Northeast Times

Coyle in full bloom on Little Flower soccer field

Little Flower soc­cer star Ur­sula Coyle is the lead­er of a very young Sen­tinels squad. Des­pite the team’s in­ex­per­i­ence, Coyle and com­pany are right in the thick of the Cath­ol­ic League play­off race. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHO­TOS

— On a team full of youth, Ur­sula Coyle has had to keep Little Flower soc­cer afloat. She’s just done that.

If a phys­ic­al ail­ment should be­fall an op­pon­ent dur­ing a Little Flower soc­cer game, Ur­sula Coyle won’t be able to help. Not yet, at least.

A seni­or for­ward who was last year’s Cath­ol­ic League Most Valu­able Play­er at the an­nu­al North­east Sports Awards Ban­quet, Coyle plans to study nurs­ing when she gets to col­lege. In her moth­er’s fam­ily of 12 sib­lings, sev­en are nurses and one is a doc­tor.

“I guess it would be silly to sug­gest that nurs­ing was just some idea that came to me out of the blue,” said Coyle, who plans on spe­cial­iz­ing in an­es­thesi­ology. “There’s something very cool about be­ing in that field.”

Coyle was speak­ing after last Thursday’s 6-1 thrash­ing of Bon­ner-Pren­der­gast in which she scored three goals. Dur­ing a soc­cer game, Coyle ad­mits that a fu­ture in medi­cine doesn’t cross her mind. And that’s just fine, as there will be plenty of time for that after her numbered days as a high school ath­lete have come and gone. For now, her sole fo­cus is on fig­ur­ing out ways for Little Flower to score goals. 

And scor­ing goals is what she does best.

Through Monday, Coyle’s shots have touched twine 50 times dur­ing her four-year ca­reer. She tal­lied 13 last sea­son and, with a hand­ful of games re­main­ing in the 2012 reg­u­lar sea­son, already has matched that total to go along with 10 as­sists.

Al­though it’s ob­vi­ously the most im­port­ant, scor­ing is only one as­pect of Coyle’s over­all game that has helped Little Flower reach the play­offs in each of the past three years, in­clud­ing last sea­son’s trip to the fi­nals against league champ Arch­bish­op Wood.

“She has tre­mend­ous heart,” said Little Flower coach Markos Pit­taoulis. “She nev­er stops work­ing.”

Pit­taoulis, who dur­ing his 24-year ca­reer has led the Sen­tinels to 11 cham­pi­on­ship ap­pear­ances and Cath­ol­ic League titles in 1996 and ’98, con­siders Coyle one of his best-ever play­ers.

“It’s usu­ally hard to find a play­er with that much skill and that much heart, but Ur­sula has both,” he said. “In tight games or in foul situ­ations, we know who we want to have the ball. Ur­sula un­der­stands the game. She knows what to do.”

The afore­men­tioned Arch­bish­op Wood soc­cer squad un­der­stands that all too well. In the past two sea­sons, the Vik­ings have only trailed a Cath­ol­ic League foe twice. Both times, it was Little Flower, and both times, it was Coyle who scored the first goal of the game, once last year (in the cham­pi­on­ship) and again this year in a 4-1 loss to Wood on Sept. 27. 

Through Sunday, Little Flower’s over­all re­cord of 7-3 had in­cluded a 6-1 mark in the cut­throat Cath­ol­ic League. The Sen­tinels fully com­pre­hend who they need to get past in or­der to se­cure a third school title. The road won’t be kind, as Little Flower has Wood (11-1 over­all), Arch­bish­op Ry­an (12-0), St. Hubert (6-2 in league play) and Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic perched above them in the stand­ings. 

With a roster that in­cludes sev­en fresh­men (five of them starters) and only three oth­er seni­or starters (for­ward Brit­tany Kel­len­ber­ger, de­fend­er Nicole Barth and out­side mid­field­er Court­ney Burke), Little Flower is not ex­actly the most ex­per­i­enced team in the Cath­ol­ic League.

Pit­taoulis, a nat­ive of Greece, said that’s an­oth­er reas­on that he re­lies on Coyle.

“She leads by ex­ample,” he said. “They can learn by watch­ing her, the way she plays and the way she pre­pares her­self.”

Coyle was flattered when told of her coach’s glow­ing as­sess­ment.

“He’s so know­ledge­able and he al­ways brings new ideas be­cause of his ex­per­i­ence,” Coyle said. “He is very ex­cited about the game and he ex­plains things with a lot of pas­sion. He’s fun to play for.”

Little Flower has no defin­it­ive team cap­tains. However, Coyle does not take lightly the no­tion of be­ing con­sidered a team lead­er.

“There’s a lot of dis­cip­line with this game and I’m not talk­ing about be­ing mean or any­thing like that,” Coyle said. “Just how you go about prac­ti­cing and get­ting your­self bet­ter, and then play­ing a team game in­stead of be­ing an in­di­vidu­al.”

A mem­ber of Little Flower’s stu­dent gov­ern­ment, Coyle isn’t sure if she will play col­legi­ate soc­cer, but she is more than open to the pos­sib­il­ity. A play­er since she was about 5 years old, giv­ing up com­pet­it­ive soc­cer is dif­fi­cult for Coyle to ima­gine.

But she opts not to think about that right now. In­stead, she’s en­joy­ing help­ing Little Flower march to an­oth­er post-sea­son clash with the Cath­ol­ic League’s elite. The Sen­tinels may have a wealth of youth and in­ex­per­i­ence, but they also have Coyle, and that’s say­ing a lot.

“We’re play­ing well, and we are gain­ing con­fid­ence,” Coyle said. “The young­er play­ers are really good, and I think they have a very healthy mind­set about what it takes to win.” ••

You can reach at jknebels@gmail.com.

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