Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Greg Kyle is Collins Hill's valedictorian and was not planning on playing soccer this season. However, the senior now has the Eagles ranked No. 1 in the state.
Greg Kyle wasn't planning on playing soccer this year. But a couple of strange twists of fate changed all of that for the Collins Hill senior.
In the Eagles' season opener, backup goalkeeper Jackson Taylor chipped a bone near his ankle during warmups. It only got worse when starting goalkeeper Bill Lankford broke his leg in a non-contact play during the second half.
Collins Hill ended up winning the game by using a field player in goal, but the next day head coach Drew Prentice found Kyle.
"They basically laid down the situation and said we have no keeper and they are the defending state champion team," Kyle said.
Kyle played for Collins Hill the past three seasons, but after a grueling senior year of academics and a successful season as a swimmer, he decided not to play soccer. But when the Eagles were left without anyone to play goalie, Kyle reconsidered.
"It was a tough decision, but I didn't want to leave them hanging," Kyle said. "I busted my butt for three and half years and I just wanted to chill out. I was burned out from swimming. I really kind of wanted to relax and enjoy my last chance in high school."
But with Kyle in goal, Collins Hill has made it a memorable spring so far.
The Eagles are ranked No. 1 in the state in Class AAAAA and for two weeks were ranked No. 1 in the nation by two publications. The Eagles have played for the state championship the last two seasons, winning it all last year. With Kyle's return to the net, Collins Hill could be headed to a third title game appearance.
"We would have struggled (without him)," Prentice said. "I don't know what we would have done. The good thing about our team is our defense is good. Even like the first couple of games that Greg was in he only had two or three shots over three or four games. We were lucky our defense was so good."
Collins Hill has allowed 17 goals through 14 games this season, including three shutouts. But Kyle doesn't take the credit for the Eagles' success. He puts that on defenders Brady O'Brien, Jonathan Nelson, Nick Lane and Josh Fancher.
"It's not anything I've done. The guys are amazing players," Kyle said. "Honestly, I don't do much back there. I pick up loose balls occasionally. I've got one or two saves, maybe. I'm just kind of a face in the goal. I give all the credit to them."
In addition to being thrusted into action for the state's top boys soccer team, Kyle has managed to put together an impressive resume outside of soccer. He maintains a 4.0 GPA while taking six Advanced Placement courses. He's the school's valedictorian and has applied to some of the top academic schools in the country like Emory, Vanderbilt, Northwestern and several Ivy League schools.
Kyle was also part of Collins Hill's automatic All-American 200 freestyle relay in swimming and was one of the team's top freestylers.
"For a while I considered myself a soccer player doing swimming, but at the end of the season I really cranked it up for swimming," Kyle said.
Taylor, a promising freshman goalkeeper, has returned from the chipped bone in his ankle, giving Collins Hill two healthy goalies right now. Kyle could leave the team and go back to just being a regular student, but with the way the last two months have gone he has decided to finish the season out with the team.
"I've kind of grown into it. The success wasn't a factor, it's just enjoying the team, enjoying the season," Kyle said. "This year I feel like everyone is more relaxed and we're having a much better time. I've enjoyed what we've done so far.
"I figured I made it through half the season and I've been having fun so far and the team needs a backup keeper, so I decided to stay on and help the team out."