Last year, Kathy Doyle expected to make her mark on the Mount Hebron basketball team, but an old nemesis got in the way.
A badly sprained ankle wiped out half of her junior season.
High hopes and weak ankles summed up much of Doyle's first three years on the Vikings varsity, but this year has been different. Healthy except for a nagging flu bug, Doyle has not missed a game.
Not only has she helped the No. 19 Vikings (7-3) to a share of first-place in the Howard County league, but she is their leading scorer. Going into tonight's game against No. 17 Glenelg, Doyle is scoring 17.2 points per game and also averages six rebounds, three steals and almost three assists.
"She's a Mount Hebron player and she plays just like all the players that have gone through there," said Howard coach Craig O'Connell after Doyle scored 15 in a 54-49 win over his Lions Monday night. "She plays good defense, is real smart offensively, thinks on the floor. What more can you say?"
You can say that Doyle also steps up in the big games. Besides her performance against No. 14 Howard, she scored 20 in a 60-56 upset of No. 5 Fallston a month ago.
When the tables turned and point guard Alisha Mosley sprained an ankle just before the Holly and Hoops Tournament, Doyle scored 14 in a first-round 47-37 loss to Loch Raven and had 20 points and 11 rebounds in the 59-45 consolation win over C. Milton Wright.
"Kathy provides a real spark for us," said Vikings coach Pat Becker. "And that's at both ends of the court. I think rebounds have been her greatest contribution. What she's done is really hustle on rebounds."
A 5-9 small forward with the quickness and athleticism of a guard, Doyle is a double threat offensively. She can hit from 20 feet or make a strong move inside. She and Mosley, who averages 16.4 points, have emerged as one of the county's most unstoppable combinations.
More than anything else, Doyle is enjoying her expanded role in the offense. She likes being a shooter.
"I never had a chance to before. I always had to pass off," said Doyle, who played most of her career behind All-Metro guard Emily Yanero, now at the College of Notre Dame. "When I was a freshman, I thought it was the wrong time to be coming into this program. I knew Emily was ahead of me and she had priority."
But given the choice by then-coach Dave Greenberg, Doyle opted to stay on varsity as a freshman.
"Mr. Greenberg said if I stayed on varsity I would learn and improve a whole lot and I did. I enjoyed being with the older people and they taught me," said Doyle
Her opportunity to play came last year, but so did the worst sprained ankle of her career.
Although she had played basketball since second grade, Doyle never struggled with injuries until high school. Then she suffered ankle injuries in her first three basketball seasons. Even though her ankles held up during volleyball last fall, she was sidelined by a knee infection that required surgery.
"She's been hurt or sick a lot in her career and that always sets her back. She's the kind of kid who really needs to practice," said Greenberg, who left Mount Hebron to coach at Centennial this year.
Wednesday, Doyle showed Greenberg how much she had absorbed from all those varsity practices when she scored 19 to lead the Vikings to a 50-33 win at Centennial.
"It was clear to us that Kathy could hang with the varsity kids [as a freshman]," said Greenberg. "She struggled at times, but she came into her own at the end of last year.. . . . She's a good player now and she deserves to have some success."