Beyond "The Kick"
Some people will be forever synonymous with one amazing highlight in their athletic career. College football fans can't speak of Kordell Stewart and Michael Westbrook without mentioning the "Miracle at Michigan." Colorado super senior Shanade Hopcroft elevated herself to the same level of notoriety with "The Kick."
Fans outside of Boulder may not have known anything about CU's star midfielder, but after becoming a viral hit on Twitter, making local TV news segments and reaching No. 2 on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays last Sunday it's become hard for soccer fans not to remember her name.
But Hopcroft's story goes far beyond "The Kick."
Hopcroft, a native of the country town of Aylesbury in South East England, and the youngest of five children in her family grew up playing soccer with her older brother, in and around the pub that her family owned as a child. For as long as she can remember soccer has always been a part of her life.
"I used to run up and down the pub, even when it was open," Hopcroft recalled. "My mum would make me go outside sometimes. Then we moved to a neighborhood where everyone just played soccer, literally all the time.
"I'd go and play on all my breaks at school. Then I'd come home and get changed and run out and go play some more. Sometimes I'd have a match for my team and then I'd come home [after] and go out and play soccer again, even if I had just played a game. It was just always soccer and it was mostly against boys too."
From a young age, she knew that she wanted to take her passion for the sport and bring it to America. That kind of determination helped her play for Chelsea U10 as a nine-year-old and Middlesex U17 at 16. Hopcroft was also invited to Her U12 and U15 National Team camps.
"It just always was a dream of mine to come and play football, soccer out here," Hopcroft noted. "No matter what. I knew I was coming over here when I got holder and that's what I did."
Her journey along the Yellow Brick Road to Boulder has had some twists and turns along the way. Colorado is Hopcroft's third academic institution since landing at Daytona State College in 2016. She graduated from the junior college in 2018 and landed at UCCS in Colorado Springs in 2019.
"It was a twisting, winding path," Hopcroft admitted. "I had to go to Daytona State as a JUCO because of my grades back in England. After my two years there I transferred to UCCS because I loved the coach. After a great season there she left so I felt like it was time for me to leave too."
All Hopcroft did for the Mountain Lions in 2019 was register 38 points, scoring 13 goals and handing out 12 assists. She was a DII Conference Commissioner's Association and a United Soccer Coaches First Team All-American as well as the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
That's when Colorado came calling.
"We did our homework," Colorado head coach Danny Sanchez remembered. "We talked to Sian Hudson who was the coach at UCCS but left to take the job at LSU. She highly recommended her. But the turning point was the recommendation from JB Belzer, who was the Regis head coach at the time. He said, 'Danny she's a player that can make an impact at your level.' I really respect JB and his opinion so we were able to convince Shanade to come in at the winter window and from that first practice before COVID, we could tell that she had the potential to really help the squad.
"The interesting part of the story is that JB at the time was interviewing with UCCS, as he made his move from Regis to UCC. It just tells you the stand-up guy that he is. He could have spun it a different way to try and keep her, but he knew that she was looking to move and she'd be happy and wanted to compete at a higher level."
Hopcroft landed in Boulder in the winter months of 2020, looking forward to starting her first season at the Division I level and her final collegiate season.
Then the world came to a halt with COVID-19.
"When I first got here, COVID wasn't about yet, Hopcroft added. "I was so ecstatic and excited. Then a couple of months later COVID hit and I was literally devastated. I was devastated because I was ready and I was probably at my peak form at that moment. It was pretty devasting, but I just kept positive and then the cancellation of the season was really devastating. I found it hard to get motivated after that, but I think once the spring season came around in 2021 it made it a bit easier to get back into, but it did take a while."
Colorado had only planned on having Shanade was just two semesters, expecting her to depart after her senior season at the end of the 2020 schedule. Although another year in college was admittedly "hard to accept," it meant extra time with the Buffs.
"I don't remember when I found out about getting a second year, but it was a thrill. The whole COVID season was just a mess so to know there's some normality was kind of a relief."
With the season shifted to 2021 and the addition of a COVID year, the Buffs have now been able to witness her ability for two seasons. Hopcroft has started 29-of-31 matches for CU, totaling eight goals and 26 points. She currently leads the Pac-12 with eight assists this season and is tied for third in CU's single-season assists.
This weekend's matches against Oregon (Thursday) and Oregon State (Sunday) are the two final regular-season home matches for the Buffs. That means it could possibly be the final chance for CU's four departing seniors, Gabbi Chapa, Sofia Weiner, Haileigh Adams and Hopcroft, to play in front of the Buff Nation.
"I try not to think about it too much because I think I'm going to get sad. There's this quote that I read not too long ago. "Don't be sad it's ending, be happy that it happened.' I just try to think that way."
Thursday's (3 p.m. MT) match is the team's annual Pink Game. The team will wear pink warmup shirts and accessories.
Sunday's match (Noon MT) will be on the Pac-12 Network. The team will host its Kick-or-Treat, encouraging young fans to come dressed up in costume and trick-or-treat at different stations.