Things are not going too well for the Stony Brook men’s soccer team right now. The Seawolves have dropped each of their last five matches; they are currently 3-6 overall and 1-3 in conference play. However, that is no fault of goalkeeper Curtis Copenhaver, who may very well be one of the team’s most valuable players in 2022.
The Seawolves could have found themselves in deep trouble after starting goalkeeper Edmond Kaiser went down with an injury following the season opener. Instead, Copenhaver filled in valiantly for Kaiser and performed at one of the highest levels amongst the goalies in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
With Kaiser now back in the lineup — he returned against Northeastern on Sept. 24 — it is possible that Copenhaver has made his last start of the season. However, Copenhaver has taken full advantage of his minutes, as he leads the CAA in saves per game with 4.0 and is currently third in saves with 28.
Though he’s been making it look easy, Copenhaver has endured a long grind to get to where he is now.
Copenhaver is a Long Island native from Center Moriches, N.Y. He was drawn to sports at a young age. Other than soccer, Copenhaver also played basketball, lacrosse, volleyball, football and baseball growing up. However, soccer was always his favorite sport.
“I always wanted to try everything, and try to be good at something,” Copenhaver said in an interview with The Statesman. “[Soccer] made me happy, so that’s why I stuck with it.”
Copenhaver played forward at a young age but switched to goalkeeper shortly before middle school due to being the tallest player on his team. As it turns out, the change was beneficial for his future in soccer.
“I just stuck with it,” Copenhaver said. “I ended up just taking off from there and getting really involved with the sport.”
Copenhaver attended Center Moriches High School, where he played all four years on the varsity soccer team. Much like in college, it was a grind to earn his starting spot at goalkeeper. He was a backup during his freshman year behind a close friend of his and was forced to sit out his entire sophomore season due to problems off the field.
“I had a little controversy with missing some showcases and I missed some practices and ended up sitting out for the year,” Copenhaver said. “But I dealt with it and came back stronger.”
He used his sophomore year in high school as a learning experience and ended up winning the starting goalkeeper spot in his junior year. It was this season that he led his team to an undefeated record and a state championship in 2017. He recorded 12 clean sheets in the net that season, which was the most in the program’s history.
“It was a great run,” Copenhaver said. “I honestly had the most fun I’ve had in my soccer career.”
Copenhaver was also a part of the baseball team at Center Moriches as an outfielder, adding two more state championships to his resume in 2018 and 2019.
Before graduating high school in 2019, Copenhaver set his sights on playing college soccer. He narrowed his options to two Long Island schools: Stony Brook and Hofstra University. Though he was impressed with Hofstra’s program, he decided to go with their Long Island rival and become a Seawolf.
“It was between here and Hofstra,” Copenhaver said. “I liked the culture around here. I felt at home.”
Though getting to play Division I soccer close to home may sound like a dream, Copenhaver would face more adversity to start his college career. He did not see the field in his freshman season while still adjusting to playing against bigger, stronger and faster athletes,
“My first season was kind of rough,” Copenhaver said. “I didn’t acclimate perfectly to it. I redshirted my freshman year and I took that as a growth experience.”
He finally found playing time in the 2020-21 season but struggled in his three games played. Copenhaver surrendered seven goals that year, posting just a .533 save percentage. Copenhaver then took a step back in his junior year, riding the bench for the entire regular season. The only action he saw was during a shootout in Stony Brook’s lone playoff game against UMBC. The Retrievers converted on all eight penalty kicks against him to eliminate the Seawolves from the tournament.
Copenhaver did not let himself get discouraged by his lack of playing time. He said that he was no stranger to struggles or conflict and that he continued to believe in himself as a player even while he was sitting.
“In my career here, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs — real mental battles,” Copenhaver said. ”You have to always push through and trust in yourself. Trust in the system. Fortunately, my time came this year and I’m making the most of it right now.”
Copenhaver was still a backup to start this season but finally proved himself worthy in Kaiser’s absence. He was quick to display the talent he had all along, posting four saves with only one goal allowed in a 4-1 Stony Brook win.
Copenhaver continued to prove that he is fit for a starting role. In his next three games, he combined for 11 saves with only three goals allowed, leading Stony Brook to a 2-1 record in that span. He helped lead the team to an upset victory over Hofstra in their conference opener, holding them scoreless until the 89th minute. This hot streak was capped off with a seven-save performance against Elon, setting a new career high.
“I’ve been going out there and enjoying myself,” Copenhaver said. “I play my best when I’m enjoying myself.”
Despite the team starting 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the CAA, the Seawolves have lost five games in a row. They are behind the pack in the CAA standings, currently in eighth place in the conference. Regardless of this, Copenhaver is hopeful that his team will get the wheels spinning again soon.
“We’ve had a couple of tough losses,” Copenhaver said. “But we just have to turn it around and bring the momentum back.”
Kaiser finally returned to the starting lineup on Saturday against Northeastern, playing all 90 minutes in the Seawolves’ 1-0 defeat. If Kaiser’s return marks the end of Copenhaver’s meteoric rise, then it certainly was good while it lasted. However, it may be possible that there is a goalie controversy brewing for the Seawolves.
“We know we have a good group of goalkeepers,” head coach Ryan Anatol said in an interview with The Statesman after the Hofstra game. “I tell the guys all the time that they have to be ready for their opportunity and Curtis has done that. We’ll just continue to take it one day at a time.”
Off the field, Copenhaver is still involved with the game of soccer. When he’s not protecting the net for Stony Brook, he’s teaching younger goalkeepers how to do more of the same.
“I always want to stay with the sport and coach,” Copenhaver said. “If the opportunity to go pro is there, I would probably see it out and try it.”
However, this is not Copenhaver’s primary goal. Copenhaver is a business management undergraduate and is looking to get his master’s degree in finance. He said that he aspires to be a financial advisor and is currently building his resumé through an internship at Mutual Inc. in Farmingville, N.Y.
“The guys there are great,” Copenhaver said. “A lot of them are former athletes in college. They’ve really brought me up. I’m just trying to build that path into becoming a financial advisor.”
Whether or not Copenhaver returns to the field this year, he has certainly made a name for himself as a formidable Division I college goalie. Though his future playing time is uncertain, his presence has officially been felt.