Cooper Gave NU Soccer Team Her All

By Lincoln Journal Star
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

BY JOHN MABRY/Lincoln Journal Star

Rafael Arauz remembered the sweetness Jenna Cooper brought to his soccer program, the way she looked out for the younger players and always put the team first.

But what really stands out in Arauz's mind is Cooper's toughness.

Cooper, who died of a gunshot wound Sunday, played high school soccer for Arauz at Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, Ky.

Arauz recalled a practice in which Cooper was hit hard in the arm by the ball. She kept playing, not mentioning the pain to Arauz until after the practice.

It turned out the arm was broken.

Arauz asked Cooper why she didn't say something sooner.

"She said, 'I just wanted to finish practice,'" he said.

Cooper, a defender who was switched to forward this spring, was a major contributor to the Husker program from day one.

She started 69 of 70 career games at NU and was selected as a team captain as a junior in 2003.

She was an All-Big 12 first-team selection last fall after leading the Huskers in assists with 14.

Cooper, who displayed amazing accuracy with her free kicks, scored the game-winning goal in NU's 2-1 victory over Washington in the first round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament.

Cooper had the key assist in Nebraska's 1-1 tie with the Canadian under-19 national team Friday night at the Abbott Sports Complex.

But she will be remembered by her teammates for much more than statistics.

"She was the most determined person I know," said senior Christy Harms. "Jenna was an unbelievably loving and hilarious person.

"She was my best friend, and I am so lucky to have known her."

Junior Brooke Bredenberg described Cooper as "the most loving person Ihave ever met."

Athletic director Steve Pederson issued the following statement:

"Some young people come to campus and leave a mark that will never be forgotten. Jenna is one of those people. We thank her parents (Ellen and William) for sharing their treasure with us."

Cooper, who was majoring in mechanical engineering, was known for her love of auto racing. She wore No. 3 as a tribute to the late Dale Earnhardt.

News of her death at age 21 hit hard in Louisville. Arauz, who also coached Cooper's older brother, Billy, in club soccer, struggled to understand what had happened to his standout at Sacred Heart.

"Just a good kid. It is a shock for me. The kid is just starting to live," Arauz said. "It's a terrible, horrible loss.

"I hope that she is at peace now and the good Lord will take care of her."

Reach John Mabry at 473-7320 or jmabry@;journalstar.com.

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