“I think we’ll see big things from Shep.”
Boston Breakers head coach Lisa Cole had these words to say about her striker, Katie Schoepfer, back on May 26 after their match against Western New York Flash. She was right.
Schoepfer’s first professional soccer season was in the 2010 WPS season with the Sky Blue FC after graduating from Penn State. Before the 2011 WPS, Schoepfer signed a contract with the Boston Breakers and played in 18 games in the league’s final season, scoring twice.
In 2012, Schoepfer has become the Breakers’ star striker. In the first five games of the season, she had 8 goals (three were taken away when Boston was forced to forfeit their match against Western New York on May 26). With one game left in the season, she has started all 13 games, scoring 7 goals and earning 5 assists.
Schoepfer has always been able to finish chances, but she has exploded this season for Boston. Why now?
“Honestly, I paid my dues for the first two years,” Schoepfer explains. “I did ultimate practice player work, and I was there every day getting myself better, and this year I really committed myself in the offseason to doing fitness and getting myself into really good shape, work on my quickness and first touch.”
Lisa Cole agrees with Shep (as her coach and teammates call her).
“Shep’s always been a big finisher. That’s her unique quality. I think over the offseason, she put a lot of time into her fitness and to develop her game and other pieces of it. But when she gets in front of goal, I think she’s very dangerous and has always been that way.
“But there were other pieces, her fitness and mobility were not able to get her in those places in the league last year. And now she’s committed herself to doing that in the offseason.”
Like many players in WPSL Elite, Schoepfer has had to make the adjustment from WPS to WPSL Elite.
“I think you have some kids who are just younger who are just learning how to conduct themselves as professionals and how to play the game,” Schoepfer said. “It’s a huge difference when you play a season professionally versus when you haven’t gotten to that point yet. But still, you prepare the same way every single week, and it’s still the same kind of grind in the season. You hit your highs and lows. Preparation-wise it’s the exact same.”
In her last season in WPS, Schoepfer learned about that preparation from some top strikers in the game. In 2012, Schoepfer played with strikers Lauren Cheney of the US Women’s National Team and Kelly Smith, an England international who will lead Team Great Britian at this summer’s Olympics.
“It’s huge,” Schoepfer said of playing with Smith and Cheney. “You don’t really get an opportunity to play with world-class players like that all the time. So, forever I can say that I got to learn from the best. And it was huge for me last year to take a seat behind them and watch how they conduct themselves, and how they play, and how they practice, and how they get ready for things. I’m able to take bits and pieces from that, and add it to my game.”
Schoepfer has earned the respect of her coaches and teammates, and is now looked upon in pressure situations. The Breakers have been awarded 3 penalty kicks this season – Breakers’ captain Leslie Osborne has looked to Schopefer to take all three. She has converted each time.
“I know my job,” Schoepfer said. “I know that when I step up there I need to make it and the pressure is on me to do it, but I really wouldn’t want it any other way.”
She’s always been a goal-scorer, but she has now put in the work on her fitness, becoming the starting striker with Australian international Kyah Simon. Schoepfer is second on the team with points with 19, behind only Simon. Her coaches, captain and teammates have confidence in her. And like her coach said back in May, she has done big things for this team.
“I have a coach who believes in me and puts me on the field,” said Schoepfer. “It’s just a huge boost for me confidence-wise, and the players around me believe in me too, so it’s just huge for me.”
Boston will hope to see a few more big things from Shep as they begin the playoffs on Wednesday.
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