Hoppe jumps into game-changing role for Rouse squad on postseason run

Rouse forward Haley Hoppe has scored 33 goals in her senior season of high school soccer, but one stands out above the rest.

It came on Jan. 20 during the second half of a District 19-5A match against rival Cedar Park.

With the game scoreless, Hoppe directed a seemingly harmless bouncing ball away from the goal, near the top of the penalty area. After beating two defenders back to it, she turned and took a shot with her first touch that blasted into the net.

Hoppe thought it was from 25 yards out. First-year Rouse coach Katie Kistner described it as being closer to 30.

“It was a banger,” Kistner said. “It was amazing.”

That Hoppe would even be in position to score such a goal might be the most amazing part of it all. Three knee injuries — two ACL tears in her right knee, one in her left — threatened to derail her career, and an unlikely position change turned out better than even Kistner could have imagined.

“I feel stronger than I’ve ever felt,” Hoppe said. “I passed the point of where I used to be, and I wouldn’t have been able to have the perseverance to do that if it wasn’t for that last ACL tear.”

The goals have flowed for Hoppe during a dream season that has Rouse sitting at 19-1-4 heading into the Class 5A, Region III girls tournament in Humble. The Raiders — 5-11-5 last season — undoubtedly benefited from a move down from Class 6A during the University Interscholastic League’s biennial realignment, but they’ve also bonded under Kistner, a former goalkeeper for Texas Lutheran.

Then there’s Hoppe.

Before this season, She hadn’t played forward since middle school. She signed with Northern Illinois in December, as a center back. Her position switch happened during the preseason, when Kistner noticed Hoppe was one of her most attacking-minded players.

“She then told me she was a defender. I didn’t really know that coming into the season,” Kistner said. “I just was looking at how my players played and then assessing them and seeing where I thought they had potential. I saw her have a lot of potential as a forward and as an attacker, so I went with that.”

Hoppe’s first two ACL tears — both in her right knee — required seven months of rehab each. The second caused her to miss her freshman season. When she injured her left knee in the fall of 2015, she thought her playing career might be finished.

“For a long time, I was considering not even playing anymore just because of what could possibly happen and the future with arthritis and things like that,” she said. “But I just prayed about it and realized I couldn’t imagine not playing college soccer.”

She resolved to take her time with her latest rehab. From her surgery in November 2015 until the following August, she eschewed appearances at recruiting showcases to build up strength in her left knee. Her junior season came and went, but the decision paid off.

By January, Hoppe had signed with Northern Illinois and was playing with enough confidence for Kistner to place her in front of goal. She scored twice in the season opener against Stony Point on Jan. 3 and kept scoring in every match until a 2-1 victory over East View on Feb. 14.

That remains her only game this season without a goal, although she recorded an assist. In the postseason, she has notched a hat trick in the first round against Willis, scored once in a 3-0 victory against A&M Consolidated and tallied twice in a 3-0 victory over Hutto on Tuesday.

Sophomore teammate Abby Forster, a defender who also has recovered from a torn ACL, said Hoppe is an “inspiration.”

“Usually you don’t see people come back from that,” Forster said. “It gives me hope.”

For opponents, seeing Hoppe bearing down on goal brings a feeling closer to despair. If only they knew she was a converted center back who has overcome three knee injuries.

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