WOOSTER, Ohio — Consistency and versatility, a winning combination on the road to success.
Chelsea Copley — the 2015 River Valley High School Valedictorian — recently completed her softball career at The College of Wooster, an NCAA Division III school that competes in the North Coast Athletic Conference.
Copley appeared in 151 games for the Fighting Scots — one-shy of the program record —and helped the team to a 75-83 record in her tenure.
Chelsea — who never changed her major — graduated with a B.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders, while also earning her licensure in Early Childhood Education. A four-year letter-winner and two-year team captain, Copley had mixed emotions about her softball career coming to an end.
“It feels good to be done, but it’s kinda sad,” Copley said. “When you go through all of it, it’s kinda similar to high school, you want to keep going to the next thing. Now that all the dust has settled, it’s kinda hit me that it’s done. It was really fun, I’m glad I got to do it, and I’ll miss it a lot.”
After ending her high school softball career as an All-Ohioan, Chelsea’s college career began with a bang, as she hit a home run in her first at-bat. She went on to blast six more homers in her time with the Fighting Scots, four coming in her sophomore season. Those four dingers place her in a tie for fifth in program history, while her career total of seven puts her in a tie for sixth in the Wooster record book.
Copley — who also appears at seventh in the record book with 40 career walks — admitted that when she looks back at her career, it’s not the record book moments that come to mind, but rather the bond she built with her teammates.
“I just remember having fun,” Copley said. “On the field, we had a lot of fun things going on, but off the field, we just had so much fun all the time. On the field, I can think of several highlights, my top moments that stick out to me from softball, but when I think about college softball, I think about all the funny stuff we did off the field, or the funny moments we had at practice. It was about winning and losing games, that’s a big part of it, but looking back at college, it was so much more than just playing softball.
“Softball-wise, I hit a home run in my first college at-bat, I’ll never forget that. I hit a home run to beat our rival in the NCAC tournament my sophomore year, I’ll never forget that. We made it to the tournament twice, we had to sweep Ohio Wesleyan to get there my sophomore year. Those are probably the most intense games I played, but they were the most fun. There are definitely moments that stick out, but I can sit here and talk for an hour about funny things that happened off the field.”
As the only senior on the 2019 squad, Copley helped the Fighting Scots to a 26-13 record and its second NCAC tournament appearence in her career. The 26 victories are the most in team history, and featured a program-best 12-game winning-streak.
Copley primarily played as a defensive specialist in her senior year, recording 25 outs and assisting on three, without committing a single error. Her 28 total chances without an error was only matched by one other player on the team this spring.
With just 27 of her career 374 at-bats coming in her final season, Copley finished with a career batting average of .241, with 62 singles, 18 doubles and three triples. She stole 13 bases in her career, scored 45 runs and drove in 42.
In her sophomore season, Copley was named to the All-NCAC team as an honorable mention, posting a career-best .270 batting average with four homers. She started all-43 games as a right fielder in her sophomore campaign, tying four of her teammates for the most games played in a single season at Wooster.
Chelsea finished with a career fielding percentage of .950, and made starts at six different spots in the field — second base, third base, shortstop, and all-3 outfield positions.
Perhaps Copley’s versatility came from her high school days, when she was a three-sport athlete, earning all-district and all-conference honors in softball, basketball and volleyball.
Chelsea talked about the adjustment it took from being a three-sport athlete, to focusing on softball year-round, with a season in the fall and team workouts in the winter.
“I was still just as busy even though it was just one sport,” Copley said. “Playing three sports, I was busy in every season, I went from one sport, to the next, to the next. College was different because it was only softball, but it’s softball year-round instead of being softball of for just one season. I thought it would kinda be easier, it definitely wasn’t, but it was kinda nice, because softball was my favorite.”
Copley’s ability to adapt was put to test with coaching changes throughout her career, and she credits the bond from the teammates as something that helped the transition between leaders.
“I came in, I was recruited by someone, she was there for the fall season and she ended up leaving for personal reasons after that, and then I had an interim head coach,” Copley said. “While I was there I had four assistant coaches, a new one every year, and then I had three head coaches, the one who recruited me, the interim, and then Coach (Victoria) Rumph, who I had at the end.
“Everyone coaches differently, leads differently, and has different rules. The way practices were ran and things like that definitely changed, and I think the culture even changed a little bit over the years, but that bond that you have with your teammates kinda stays the same.”
Copley’s versatility also had to come in handy when dealing with the roster changes that occurred in her tenure.
“I would say I played with around 40 teammates,” Copley said. “Going in, I was the younger one and I got to know everyone else, and then after that, there was always a new group coming in. There was always an adjustment period when you meet people, kind of that awkward week where you get to know each other, but after that it was like you’ve known them your whole life. You were with your teammates from sun-up to sun-down, so the relationships that you form with people in college were a lot different. I learned more about people in college in a week, than I know about people I went to high school with for four years.”
Copley earned her way onto the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American Scholar Athlete list twice, requiring a 3.5 grade-point average-or-better. Chelsea made the Dean’s List in her final semester, meeting the required 3.65 GPA.
While playing competitive softball may be behind her, Chelsea still umpires games and could even see herself coaching in the future. But first, Copley will attend graduate school at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, with plans to become a Speech Language Pathologist.
“My dream job is to work in a school setting as an S.L.P., but I’m definitely open to the hospital setting or a specialized center when I first start out,” Copley said. “School has always been my dream, that’s why I did teaching and speech, to work with kids. I can definitely see when I settle down and get a job, maybe one of these days, coaching like my dad did. My dad coached for a lot of years, and I would definitely consider doing that later on, but for right now, I have to finish school.”
Chelsea is the daughter of John and Michelle Copley of Bidwell, Ohio.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.