Koppenhafer commits to Rattlers

M-CHS girls soccer defender signs to play for Otero Junior College

Ellen Koppenhafer signs a national letter of intent Tuesday morning to play soccer this fall at Otero Junior College in La Junta inside of Montezuma-Cortez High School. Pictured back left, athletic director Jimmie Lankford, M-CHS girls soccer coach Nate Ross and principal Gordon Shepherd. Bottom, parents Thad and Katie Koppenhafer. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Ellen Koppenhafer signs a national letter of intent Tuesday morning to play soccer this fall at Otero Junior College in La Junta inside of Montezuma-Cortez High School. Pictured back left, athletic director Jimmie Lankford, M-CHS girls soccer coach Nate Ross and principal Gordon Shepherd. Bottom, parents Thad and Katie Koppenhafer.

Montezuma-Cortez High School girls soccer is sending another to college.

Senior defender Ellen Koppenhafer will play for the inaugural Otero Junior College Rattlers womens soccer team this fall. The relaxed, laid back feel of the school helped the easy going Koppenhafer in her decision.

“It’s kind of like a small town,” she said about La Junta. “When I was touring, everybody seemed really friendly and nice. At the junior college, every sport hangs out with each other. I kind of like that. I like how it’s small and friendly.”

The defensive specialist started being recruited last year by OJC coach Donny Ribaudo. Koppenhafer liked the chance to play defender or forward right away on a first-year team at the La Junta school.

“It’s like a fresh start for the school and for me,” she said. “I’ll be able to be a leader and actually play my first year. I’m really excited.”

Koppenhafer is in her fourth year playing for the Lady Panthers. Coach Nate Ross was the assistant coach for Koppenhafer’s first three years. Seven girls have gone on to play college soccer in Ross’ seven-year tenure at M-CHS, he said. Ross is pleased to send his first to college as the head coach.

“Ellen has always been extremely driven with her athletics and her academics as well,” he said. “It’s exciting to see somebody with the potential to go on and play a sport in college. That’s always what you want, to see a student or player you’ve had for four years complete their high school career, being able to go to college.”

Koppenhafer wants to major in business and marketing, and later transfer to a four-year school. She has also had thoughts of taking her game to the four-year school, too.

“I’ve thought about it,” Koppenhafer said. “I guess we’ll just see where it takes me.”

Ross is pleased with Koppenhafer’s decision to play for an upstart OJC soccer program.

“I’m super excited for Ellen. I think she’s an awesome kid and an awesome person,” said Ross, who played college soccer at CSU-Pueblo. “She’s going to thrive when she gets to college. Soccer is going to be something exciting for her. I’m happy for her.”

Ellen is the daughter of Thad and Katie Koppenhafer.

Reach Bobby Abplanalp at bobbya@cortezjournal.com.