— 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.” ••