SHA Soccer to Honor Fallen Valkyrie


Today Jenna Cooper’s retired soccer jersey hangs on the wall at Sacred Heart.

Ryan Gahm and Shelby Arnett

The Sacred Heart soccer team will take on Assumption in the annual Jenna Cooper Cleat Game at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday at Horton Field.  

Behind the rivalry game is a story close to Valkyrie hearts: the story of Jenna Cooper.

Cooper was a four-year varsity soccer stand-out at SHA.  Cooper graduated from SHA in 2001 and went on to pursue her soccer career at the University of Nebraska.

According to Sports Illustrated, on April 24, 2004 Cooper hosted an end of the season barbecue at a house she had rented with a teammate.  

Around midnight, two Lincoln, Neb. residents – Lucky Iromuanya and Aroun Phaisan – arrived at the party.  About 30 minutes later, Iromuanya got into an argument with another man and fired a shot that grazed the man, but hit Cooper.  The shot hit Cooper in the throat, becoming lodged into her lung.  Cooper passed away at 7:21 p.m. that following night.

Cooper’s Nebraska teammates honored their teammate before each game after her death.  During the National Anthem, they left a space in the line of players in memory of Cooper.  In addition to retiring her #3 jersey, the team also painted a small 3 painted in each corner of the University of Nebraska soccer field.

Along with the Huskers, the Valkyries retired Cooper’s #15 jersey and began honoring Cooper each game, a tradition they continue today.

“We always put a piece of tape around each of our pinkies for every game in remembrance of her,” said SHA captain Sarah Stodghill. “The purpose of the game is honoring her and remembering her not only as a soccer player, but as a Valkyrie as well.”

As the Valkyries take the field this Sunday, they will keep in mind the reason behind the game: to honor Cooper.

“We have an obligation to win because Cooper went to SHA and was a Valkyrie,” said Stodghill. “We always want to bring the trophy back to SHA for Jenna.”