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Spinelli earns top honors in Catholic Academies

Belle Spinelli, a four-year starter, helped the Pandas improve in each of her seasons at the school. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Belle Spinelli is a much better soccer player than she is analyst.

At least when it comes to judging her play.

Spinelli is a senior at Nazareth Academy High School and during the fall, she wasn’t sure if she was having a productive season. After all, after scoring nine goals during her junior campaign, she scored only three this year.

The lack of tallies is easily explained. Last year, she played up top, but this year because of changes, she moved to defensive center midfield.

She wasn’t concerned about her stats, but she wondered if she was doing enough to help the Pandas.

“I wasn’t sure how I was playing,” said Spinelli, who lives in Yardley. “I knew I was playing a different position, but you think a little bit about the goals and you worry. I was happy, though, because we were having a good season. I didn’t think too much of it.”

Spinelli may not have known how she was playing, but the rest of the Catholic Academies League must have taken note because she was selected as the Most Valuable Player by the coaches. She joined Stephanie Marino as a First-Team All-Catholic Academies League, while teammates Abby Watson, Katie Harmon, Cayla Chipperfield and Brooke Kane earned second-team honors.

For Spinelli, it was the perfect way to end her high school soccer career.

“I didn’t expect it, but I was so excited,” Spinelli said. “I was at a Flyers game and I got a text from my coach, and he asked me to call him. He told me, and I was so excited. It means a lot because it’s like a team honor.

“We had a bunch of us come in as freshmen and start. It was hard. We lost a lot and we lost games that weren’t too close. We got beat, but every year we got better. When we were losing, it wasn’t fun, but we knew we were getting better. And this year was great.”

The Pandas finished third in the league and advanced to the state playoffs. And Spinelli more than did her part on the field, playing a new position and sacrificing goals to make sure her opponents didn’t get opportunities.

But she also did what she could to help the team grow.

She used a former player as a template of how to be a good leader and added her own personality to find her way to guide the team.

“When I was a sophomore, we had a senior, Maddie Joynes, who was hurt during her junior year, but when she came back, she was a great leader,” Spinelli said. “I was a different leader. I more tried to be everyone’s friend and tried to let them know if they needed anything, I would help them. She was great like that, too, but that was more the type of leader I was. I wanted everyone to have a great season and I wanted to be there to help anyone if they needed anything.

“It was different because, this year, we had a lot of seniors who played together for four years, we all were friends and wanted the same thing. But this year, we also had a lot of good younger players, so they will be good next year. They’ll be good for a while. They have a lot of good players coming back.”

Spinelli won’t be back on the soccer field at Nazareth, but she still has a lot of games left in a Pandas uniform.

After being one of the top scorers on the basketball team a season ago, she returns to play forward for a team that, like the soccer team, has high expectations.

“I’m more of a soccer player, but I love basketball, too,” the 5-foot-10 Spinelli said. “I think we could have a very good year. We have a good coach, we’re excited to start.”

Spinelli is looking forward to having a long run in basketball because this could be the end of her athletic career. There’s a chance she could change her mind, and she’ll likely play intramurals, but she’s leaning toward not playing in college.

“I’m not sure where I’m going, but if I go to a school that’s Division I, I won’t play because I won’t have the time to dedicate to it,” said Spinelli, who is ranked atop her senior class. “I would think about playing Division II or III, but I am looking at majoring in biomedical engineering, so I know I’ll be very busy.

“I love science and math, and that puts them both together. And I would love to find a way to cure diseases. When I was younger, I would hear about people passing away and I really wanted to see if I could help. I always wondered if it was possible to have a cure for some of those things. So I think doing that would be a great job.”

She could possibly be the first biomedical engineer with with two MVPs under her belt.

“That would be great,” she said with a laugh.

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