Kilkenny stays strong for Little Flower

Maura Kilkenny led Little Flower to a fourth-place finish during the regular season. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Maura Kilkenny could have had a better junior year. At least athletically.

She didn’t play poorly. Not even close. In fact, she played great. But she was twice bit by the injury bug, and it made her work that much harder to get back on the field.

During soccer season, the Little Flower High School senior suffered a broken arm. She didn’t miss any time, but she was forced to play with a cast at the end of the year.

While the break was painful, at least it didn’t cost her any playing time.

In the spring, she wasn’t so lucky.

Kilkenny missed lacrosse season for the Sentinels because she suffered an ankle injury playing for her club soccer team, PSC COPPA Bluestorm.

“During soccer, I took a shot and got knocked down and it just broke,” Kilkenny said. “It hurt, but it wasn’t too bad. I was able to play, I didn’t miss time.

“The ankle kept me out all season, that was way worse. I had to do rehab. Both are good now, no problems.”

Kilkenny is feeling fine now and she has Little Flower headed in the right direction.

Behind their starting center back and team captain Kilkenny, the Sentinels finished as the fourth seed in the Catholic League standings. They will begin their quest for a championship on Thursday when they host St. Hubert.

The other local team, Archbishop Ryan, finished atop the standings. They’ll meet the winner of Hallahan-O’Hara in a first-round game on Thursday.

Little Flower had a great showing in the playoffs last year before losing in the semifinals in overtime to Lansdale Catholic, which went on to win the championship.

It was a painful setback, but it gave the Sentinels a chance to get the experience of playing in the biggest situation possible.

And the best part is, just about everyone on this year’s squad got to experience how much losing stinks.

“I think we lost about three starters,” Kilkenny said. “We really thought we could win. It hurt a lot, and I think we’re working so we don’t have that again. Last year, it’s not a lot different. I think we learned a lot and I think the senior captains are pushing everyone to do what it takes to win, and they’re trying. We’re all trying.”

Little Flower hasn’t had a perfect season this year. The Sentinels have lost three games this year, falling to Archbishop Wood, Lansdale Catholic and Ryan. But each of those setbacks were one-goal games. And two of those losses, to the Vikings and the Ragdolls, were in overtime. So while the Sentinels did lose games, they did lose to the best teams in the league and by the slimmest of margins.

“We had our ups and downs this year, but for the most part, we’ve played really well,” said Kilkenny, who lives in Huntington Valley. “As one of the captains, I try and help everyone get better. We try to explain things to the underclassmen to make them understand what’s going on and what needs to be done, and it really helps that they’re all open to learning.

“I started as a freshman and I definitely learned a lot from the seniors and the older players. And I took everything they said as a chance to get better. If I messed up a play, I used it to get better, and so do the younger players on this team.”

Soccer has always been Kilkenny’s top sport, although she also loves lacrosse as well as volleyball, which she plays at the CYO level. If she plays a sport in college, it will be soccer.

And while sports is one of the biggest parts of her life, she does have outside interests.

She is the secretary of her class, helping prepare for events, ushers at dances and acts as a voice for the rest of the students. She also spends her summer working down the shore as a food runner.

She also is a proud pet owner and spends a lot of time with her pooch, Riley.

“We play soccer together,” Kilkenny said with a laugh. “She loves playing soccer, but she’s not good at it. She picks up the ball. She doesn’t know the rules, I guess.”

But Kilkenny does. And she hopes with all the work she and her teammates put in this year, it can end with a Catholic League championship.

“I think we can win in the playoffs, we just have to keep working hard,” Kilkenny said. “And I really want to win for (coach Markos Pittaoulis). He works so hard and helps us so much. He deserves it. He definitely deserves a championship. He wants it so much.”

So does Kilkenny.

She also wants to be successful in the future.

Next year, she hopes to continue her soccer career, and also wants to become a physical therapist. That will give her a chance to do two things she loves, stay around sports and help people get better.

“I had to do physical therapy when I hurt my ankle,” she said. “I had to do it to get stronger. They really helped me. I would love to do something like that. It’s something I’m interested in and it’s a chance to help people. It’s two things I really like.”