunity to get better.”
Copeland is already looking forward to her senior year. She’s one of 10 juniors on this year’s Marquette team.
“I don’t want to end the season on something depressing,” said Copeland, who verbally committed to play soccer at Saint Louis University after high school. “I want to be able to be proud of my last year. But then again, I understand that you have to take it one game at a time. I’m ready to get back and do stuff again.”