The Spring Season is underway for the Vanderbilt Commodores. They have competed in exhibitions at Memphis and Alabama and have hosted the Music City College Cup, where they defeated Lipscomb and MTSU to claim the Cup. But they have done it without their standout forward, Haley Hopkins.
Hopkins, the 2018 SEC Freshman of the Year (Third Team All America, SEC First Team, and SEC Freshman First Team) was called up to train with the U-23 USWNT this Spring. She has competed with the best in the nation, against former Commodore Simone Charley, and wants to use her experience to improve her individual and team game.
"It's not only an honor to represent our country, but to also represent Vanderbilt." @haleyyhopkins has been called up to the U-23 U.S Women's National Team Roster! #AnchorDown— Vanderbilt Soccer (@VandySoccer) March 20, 2019
Last year, Hopkins was an effective and efficient forward for the Commodores. She had 14 goals and seven assists, scoring once out of every five shots and put 47% of her shots on goal.
With the U-23 team, Hopkins played the 9 forward. She was center striker, which is not different from the position she played with Vanderbilt, but a different formation. With Vanderbilt, she played as one of two forwards up top.
She also competed in Portland against the Portland Thorns, the team that former two sport star and SEC Legend Simone Charley plays for. On playing against Charley, “I found myself watching her play individually and noticing how she’s changed as a player since she started playing pro.”
Like most of her USWNT teammates, 24 of the best college players in the US, Hopkins is in the middle of her Spring Semester. She doesn’t just excel on the pitch, Hopkins was on the 2017 SEC Academic Honor Roll, a challenging proposition at Vanderbilt. So balancing the academic workload with the demands of the USWNT training is tricky.
“The definitely kept us busy up at camp. We had trainings, scheduled meals, stretching, treatment, and recovery every day so finding time to do homework instead of nap or watch TV was very challenging. I was able to keep up and my teachers were all very accommodating!”
Hopkins has found the experience challenging in the best of ways, helping her both as an individual and as a forward for the Commodores.
“I was able to apply a lot of how we train at Vanderbilt to national team training. I also learned so much which hopefully I will be able to take back and apply it with how we practice at Vanderbilt. At camp, I paid certain attention to the other forwards and what made them good. Coming back to Vanderbilt, I really want to improve on being a more dynamic forward that is constantly moving.”
While the call up to the USWNT is an honor, Hopkins was not necessarily surprised. She said, “Darren had talked to me earlier on in Winter that it was a possibility that I would be called up to camp. It was exciting to think about but I was still very focused on practices and upcoming spring games.”
This is the kind of attitude Coach Darren Ambrose wants and appreciates. He said, “I think the experience Hayley will get will be invaluable in her development moving forwards. She knows she has lots to learn to become a better player and this is a great step in to that end.”
And Ambrose is proud of his program, as well, “I’m so proud to have two Vandy Soccer Alums on the same field in Simone (with The Thorns) and Hayley with the US U23s. I think it speaks volumes about the quality of the student athletes that are in and coming into our program and how they are improving during their careers with our staff.”