Girls soccer: Schaumburg Christian glad to be fully back
The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc with numerous sports at all levels be it high school, collegiate, or the professional ranks.
At Schaumburg Christian School it was no different as its girls soccer program, which had begun prior to the pandemic, was essentially wiped out as a result. Due to numbers issues, SCS had only competed in a handful of contests over the past two springs.
On Monday, an 18-member contingent wearing uniforms in the school colors of black and orange made the three-mile trek to their Olympic Park home pitch on Schaumburg's Eastside to begin their nine-game 2023 season versus Chicago Christian.
Despite the Conquerors dropping a 10-0 decision to the visiting Knights, it didn't take away from the feeling of a successful relaunch of a program that had lost more than just games played, but opportunities at making lasting memories that interscholastic athletic competition provides.
"It's exciting to have it fully back, to have it official," said Schaumburg Christian Athletic Director Kyle McVey, a 2008 Schaumburg Christian graduate, as the program will complete a full slate of league play in its home conference -- the Northeastern Athletic -- during the season.
"We've had a good group come out, too. It's nice to have a full squad, too," McVey said a prideful smile.
He also spoke of the hiring of Hopkins, a 22-year-old native of Bowmanville, Ontario, who just graduated from Trinity Christian College in December with a degree in physical education.
She had just completed an amazing playing career at TCC in which she was a nine-time All-American during her five seasons -- named five times by the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCAA) and four more times by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
"I recruited her hard to come here and take over the program and she was excited for the opportunity," McVey said. "(She) had a lot of experience playing the game, but also coaching back home (in Canada). It worked out well in terms of her finishing up in December and us needing someone to hop in January. That was one of my big focuses to get someone eager like that who would invest (their time) in the program and take it further."
In Hopkins, they brought in someone who actually got her coaching career started while still playing in high school as she grew up in a town of 40,000 located 50 miles east of Toronto.
"I've been coaching since I was 16. The club I played for let me get all my coaching licenses and it helped me to coach some sports camps with young kids, too," Hopkins said.
That second career got an unexpected boost for Hopkins when she tore an ACL in her knee during her senior season.
"I hadn't been able to play so I thought the next best option is (to) help other people to play when I (couldn't)," Hopkins said.
"It was a little roadblock in my playing journey, but it led me to have this opportunity of coaching. It was one bad thing that led to a blessing, so it's been a good turnaround."
As a part of consecutive NCCAA Final Four squads the last two falls at the Palos Heights school, Hopkins finished all-time in the Top Five in both goals scored (82) as well as games played (100),
She looks forward toward successfully sculpting a strong, competitive program.
In addition, she will be getting married in May adding to the whirlwind her life has taken the past year.
"It's been crazy," Hopkins said. "(I) grew a love for teaching and I wanted to bring not only teaching but coaching to these girls because soccer was such a big part of my life. I want to make sure that I can get these girls to have that love of soccer as well."
That love is beginning to translate to her players like junior goalie Sarah Breede who had 19 Saves in the contest and sophomore forward Emily Tenuto who had a couple of scoring chances for the Conquerors.
"There were a couple of goals that I was upset about because I didn't pull up (and cut off their angles). My coach right now drives (and) pushes me to do that the next time which is how I got 19 saves," Breede said with a smile.
Tenuto, who wears her love of the game as a badge of honor on her team's orange jersey, spoke of her team's never-give-up attitude that took hold when three of Chicago Christian forward Katie Steinhagen's four goals helped put the contest away in the second half.
"I've been playing (soccer) since I was five years old. No matter what, win or lose, I put everything into it," Tenuto said. "Even though we were down, you still got to keep going because it's not about the winning, it's just about having fun. I just had a blast. It was super fun."
A level of fun that the Conquerors hope to maintain throughout the spring as they host Westmont Monday afternoon at Olympic in their next contest.