Sophomore Michelle Cooper announced that she would be forgoing her last two years of eligibility—the first Blue Devil soccer star to do so—to pursue her professional career. Yet, throughout her time at Duke, the Clarkston, Mich., native flourished and left her mark on the program—making her a top candidate for the USWNT.
With 19 goals, 1708 minutes played and a 50% shot-on-goal percentage this season, the forward has evinced her offensive power. This isn’t surprising, as Cooper finished her first year with 12 goals and 1309 minutes. The 2021 ACC Freshman of the Year and TopDrawerSoccer National Freshman of the Year had a strong start to her collegiate career.
The Blue Devils' season ended with a 2-3 overtime loss to Alabama in the NCAA tournament. Unknowingly then, that game was the forward’s last at the collegiate level. However, it was bittersweet, as both of Duke's goals were scored by Cooper. The sophomore scored twice in under four minutes, trying to salvage a win against the Crimson Tide. She made the Blue Devils an offensive superpower, and led the group despite her young age.
“She’s just worked so hard. Both in possession, out of possession. She has a stronger mentality than a lot of people have. And she wants to be great. She wants to succeed,” head coach Robbie Church told The Chronicle about Cooper. “I think she’s going to be somebody who’s going to continue to grow and get better and better as they go forward.”
A potential future top pick in the NWSL draft, Cooper started playing as a child in the American Youth Soccer Organization before moving to club teams. In high school, Cooper played on the IMG U-19 Girls Academy Team. As a senior and captain she racked up 14 goals in 10 matches. With 26 goals in 20 matches in her junior season with the IMG U-19 Development Academy Team, she was already an offensive powerhouse.
“I think I’m the biggest critic," Cooper told The Chronicle. "I will be very, very hard on myself. And I try not to let outside factors bother me. So trying to stay focused on positive things all the time, regardless of any accolade.”
Cooper left her mark as a threat to any opponent, and it is certain that she will continue being as compelling in her professional career.
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