Oct. 8, 2015
By Brad Muller | More Features
Being a goalkeeper requires the ability to focus and stay cool under pressure. South Carolina’s William Pyle is soft spoken, relaxed, and right now, is enjoying a nice ride as the Gamecocks recently knocked off a pair of top 10 nationally ranked teams to climb into the national spotlight.
“I’ve trained myself to not freak out and take it moment by moment,” Pyle said. “I’ve learned to keep myself calm and try to control the things that I can control.”
William and his fraternal twin brother, James, are both goalkeepers for nationally ranked NCAA Division I soccer programs, which makes it difficult for their parents, Steve and Kim, to make all of their games. James is the goalkeeper for undefeated and No. 2 ranked North Carolina this year. The question of which game the parents will see in a particular week is just about the only drama you’re going to see according to William. Instead of an intense sibling rivalry, there is more of a mutual respect, admiration and desire to see each other succeed.
“Our relationship is really good,” Pyle said. “We’re twins, so I guess we’ll always be best friends. Being in South Carolina makes it a little harder to see him. If we have an off day on the weekend, and he is playing, I’ll drive up there. We both know we can go far, and we work really well together so there’s no ego about it. I’ll help him, and he helps me. We each know what the other is going through.
“We’re both kind of reserved off the field. He’s more outgoing than me. On the field, we both have grown into the position. We’re not reserved on the field. Once the game is over, we sort of quiet down. Playing different places has made us different players too.”
William is in his first season at South Carolina after transferring from UNC Greensboro, where he played as a freshman. He has helped the Gamecocks surge into the top 25 as South Carolina is currently ranked at No.15 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll after wins over No. 8 Elon and No. 7 New Mexico followed by a road win at Marshall.
Pyle allowed only two goals in those three matches with both coming off set pieces. For his efforts, Pyle earned Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week accolades and placement on the Top Drawer Soccer Team of the Week. Although he wasn’t the starter at the beginning of the year, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native is making the most of his opportunity and is glad he chose to take his talents to South Carolina.
“The athletic program at South Carolina is top notch,” Pyle said of his decision to transfer. “I knew some people on the team. People are just really nice here in Columbia too. The coaches, the dining staff at the Dodie (Academic Enrichment Center), and even the people who work at Chick-Fil-A. They’re all nice. The wholesomeness of the people is great. South Carolina just felt like a good fit.”
William started 13 games in goal at UNCG last year and was named to the Southern Conference All-Freshman Team. While there, he started against the Gamecocks and made seven saves in a 2-1 loss for his former team.
“If I didn’t do well in that game, I’m sure the coaches would have remembered that and I probably wouldn’t be here right now,” Pyle laughed. “One of the goals was a deflection off my defender, and the other was a weird header that went in.”
I’ve learned to keep myself calm and try to control the things that I can control.
With there being only one goalkeeper on the pitch for each team, the competition to earn a starting role can be greater. Whether he’s starting or supporting a teammate in front of him, Pyle is always prepared for an opportunity.
"My mentality doesn’t really change because you always know that someone could get hurt or get a red card, so you always have to be ready to go in,” Pyle said. “I just want to have shutouts no matter what. I know anyone can score, so I want to make sure we get the win. I think I read the game pretty well. Even when I was really young, I could read the game well. I can anticipate where they might shoot and where the ball might come. Goalie is like an unofficial leader. You see everything so you have to make sure you have everybody’s back.”
While he admits that playing with his brother in off-season summer leagues are among his best memories playing soccer, his competitive spirit isn’t totally lost on his family, and he wouldn’t mind the opportunity for he and James to meet as opposing goalkeepers for their respective college teams.
“I do wish we could play each other,” Pyle said. “I want our team to win, but then I’d still want him to do well. I’d like to win at their place because it would be fun to beat them at Chapel Hill. If it was in the NCAA tournament I’d obviously want us to win, but for us both to have a good game. Maybe if we won on penalty kicks, but he still stopped a few.”
Neither brother knows who is the older of the two, which is just fine for William.
“Our parents never told us,” Pyle said. “We don’t want to know anymore. I quit asking a long time ago.”
The brothers never “trash talk” with each other, but if they did have the opportunity to take penalty kicks with one shooting against the other, William, calm but with the hint of a smile, declares who would have the upper hand.
“I would obviously win,” Pyle said. “He knows that too.”
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