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Montana soccer: Coyle wins ‘triple crown’ of athletic, academic awards

Alexa Coyle will return to campus in a month, reporting to campus on Aug. 1 for a new kind of orientation: into the world of Griz soccer as Montana begins preparations for the season ahead and the opener at Boise State on Friday, Aug. 18. (GoGriz.com)

Let’s call it the Alexa Coyle Triple Crown, because there is a good chance this particular trifecta will never be achieved again. Maybe ever, so unique are the triad’s three sides.

The first: win a national age-group title in skiing, which Coyle, from Bozeman and an incoming freshman on the Montana soccer team, did as a sophomore at the U.S. Alpine Championships in Maine in 2015.

Changing sports for No. 2: win state Gatorade Player of the Year honors for soccer, which Coyle checked off the list earlier this month after leading Bozeman High to a state title last fall and finishing her senior season with 29 goals and 15 assists.

Combining those two accomplishments would be rare enough. So let’s agree that adding in one more prestigious accolade, this one for academics, gives Coyle naming rights to the feat.

Earlier this week she was one of just 49 high school seniors to be named to the NSCAA High School Scholar All-America Team by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, thanks to her 3.93 GPA, her on-field accomplishments and her community service.

Coyle was one of just three players this year to earn both Gatorade honors for her state and Scholar All-America accolades by the NSCAA, a small subset of excellence.

The others were Theresa Pujado, of Sioux Falls, S.D., whom Montana will see when the Grizzlies face Nebraska in Pullman, Wash., over Labor Day weekend.

The other was Joanna Harber, of Bellevue, Wash. The only way Montana would face Harber this season would be in November’s NCAA tournament. Harber is bound for Stanford. But can either one of them get down a steep, snow-packed mountainside as quickly as Coyle?

“Obviously I’m really honored to be one of 49. It’s pretty crazy, but it’s cool and exciting,” Coyle said this week, on campus for one of UM’s freshmen orientations.

On Thursday afternoon she found herself sitting outside the Adams Center, in the shadow of Washington-Grizzly Stadium, a corner of campus she knows well after making the Bozeman-to-Missoula trek plenty of times to watch her older brother Brock play for the Grizzlies.

“Now that I’m here, it feels so real that I’m going to be in college in a month,” she said. “I’ve got all my classes and my schedule. It’s exciting.”

Coyle will return to campus in a month, reporting to campus on Aug. 1 for a new kind of orientation: into the world of Griz soccer as Montana begins preparations for the season ahead and the opener at Boise State on Friday, Aug. 18.

For most of August it will be all soccer, all the time. Morning training sessions, plus another each evening. Strength training. Classroom instruction for the freshmen covering the ins and outs of the program, from expectations to systems used on the field. No distractions on a quiet campus.

That will all change the last week of August, when the rest of the student body returns and Craig Hall fills with freshmen who aren’t all wearing Griz Soccer gear and faces are no longer familiar.

That will be the reminder for Coyle that she is both athlete and student, and starting her academic career this fall with courses in math, computer modeling and criminal justice. Plus something in the counselor education field on intimate relationships. And the history of rock and roll.

The demands, those stemming from academics and athletics, won’t be new for her. You don’t complete the Alexa Coyle Triple Crown without learning how to find equilibrium in your responsibilities.

“In high school you get the idea of how to balance sports with school,” Coyle said. “That’s the good thing about being an athlete. I think it makes you a little more prepared for college.

“I was able to balance my schedule when I stuck to my routine. I like structure, so having a routine allowed me to balance all my different activities. It’s going to be harder now, but I’m excited for it.”

Coyle intends to major in business, with an emphasis on finance. Maybe throw in a double major in marketing. Or not. And that’s the beauty of her situation, the potential and possibilities of youth, in the summer of 2017, before it gets too real. At this point she doesn’t have to know, just dream.

“My dream job would be to work for a professional sports team on the business side of things,” she says.

And who knows? Maybe one day that will put her on the opposite side of the negotiating table from her brother, him, the NFL veteran, seeking one final contract extension from his younger sister, her looking out for the best long-term interests of her employer.

Sorry Brock, we’re going to have to ask you to turn in your playbook. Salary cap issues. We wish you the best of luck with the rest of your career. See you at Christmas back home in Bozeman?

“Or it might be in a business that I’m interested in or passionate about,” she adds.

But that seems so far down the road at this point. First, a bunch of firsts. Her first day officially on campus. Her first day of practice. Her first collegiate match and her first goal as a Grizzly. Her first day of class. Her first semester completed.

But having established the Alexa Coyle Triple Crown, she’s all about firsts.