Mtn. View High’s Noel kicks her way to college

Sistine Noel
Courtesy of Sistine Noel
Mountain View High’s Sistine Noel signs her letter of intent for Santa Clara University.

It seems Sistine Noel was destined to be a soccer player. Soon after learning to walk, she discovered another use for her legs – kicking.

“Since I was really young, my mom said I liked to kick round objects – anything,” the Mountain View High senior recalled. “She said, ‘I think soccer will fit her.’”

Fit her, it has. Noel, who began her playing career with AYSO at age 5 and moved to the Mountain View Los Altos Soccer Club at 7, has developed into one of the top midfielders in the area. Last month she signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Santa Clara University.

Recruited by UC Davis and several other schools, Noel made a verbal commitment to the Broncos in the spring of her sophomore year after months of phone calls with the coaching staff.

“Santa Clara definitely stood out the most for me,” the Mountain View resident said, “and both of my parents went there.”

Her official recruiting visit in October of last year sealed the deal.

“It was an overnight thing,” said Noel, a stellar student who plans to major in biology. “I got to room with a few of the players and watch a game. It was really fun.”

An added bonus: two members of her club team, MVLA 03G Barca ECNL, will be joining her at Santa Clara.

“It will be nice to have two teammates there,” Noel said of Isabella Panaccione (St. Francis High) and Lauren Zontos (Presentation High).

Overcoming injuries

The road to playing soccer at the NCAA Division I level hasn’t been easy for Noel, who is coming off her second serious knee injury in four years. She tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in eighth grade and tore her left ACL in late February playing for Mountain View in the Central Coast Section Division I semifinals.

“I’m still recovering; my surgery was delayed two months because of COVID,” Noel said. “This time, I knew what to expect, since I’ve been through it before.”

Noel has made steady progress – already taking part in non-contact drills with MVLA – and said she has been cleared to play in January. Noel has yet to decide if she will only play for her club team or also for the

Spartans, whose season has been moved from winter to spring due to the pandemic.

“I might play part time for Mountain View,” she said. “I’m talking with the coach about that.”

That coach, Jeff Panos, would surely like to have Noel back on the team.

“Her setup play this past season in the attacking central midfielder role generated an offense that could beat you in many different ways,” Panos said. “She was our pivot point that linked everyone together. She drove opposing coaches nuts in trying to figure out how to defend her. She distributes, she scores from distance and she makes everyone around her better.”

Noel led the Spartans in goals (13) and assists (12) last season, despite missing the last two games. In her final match – Mountain View’s 2-1 win over Notre Dame-Belmont in the CCS semifinals – she scored both of her team’s goals before getting injured with 15 minutes to play.

She knew right away that it was her ACL.

“The way I landed, I heard the pop – like I heard last time,” she said. “It was unfortunate.”

Especially because it prevented her from playing in the CCS final three days later. But it didn’t stop Noel from being at the game to root on her teammates as they routed Ann Sobrato High 3-0 to advance to the Northern California playoffs.

Making connections

While winning was nice, Noel doesn’t place that atop her high school highlights.

“It’s definitely the whole team and getting to know people in different grades,” she said. “As a sophomore, I got to know the seniors and we went to lunch – even when it wasn’t soccer season. I also got to know the freshmen. I wouldn’t know so many people at school without soccer.”

Noel hopes to form the same kind of bonds at Santa Clara, which can help the team on the field as well.

“My favorite part of (soccer) is definitely the feeling of dominating in a game and connecting well with teammates and reading each other’s moves,” she said. “It’s satisfying to read where they want the ball and get it to them.”

Panos is confident Noel will make an impact with the Broncos.

“Santa Clara University is getting a great player in their ranks next year,” he said. “I am really excited to watch her play at the next level.”

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