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  • Julian Brown, 13, becomes second ODP player to die from French bus crash.


    Nebraska mourns death of Jenna Cooper, 21.

    Jenna Cooper
    Defender Jenna Cooper led Nebraska in assists the last two seasons. In her three years, she started all but one of the Cornhuskers' 70 games, helping the school qualify for the NCAA tournament each year.
    -- University of Nebraska web site photo --
    By Gary Davidson

    LINCOLN, Neb. (Monday, April 26, 2004) -- Tragedy struck the American soccer world again when Jenna Cooper, the University of Nebraska co-captain and member of United States national teams, was killed by a gunshot yesterday.

    Cooper, 21, of Louisville, underwent surgery after being shot in the throat at a party Sunday morning around 2 a.m., but died that evening at 8:21 p.m. (ET) in the university hospital.

    "Jenna was a great, great person, teammate and player. It was an absolute pleasure to have her on the team and to know her as a friend and teammate," Nebraska coach John Walker told the school's athletic web site. "She had an unbelievable work ethic. She was kind and generous, well respected by her teammates. She was a selfless person who always wanted to the best for the team. She so desperately wanted to be a great captain and took her leadership role seriously. Everyone who had the opportunity to meet her, loved her. She was a wonderful, wonderful person. Any parent would be proud to have their daughter be like her."

    Police said the shooting occurred when two men got into an argument at Cooper's house in southeast Lincoln. The bullet from a .32-caliber handgun first struck Nolan Jenkins, 22, in the scalp, then hit Cooper.

    Jenkins was reported in fair condition Sunday night. Lucky Iromuanya, 22, of Lincoln was arrested on suspicion of first-degree assault, use of a weapon to commit a felony and carrying a concealed weapon. Lancaster County Attorney Gary Lacey will decide later this week whether to file additional charges, but Cooper's death is being treated as Lincoln's first homicide of 2004.

    According to police reports, shot glasses were stolen from Cooper's house and Iromuanya became angry when he was questioned.

    "Nolan and one other man and Lucky were exchanging some harsh words," police chief Tom Casady told the Lincoln Journal Star. "Lucky brandished this handgun, shot Nolan and, in the process, shot her."

    As a junior defender last fall, Cooper led the Cornhuskers with 14 assists to go along with her two goals, her 18 points one behind team leader Jesse Bruch. Cooper made the Big 12 first team after starting all 22 games in a 13-8-1 season.

    Cooper also led the Huskers with 10 assists in 2002 and had four goals and 25 assists, starting 69 of the school's 70 matches during her career. Nebraska went 46-19-5 (.693) and was invited to three NCAA tournaments in that period.

    "Jenna is the strongest girl I know," Nebraska goalkeeper Brooke Bredenberg said. "She is the most loving person I have ever met. Whatever she did, she always gave her all and never quit."

    The mechanical engineering major last played for the Huskers Friday night in a spring exhibition, assisting Nikki Baker's tying goal in the 64th minute in a 1-1 draw with Canada's under-19 women.

    The Saturday barbecue at Cooper's home, with between 20 and 30 in attendance, was to celebrate the end of the spring season, the Journal Star reported.

    "She was amazing, passionate and enthusiastic about life in everything she did," said Huskers defender Christy Harms. "She was the most determined person I know. Jenna was an unbelievable loving and hilarious person. She was my best friend and I am so lucky to have known her."

    Cooper joined the U.S. under-20 program in 2001 and was part of the under-21 pool in 2002-03 though she never appeared in an international match, according to the U.S. Soccer Federation.

    Cooper came to Nebraska after playing high school soccer for Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, where she earned all-state first-team honors in soccer and academics. Her Javanon Soccer Club teams won Kentucky State Cups in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2000.

    Cooper was known for her work at Lincoln-area elementary schools, promoting healthy lifestyles, as well as the Big Red summer soccer camps.

    "The University of Nebraska is a better place because Jenna Cooper made us a part of her life," NU athletic director Steve Pederson said. "Some young people come to campus and leave a mark that will never be forgotten. Jenna is one of those people."

    Yesterday, Julian Brown, 13, became the second youth soccer player to die from injuries suffered in a bus crash in France. On April 18, Matt Helms, 13, died, and three other young teens, including Brown, were critically injured when the bus carrying their North Carolina Olympic Development Program team crashed into a ditch in Paris. French officials said the bus was speeding 20 miles per hour over the speed limit on a rain-soaked road.

    On February 12, Nicole Megaloudis, 19, a Virginia Commonwealth freshman forward and stepdaughter of United States under-20 men's coach Thomas Rongen, died from injuries suffered in a one-car accident in Richmond, Va.

    Cooper is survived by her parents William and Elle, and one brother, Billy, 22. Services are pending. Her parents asked that memorials in her honor should be made in the form of donations to the Nebraska women's soccer program.

    Send to:
    Jenna Cooper Memorial
    University of Nebraska Foundation
    117 South Stadium
    Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0154

    Please make the notation: "For Nebraska Soccer" on your check.

    Gary Davidson is SoccerTimes' managing editor. E-mail Gary Davidson.

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