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Duke women’s soccer star Michelle Cooper to leave Blue Devils, turn professional

After two prolific years at Duke, Michelle Cooper is turning professional.
After two prolific years at Duke, Michelle Cooper is turning professional.

All good things must come to an end, but in collegiate soccer, those things usually last four years. But when it comes to Michelle Cooper, that won’t be the case for Duke.

Superstar striker Cooper announced Monday evening that she will forgo her remaining college eligibility to enter the professional soccer ranks. A true sophomore, she had two more years remaining in college, but will become the first Blue Devil to leave school early for the pros. Should she enter the NWSL draft, she would likely be heavily favored as a top-two pick.

"After much thought and consideration, I have decided to pursue my soccer career professionally," said Cooper in her Instagram post Monday. "This was such a difficult decision, but one that was made with my heart and the people I love and trust dearly. I would like to thank my family for providing me with endless support in everything I do and my teammates who I can forever call my best friends. I would also like to thank my coaches here at Duke for giving me the opportunity to play for this amazing program and represent this phenomenal school. The experiences from these past two years will be ones that I will forever cherish.

"I am confident Duke women’s soccer will continue to grow and make great strides. I will forever be grateful to have been a part of this community which has helped me grow as a student, player and most importantly, as a person. I will FOREVER be a Blue Devil!"

Cooper burst onto the scene last season by scoring a goal and racking up six shots, three on goal, against preseason No. 13 Arkansas. She became the first Blue Devil freshman to score five goals in their first five games, won ACC Freshman of the Year and was a First Team All-American that year. 

This season, Cooper missed the first game of the season and was on limited minutes for her first few matches, but still finished second nationally in goals and points. That earned her Duke’s third-ever ACC Offensive Player of the Year award.

"The impact that Michelle Cooper has had on Duke Athletics has been exemplary," Duke head coach Robbie Church said in a team release Monday evening. "Her talent, work-ethic and humility represents the very best of women’s college soccer. She is undoubtably one of the greatest players to wear a Duke jersey, but more notably, she is one of the most exceptional young women to be a part of this program."

Cooper leaves Duke as arguably the greatest player in program history. She is the only Blue Devil to be a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist twice, and after leading the Power 5 in points and goals this season, stands a good chance of being Duke’s first MAC Hermann Trophy finalist. After only two seasons, she ranks sixth in Blue Devil history in goals, 10th in points and second in multi-goal games.

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