Lexi Kopf: Fraternally Grateful

Xiao Dai/New University

UC Irvine’s women’s soccer team is known for its culture, which Head Coach Scott Juniper has often raved about. They push each other in practice, they celebrate each other’s successes, and they win and lose as a team. They’re a family.

No better representation of the team’s family atmosphere is the relationship two teammates share on Juniper’s team. Lexi and Jordan Kopf are fraternal twin sisters born one day apart. Jordan came first on Aug. 12, 1990 and Lexi was delivered on Aug. 13. Lexi is a blonde, 5 feet 8 inches tall, and a bio major who aspires to be a surgeon; while Jordan is a 5-foot-4-inch public health science major with dirty-blonde hair.
“They’re very close, but they’ve got very unique personalities.
Jordan is without a doubt the funniest player on the team,” Juniper said. “She’s very sharp and sharp-witted.”
Jordan often pokes fun of Lexi’s forgetfulness and frequently has teammates rolling at Lexi’s expense.
And as for Lexi, “She’s a big favorite of mine,” Juniper said. “You’re not supposed to have favorites as a coach, but just her work rate and the way she trains hard every day. She’s an overachiever and she wants to be good at everything.”
At age 4, their mother signed them up for the American Youth Soccer Organization. They grew up playing soccer, studying, snowboarding and wakeboarding together. They starred on Sonora High School’s soccer team — Lexi as a forward, Jordan as a midfielder. Lexi holds Sonora’s school record with 128 career goals and was a four-time All-Valley Oak League selection. Jordan received one All-Valley Oak League selection. Both contributed to two league championships and three CIF section championship teams.
The transition from high school to college is a difficult decision for any set of twins, yet Juniper provided the sisters an opportunity to stick together at UCI. With an excellent undergraduate medicine program, Lexi and Jordan have flourished in the classroom and both aspire to be doctors.
But a learning experience took place with their initiation to college. Lexi began to distinguish herself on the soccer field, while Jordan struggled to find playing time. In their first three seasons at UCI, Jordan played in seven games, starting one, while Lexi played in 59 games, starting 32.
Lexi has started all 13 games this season, while Jordan has appeared in two contests. Jordan has so often watched Lexi from the sidelines, but it was Lexi who had to learn patience last season while taking a backseat to the Big West Offensive Player of the Year, Tanya Taylor. Taylor scored 12 goals, the most in 12 seasons for the Anteaters, while Lexi made six of her own.
With seven goals in her first 13 games, Kopf has blossomed since Taylor’s graduation.
“[Lexi] is not in the shadow of Tanya Taylor this year,” Juniper said. “So it could have gone either way, you know, she could’ve shrunk away from the spotlight or she could have embraced it.”
“I figured out how I fit in best with [Taylor’s] style of play to help better the team rather than go off on my own [last season],” Lexi added. “Not that I didn’t love playing with Tanya, but it’s kind of nice that I can play a little bit differently
and be a little more offensive.”
Jordan has also seen a transformation in her sister.
“Watching Lex play today is very different from when we arrived here four years ago,” she said. “She has always been super fast, but now she has channeled her speed and soccer skills in a way that makes her a challenge for any opponent to stop or handle. It’s fun to see her sprint past everybody. I know I wouldn’t want her chasing at me with a ball.”
As their graduation date nears, Lexi and Jordan are contemplating their futures. Uncertain of their impending living situations, location of graduate schools, and Lexi’s potential for a professional soccer contract, they’re living out their remaining days as Anteaters and as roommates in an apartment in Newport Beach. Despite their disparity in terms of playing time, they have the same social circle and both continue to work diligently on the soccer field and in the classroom.
Juniper explains that “any professional soccer team on the planet would be lucky to have [Lexi].” And what he truly appreciates is that “as soon as she’s off the field, she’s got her backpack on and she’s across campus busting her tail in the library and tearing it up in the classroom. She’s been a pleasure to coach.”
When Lexi and Jordan aren’t waking up for 7 a.m. practices and studying for exams, the two of them volunteer at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County on the oncology floor.
“It’s hard seeing kids with cancer,” Lexi said. “We go in and talk to them about school and sports and everything else in their lives other than what they’re going through. It really puts things in perspective when those kids would give anything to be outside running around.”
Taylor was drafted as a fourth round pick by the Boston Breakers in January. Once Lexi’s college career is over, she may be faced with the decision of playing professionally or going straight to med school. Jordan, on the other hand, Lexi explains, would like to take a year off before med school.
“Whatever profession [Lexi] goes into I think she’ll be fantastic,” Juniper said, “but if she continues the way she’s playing, she’s going to put that on hold, because she’ll have an opportunity to play […] Whatever she does, she’s going to be great. Would I trust her as my doctor? I’ve got to say yes.”
Lexi has scored 15 goals in her college career, but one stands out to her. It came on Oct. 3, 2010. With UCI up 5-0 against the UC Davis Aggies, the game was well out of reach. In trotted No. 5, a substitution for the Anteaters — it was Jordan Kopf. In her only appearance of the 2010 season, Jordan took a cross shortly after entering the game and had a good touch. As Lexi looked on wearing No. 9, her teammates held their breath. Jordan knocked the shot into the bottom corner of the goal and UCI’s sideline erupted. To this day, it remains her only college goal. She took one shot in 2010 and she made it count.
As Lexi reflected on her sister’s triumphant moment, she started to tear up.
“I was probably happier than I was after any of the goals I’ve scored all of my career,” Lexi said of Jordan’s goal. “I mean seeing the look on her face and our whole team just like jumped off the bench and really got behind the moment. It was like a game-winner of a national championship. It was a really cool moment and made me really proud.”
In a season that featured the program’s first Sweet 16 performance in team history, a late two-goal comeback in the closing minutes against Arizona State and a number of accolades, Juniper couldn’t help but rank it among the top moments of 2010.
“It was easily in the top five moments of [2010],” he said. “That single moment defined what we’re all about. We were firing it up at that point and she goes on and scores the goal and I think the reaction of the team in that moment really showed what the team thinks of her. Jordan embodies everything about our mentality. Regardless of playing time, regardless of awards, you go out and put your best competitive effort every day and she does that in an incredible way. I know Lexi’s very proud of her, her family is proud of her and she’s highly thought of.”
Brushing off her score, Jordan showed her comedic and selfless nature that Lexi and her teammates have come to covet.
“I get just as excited when she scores,” Jordan said of her younger sister. “Unless she scores more than two goals, because then it’s just repetitive.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me if they end up working in the same hospitals someday,” Juniper said. “They’re both very charming young women and together they’re just great.”