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'I just couldn’t believe it': WSU goalie Nadia Cooper shining despite personal loss this season

Cooper was named the Pac-12's Goalie of the Year and Freshman of the Year on Friday. Her success is even more astounding due to the grief she's been processing.

PULLMAN, Wash. — WSU's Nadia Cooper was named both the Pac-12 Goalie of the Year and Freshman of the Year on Friday, and, in a way, she laughed her way to both honors.

"I think it’s very funny seeing people struggle and get mad at their own teammates for something that they didn’t really do, it’s more, like, my fault. It’s not really that funny, but I think it’s funny," said Nadia with a chuckle of her own.

Cooper took over for the Cougs in goal five games into the season and never left. She’s only allowed eight goals this year, which is the third-best mark in the NCAA. 

“I hate attention. I literally hate when people are like, ‘Good job, Nadia.’ I don’t know what to do with it, so I kind of just give a thumbs up and call it a day,” said the goalie.

Credit: WSU Athletics

Obviously the attention has come anyways, no matter her aversion to it, and Nadia says her teammates have helped her adjust to her new normal.

“They helped me calm down and realize that I earned this spot, and I earned everything I worked for, so just own it,” said Nadia

Nadia's squad has helped her on the field, but their biggest contribution has easily been off of it.

“My team doesn’t let me bundle in all the feelings ever since I told them. They would ask me questions, make me talk, they wouldn’t let me stay quiet,” said Nadia.

September of 2021 was supposed to be an exciting time for Nadia. She was beginning her freshman year at WSU and had her first start for the Cougs on September 12th. However, it also began one of the most difficult experiences of her life.

“It’s just really hard to think that it’s really happening. Like, it happens to other families, but not mine,” recalled Nadia.

Caroline Cooper, Nadia's mother, contracted COVID-19 and pneumonia this past September and was put into the hospital. 

Credit: Nadia Cooper

She beat both illnesses, but her lungs were ravaged and things began to deteriorate once again. She suffered multiple heart attacks and eventually had to be placed in a medically induced coma.

“Me and my dad just were texting at the time when she flatlined again and had another heart attack. He was just telling us that she just needs to go. It’s hurting her more than it’s hurting us right now,” paused Nadia as she began to tear up. “He just said that it’s her time. She fought hard, and it’s just easier for everyone if it just stopped. I just couldn’t believe it, and I still don’t believe that my mom is gone."

Thankfully, Nadia was able to fly home and talk to her mom, even if Caroline was unconscious, right before Nadia had that conversation with her father.

“The second I flew back she kind of gave up. The way I like to think about it was she was waiting to hear my voice, and then she wanted to let go,” Nadia said.

Cooper’s mother officially passed away on October 12th. Due to her condition, she never really got to watch Nadia succeed at the collegiate level.

“She probably wouldn’t have any words. She’d probably be crying like I am,” said Nadia of what her mom’s reaction would’ve been if she had gotten to watch this season. “She’d give me a hug and a kiss.”

Nadia says she still feels her mother’s presence from time to time, and that she has definitely felt it out on the field.

“My little sister’s god mother got us all bracelets. It has wings on it, and it says mom and has a quote in it. I usually wear it during games. I know you’re not supposed to, but I wear it under my gloves. There are some games that I haven’t worn it, and I did not play well, so I just feel a superstition, like I have to wear it now,” said Nadia.

Credit: Nadia Cooper

Nadia, understandably, is still wearing the loss of her mother, but Nadia plans on honoring that loss with wins, which would not only benefit herself, but also the five other daughters and husband Caroline left behind.

Credit: Nadia Cooper

“Mama, I made it,” said Nadia through tears when asked what she would say to her mom right now. “I’m going to make it for the whole family and for you.”

WSU soccer takes on Montana in Pullman in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at 5 PM.


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