COPENHAGEN — With a rich and storied tradition in soccer, Copenhagen has nearly always fielded teams that have included siblings.
This has been true for both the girls and boys soccer programs over the years, with the small-town and mostly farming community taking pride in their own driving these teams to success.
Such is the case with this year’s girls soccer team, which includes three sets of sisters on the squad, from the Smykla, Dalrymple and Fitzpatrick families.
“We’re really close, we feel like we’re all related,” Aubree Smykla said. “That’s how we feel as a team, we’re all family.”
This Golden Knights team has forged an unbeaten campaign thus far at 14-0-2 as the postseason approaches, including a 14-0-1 record in the Frontier League.
Copenhagen, which has already clinched the league’s “D” Division title in the regular season, has six siblings in total on the squad from these three families.
Junior Brooke Smykla plays at forward, while freshman Aubree Smykla plays in the midfield.
Senior Riley Dalrymple also plays in the midfield, as does sophomore Raegan Dalrymple.
Finally, junior Meaghen Fitzpatrick helps anchor the defense, along side freshman Alyssa Fitzpatrick.
“It’s pretty cool, we push each other,” Alyssa Fitzpatrick said. “Sometimes we all don’t get along, but it just makes us push each other and try and do better.”
Fielding a combination of sisters on the soccer pitch among smaller schools.
“I think it’s a family kind of thing on the team overall,” said Copenhagen coach Charity Smykla, who is also Brooke and Aubree’s mom. “Like if things aren’t happening right or moving like they should, they hold one another accountable on the field. With certain teams, there’s a comfort zone with who can kind of take command out on the field and we have six of them out there who feel that they can.”
This has added to the team’s camaraderie and bonds forged on and off the field.
“Definitely, it keeps us all on our toes,” Riley Dalrymple said. “Sometimes we get annoyed with each other, but five seconds later, we’ll be hugging each other or pushing each other around, making each other work.”
“It’s a lot easier to work as a unit because you know them and you push them a little bit harder than anyone else on the team,” Brooke Smykla said.
Four of these players, the Smyklas and Dalrymples — comprise four of the Golden Knights’ top five scorers this season.
In fact, heading into Wednesday’s play Brooke Smykla leads all of the Frontier League in goals scored (29) and assists (15), as well as points (73) — also ranking among the leaders in all of Section 3.
In addition, Raegan Dalrymple (10 goals-6 assists-26 points) ranks third in team scoring, with Riley Dalrymple (6-4-16) and Aubree Smykla (2-12-16) rounding out the top five.
Also, junior Allison Best (15-7-37) ranks second on the team in scoring as well as seventh in the league, and senior Morgan Smith has generated double digits in points with 13, including four goals and five assists.
The six sisters all start for the Golden Knights, with Brooke Smykla at forward and Aubree Smykla at central-midfielder, many times feeding her older sibling the ball.
“Every year, I just keep scoring more,” Brooke Smykla said. “But I definitely could not have done that without my centerbacks and the team.”
Fittingly, the Dalrymple’s help anchor the midfield, with Raegan in the middle and Riley a center-defensive midfielder.
“We’re all close,” Raegan Dalrymple said. “We have a special relationship between all of us.”
While Copenhagen’s offense has generated 62 goals in 16 games this season, its defense has yielded only nine goals — posting eight shutouts in the process.
Defensively, Meaghen Fitzpatrick plays center back, with her younger sister as a wing back.
“It’s more than just like family, the whole team is like a sisterhood,” said Meaghen Fitzpatrick, who has played varsity soccer since the eighth grade.
By going unbeaten in league play, the Golden Knights claimed their first “D” Division regular-season crown since 2014.
“It’s just great to be a part of this team,” Riley Dalrymple said. “It definitely makes us all work harder to try and live up to those kind of expectations. We always work hard in practice and on the field.”
This included a 1-1 draw and 4-2 win over division runner-up Belleville Henderson within a span of a week in late September.
“It’s definitely tough physically,” Brooke Smykla said. “Everyone definitely gives us a run for our money and we do, too.”
Last year, Copenhagen ousted top-seeded LaFargeville, 1-0, to win the league’s division playoff title.
But this season, because of division realignment, there are no playoffs in the “D” Division.
“I think this team is a team that coming up, we always said it’s a team that has a lot of possibilities because they work so hard,” said Charity Smykla, whose team this season has generated the most wins since Copenhagen won its third state title in 2015 with 17 wins. “Their drive is kind of unmatched with other teams. ... Soccer is kind of like their religion, it’s part of their job at school and they take a lot of pride in it.”
The Golden Knights, who are currently ranked No. 3 in the state in Class D, now await sectional play.
“It’s pretty awesome,” said Riley Dalrymple, also a standout wrestler at Copenhagen who hopes to wrestle in college. “I’m a senior this year, so next year I won’t be playing with my sister. But it’s nice to spend some of my last games with her and my other teammates as well.”
“We’re a confident team, but we’re not an overconfident team,” Aubree Smykla said. “We’re not cocky, we’re humble, but we know how to get around the field and play.”
Awarded a home Section 3 playoff game last year, Copenhagen defeated Madison, 1-0 in the first round in Class D, before it was edged by Cincinnatus, 1-0, in a quarterfinal.
“Copenhagen definitely has a legacy and we’re trying to keep that legacy going,” added Brooke Smykla, who was a ball girl for the 2015 varsity girls team.
The Golden Knights also won state titles in Class D in 1988 and in 1993, when their current coach was Charity Carroll, and her sister Kim played on the 1988 team.