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Marc Narducci: Star on field, scholar off it

Schalick's Rachel Copare has won National Soccer Coaches honors.

Rachel Copare has ended a remarkable family tradition of excellence in soccer and academics in grand style.

A senior midfielder at Schalick, Copare was named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America girls' high school scholar all-American team.

She will be honored at a luncheon Jan. 15 in Baltimore as part of the association's convention.

This story has a familiar ring to it. Rachel's sister Sara, now a registered nurse, won the same award in high school.

Soccer and academics have been the lifeblood of the Copare family. Rachel is the eighth and youngest member of her family. Six siblings have graduated from college. A seventh, Tim, is a sophomore at the Naval Academy, the fourth brother in the family to attend college there.

Seven of the eight played soccer, with the exception being Majorie, who was a field hockey player.

Their parents, Dr. Fiore Copare, who is an internist, and his wife Andrea, asked that the children go a little beyond the norm of being scholar-athletes.

"We always asked them and encouraged them to be a leader in some sort and participate in student council," Fiore Copare said.

Actually, the parents never asked their children about taking academics seriously. There was no give-and-take when that subject was broached. It was always understood that the same dedication in sports would have to be applied in the classroom.

"Growing up, it had to be all A's and B's, and getting C's wasn't an option," Rachel said.

It still isn't.

Rachel Copare kept her part of the deal quite nicely. She is ranked ninth in her class at Schalick, with a 4.0 grade-point average. Copare is on student council as vice president of her class. Among her senior-year courses are anatomy, Spanish 4, advanced-placement English, and advanced-placement psychology.

She was just as accomplished in soccer, totaling 18 goals and 14 assists as a senior and compiling 37 goals and 51 assists for her career.

Schalick coach Christine Roeschke nominated Copare for the award in October.

"She is a good student, a great kid, and great soccer player," Roeschke said. "Pretty much the complete package."

Copare was one of just 38 players to be named a scholar all-American.

"It feels great to win this award," she said.

She is planning to play soccer in college. She has yet to make a decision, although she is considering Stockton. She hopes to be a speech pathologist.

"My dad and my sister are in the medical field, and that is a big thing around here," she said. "Speech pathology is really cool: You learn sign language and help people communicate."

As the youngest in her family, Rachel is ending a long tradition of excellence at Schalick. Opposing coaches likely won't mind not having to compete against any more Copares. As she prepares for college, it is a wistful time for the family.

Her father estimates that he has been going to 17 straight years of high school soccer games at Schalick. That doesn't include all the club tournaments, traveling everywhere from Texas to Florida and many places in between.

The parents will miss it and so will Rachel.

"I can't think of a time I wasn't at a soccer game or wasn't playing," she said. "Playing at Schalick was great because we are all friends and were a close-knit team."

And her latest award will be one final remembrance of a high school career that will be known for its excellence on and off the field.

Her parents gave Rachel and her brothers and sisters the proper foundation. The children all ran with the ball to heights that few families have enjoyed.