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Olivia Coyle tore the same meniscus twice during the last year, but she returned in the nick of time to help the East Haven girls’ basketball team capture its first state title in program history. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Coyle )
Senior captain Olivia Coyle contributed five points and three boards when the Yellowjackets posted a two-point win over Career to take the Class M state crown this winter. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Olivia Coyle was having a memorable junior year with the East Haven girls’ basketball team last winter, when she suffered a torn meniscus that cost her the rest of the season. Olivia, who averaged 14.4 points and 3.2 assists per game, still earned All-SCC, All-Area, and All-State honors for the Yellowjackets, and felt excited about what was to come in her senior season. Unfortunately, Olivia re-tore the same meniscus during the third practice of the year and was sidelined for a good portion of the campaign.
“When I got hurt [the first time], it definitely hit me hard. I was down all the time, but I knew I had my senior year. I pushed myself through the whole summer to get ready,” says Olivia. “When I hurt it again, I didn’t know what to feel. All I could think about was, ‘Why? Why is this happening to me?’”
However, what could have been a sad story turned out to be one of the happiest tales ever told at East Haven High School. That’s because, after missing the first 15 games of her senior season, Olivia made a triumphant return to the floor and helped the Yellowjackets make history by winning their first state championship. Olivia, a senior captain, scored five points and grabbed three rebounds when the Easties edged Career 49-47 to take the Class M state title.
“It meant everything to me. I pushed myself as hard as I could go, and it ended up working pretty well this year. It was an amazing feeling to be back out there with my teammates and finishing the season strong,” Olivia says. “It’s still so surreal for me. It was the craziest year of basketball I ever played in. Words can’t describe the feeling. It was so much fun playing in the tournament since the last time I did was in my sophomore year. So it felt really good to be playing in those intense games again.”
Head Coach Anthony Russell saw how badly Olivia wanted to be out there on the floor every night. Russell says that Olivia took it upon herself to become the Easties’ emotional leader and found a way to make her presence felt at both practice and on the bench during games.
“Olivia is one of the many kids on the team that are good teammates. When she was hurt, she knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel. She was extremely supportive of her teammates at practice and in games. She was enthusiastic, which helped her mentally being engaged in a positive manner,” Russell says. “She knew she’d come back. If you watched her in the state championship game, you saw her out there competing at a high level. She’s a big reason we won.”
Olivia always made sure that she was there for her teammates. She feels she had a particularly big impact on sophomore Isabella Ragaini, who ended up hitting the game-winning basket in the state title game. Olivia says she pushed Ragaini to play well and help fill the void left by her absence.
“I knew my role on the team. Sitting on the bench, I had to push my teammates. One player in particular I think I pushed was Bella,” says Olivia. “I pushed her hard, because I averaged 14 or 15 points per game my junior year, so I knew she had to step up. I’d tell her to drive more and take that extra step. I tried my hardest to stay positive while on the bench and not take this year for granted.”
When she did get back on the floor, Olivia made a living by slashing through the lane and taking the ball to the rim.
“My biggest strength is driving to the basket,” says Olivia. “I always go hard. No matter what, I know I’ll either score or get fouled. That’s why I go hard all the time.”
Even after missing significant time with injuries, Olivia will have an opportunity to continue her basketball career in college. Later this year, she will try to walk on at Division II Pace University in New York City.
“The opportunity came late in the season. I emailed them toward the end of the State Tournament run and asked if they offered walk-ons for the team. The coach ended up emailing me back saying they were looking to rill a few roster positions, so I sent them my film,” says Olivia. “It was a crazy feeling to go through and I never thought I’d get this opportunity.”
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