By Doug mckenzie Staff Writer JERRY WOLKOWITZ St. John Vianney’s Tami Coyle takes the ball from Holy Cross’ Kimberly Wurzburg during a state tournament game last month. When St. John Vianney’s first-year girls soccer Coach Mike Alosco first met Tami Coyle, he was immediately impressed. Coyle, a senior who carried the reputation of being one of the best two-sport athletes in the state, approached Alosco as one of the team’s captains and told him that she expected the team to have a big year. After seeing her play for himself, Alosco believed her immediately. “Tami was the first player to come to me to organize a captains’ practice,” Alosco said. “Her fabulous leadership skills were evident to me from the very beginning. She had the girls working hard over the summer, and they were all very into it. She’s an extremely hard worker who leads by example, and that certainly rubs off on her teammates. “For me, as a first-year coach, having Tami Coyle on my team was obviously a tremendous asset,” Alosco said. JACKIE POLLACK St. John Vianney’s Tami Coyle drives to the hoop during a game against Red Bank Catholic last year. It’s the combination of an excellent work ethic and her impressive athletic ability that makes Coyle more than just a great athlete. She has that certain something that separates her from other premier athletes who lead their teams during their respective seasons. Beyond her staggering statistics and the stats piled up by those she plays with is the one thing that will make Tami Coyle a legend at the Holmdel school for many years to come — Tami Coyle is a winner. When the St. John Vianney girls soccer team upset Immaculate Heart Academy of Bergen County in the Parochial state championship game, 1-0, it marked the end of the Blue Eagles’ 56-game winning streak. But the Lady Lancers didn’t care what it meant to the girls from Immaculate Heart. All they knew was that they had just won the first girls state soccer title in their school’s history. For Coyle, it was the culmination of four years of hard work during which time she was dedicated to making herself and her team a legitimate title-contending force in the state. She came into the season having tasted success, with a pair of state championships on the basketball court shining impressively on her résumé. She wanted to make it happen on the soccer field, and she knew she had a chance with this year’s team. “Everything we’ve accomplished this year has been a definite surprise,” she admits, “but I knew from the beginning of the season that we would be a tough team. We have a group of people that have been so dedicated to winning that it was bound to happen.” Coyle added that she had her doubts at the beginning of the year. “At first we were shaky,” she said. “We lost to Red Bank Catholic (at the time, the top-rated team in the Shore) and then had to face Middletown South (No. 2). But when we beat South 3-0, we let everybody know, including ourselves, that we could play with anybody.” From there, the Lancers went on a roll which never stopped. They cruised to the state finals, beating RBC for the Shore Conference Tournament Championship along the way, and calmly upset the nation’s top-rated team to earn their state title. It marked the team’s first, Coyle’s third. Coyle understands the difference between this title and the two previous championships she’s helped secure on the hardwood. “This one is different,” she said. “In basketball, we play before enormous amounts of people, whereas the soccer games have smaller crowds. Plus, in basketball, we’re supposed to be in it from the beginning; Vianney has won it all so many times that it’s a surprise if we don’t. “But in soccer, we’ve never been there before,” she added. “That makes it that much better.” And as far as Coach Alosco is concerned, individual performances on the field don’t get much better than what Coyle (22 goals, nine assists) did for his team this year. “I’ve been coaching high school soccer for 15 years, and Tami is as good a player as I’ve seen,” he said. “She doesn’t get the recognition that others get because she doesn’t play club soccer. But as far as I’m concerned, she’s a definite candidate for first team All-State this year. I simply can’t say enough about how well she has played.” However, the personal accolades don’t mean much to Coyle. Not that she hasn’t appreciated them; she simply doesn’t use them as motivation. “I’ve been All-Division in soccer every year, and was third team All-Shore last year and first team this year,” she said. “But to be honest, I don’t really think about it too much. If I’m playing to my fullest and can help the team perform to its fullest, then I’ve met my personal goals.” As for college, Coyle has yet to make a decision on which sport to play. She admits to having a number of Division I schools interested in signing her, but is having difficulty coming to an ultimate decision. “It really depends on which sport I choose,” she said. “Some schools want me for soccer and others want me for basketball. And most wouldn’t let me play both because of conflicting schedules. I just don’t know if I’m ready to stop playing either sport at this point.” For now, it’s back to the hardwood, where Coyle hopes to help lead the Lancers to the Tournament of Champions after missing out last year. Thus far, she likes what she sees from the team. “I think we’ll prove pretty quickly that we can play with other teams,” she said. Coyle added that she was pleased to see Coach Nick Russo return after a two-year hiatus as the girls coach. “He’s killed us in practice already,” she said. “I can’t believe how sore I am after just a few days. “But he really is an extremely good coach,” she added. “And I’m excited to have him back.” For Russo, the feeling should definitely be mutual.