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St. Joseph senior always had a familiar face on the sidelines

By BY WILL BROWN - WBROWN@VICAD.COM
March 4, 2013 at 11:03 p.m.
Updated March 3, 2013 at 9:04 p.m.

During the halftime break of a Feb. 19 game, the four seniors on the Lady Flyers soccer team were recognized at the last home game of the regular season. Nicole Sontheimer, No. 11, missed the match with an injury.

Nicole Sontheimer is not sure how old she was when she brought home a flier about playing soccer.

The only thing the Lady Flyers co-captain recalls about the flier was her family lived in South Carolina at the time.

But that one action set off a chain of events that has turned her family into a soccer family.

Nicole started playing, her parents Vicki and Scott became coaches, and her younger siblings, including St. Joseph defender Kristin, also gravitated to the sport.

"Nicole came home with a flier one day and wanted to play soccer for school," said the Sontheimer matriarch. "It just went from there. We really didn't know anything about it. The more interested she became, we decided, 'Well, we need to know what was going on.' It worked out well, I think."

The oldest Sontheimer child tried softball for a season and dabbled in volleyball until her freshman year. But Nicole has always been a soccer player, especially since moving to Victoria when she was 8. Throughout it all, one of her parents has been her coach.

It started when Nicole was playing under-10 soccer, and the team needed a volunteer coach.

These days, mom is her varsity coach, and dad coaches her at the club level.

Recently, the results have been spectacular - regardless of which Sontheimer is coaching her. Vicki has led St. Joseph to the playoffs in both seasons as head coach. Scott coached Victoria Heat '95, an area club soccer team that won the South Texas Youth Soccer Association state championship in December.

"It's something I'm definitely going to miss," Nicole said. "When I graduate, I won't have a chance to play with my sister. It's a bittersweet moment because I'm moving on and leaving what I've always been around."

There will be at least one more game before that bittersweet moment. The Lady Flyers (13-4) play San Antonio Christian in a TAPPS Division II regional final Tuesday afternoon.

St. Joseph qualified for the game when Sontheimer returned from an injury just in time to score the game-winning goal in Saturday's 2-1 overtime victory over Houston Northland Christian in the area playoffs.

Monday, Vicki recalled how her husband said her comment in Sunday's newspaper about the beauty of Nicole's overtime goal combined the twin elements of coach and mom.

"I've always had one of them as my coach. From my perspective, it's not anything amazing because it's always been like that," Nicole said. "It's kind of normal to me."

That normalcy extends to talking tactics at home, watching matches together on television and just being around the game. A few years ago Nicole, Kristin and fellow Lady Flyer Amanda Groenhuyzen were ball girls at a Houston Dynamo soccer game.

Nicole and Groenhuyzen have played together since Nicole moved to Victoria. It's a partnership that will last as long as the season because both will be heading in different directions as undergraduates.

"It was kind of sad knowing this is her last season to play," Vicki said. "I've enjoyed watching her play all the way up through high school."

Nicole will attend Baylor University next year to study biochemistry. She aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon because she is well aware of the risk of playing athletics.

"I have seen them suffer, and I know what it's like when they are not able to play," said Nicole, who could not play Senior Day because of an injury. "We've seen some of our girls get hurt. We've seen two girls tear their ACL, another girl at the state tournament received a Grade III concussion. . I want to help other people who are athletes like I am."

She may have missed the Flyers' Feb. 19 win over Corpus Christi Incarnate Word on Senior Day, but walking out on the field with her mom to be recognized will be the prevailing memory from that day, not her uncooperative ankle.

Under-10 soccer is a long way from the varsity level, but the Sontheimers have taken that journey together. They can only hope it's a wave that will crest at the TAPPS Division II state tournament later this week.

"The only thing that has changed is the level of play," Nicole said. "That would be the only difference. The intensity has picked up for school and select soccer."

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