There was a time not too long ago when Haley Hoppe considered giving up soccer.
But after three ACL tears and two missed seasons, the Rouse senior still came back. The Lady Raiders made it to the state tournament for the first time in school history this year and Hoppe is off to play soccer at Northern Illinois University in the fall.
“At the end of the day, I just love playing,” Hoppe said. “I would point to God and my family that helped me come back. They were worried about my safety and how I would function as an older adult. I just wanted to play. I think everybody should have a thing and soccer is my thing.”
This was the first season she played at forward and as even recruited as a center back. But the transition was smooth as she picked up district MVP honors after leading Rouse with 35 goals despite being double marked in nearly every game.
Rouse scored 11 more goals than any other District 19-5A teams this season and Hoppe alone outscored four teams. The defense was also outstanding, allowing just four goals in district play and had a span of 11 games without allowing a goal.
First-year head coach Katie Kistner was quick to notice the outstanding defense and put Hoppe in a spot where she could succeed.
“She is attacking minded and can outrun and outhustle anybody,” Kistner said. “To get where she is now, she’s done a lot of that one her own to still be a Division I athlete after going through three ACL surgeries. That’s a testament to her own strength.”
Hoppe’s challenges weren’t just confined to the soccer field. With success came criticism, most notably on social media. She said there are some people that aren’t mentally strong enough to get over something like that, but she had nothing but support from her coaches and family.
“My parents have done a good job of making sure I’m not focused on what other people say or think about me,” Hoppe said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I’ll never understand people like that. I’m strong enough to ignore silly things people have to say.”
Hoppe is the only one of seven seniors officially playing soccer in college. Coming from a team that made it as far as Rouse did, all of them had the opportunity to play at the next level, but chose to focus on other things.
Seniors Charlotte Wilson and Abby Schraeder both had chances to play Division I soccer or go to smaller schools and immediately contribute. They both decided against it and will instead attend Texas State and be roommates.
“I guess I’m kind of burned out,” senior Charlotte Wilson said. “I’ve been playing for like 11 years with club and other stuff. I’m trying to do nursing school so it’d be a lot to juggle school and soccer. But I love soccer and I always will.”
All but one of the players on the team were named academic All-District, and all but one of the seniors qualified for academic All-State, which is cumulated over four years. The team average for varsity is 97 percent.
Kistner worked with the boys’ team for two years before taking over as the girls’ head coach and noticed that while the boys wanted an activity to warm up before practice, this group only wanted things that would make them better which, at times, included study hall.
“They want to be successful in life and have set plans,” Kistner said. “They took the skills they’ve learned in being successful in academics and transferred it over to the soccer field.”
There are a couple moments that stand out to Kistner including facing Cedar Park in district play getting back to the regional tournament, a goal the seniors set at the beginning of the year.
In her first year as a head coach, she made a lot of changes in the way the whole program from junior varsity on up. The team mentality changed from the beginning of the year and it’s become more about the team and less about the individual.
This season was a learning experience for everyone, including Kistner.
“With these girls being as intelligent as they are, you can’t just throw things together,” Kistner said. “Even if they don’t like team building activities at the beginning of the year because they were cheesy, it works. They’ve taught me a lot as a coach that you have to learn to get to know them before you can be successful.”