Daigle did it with more than just speed for Thornton

SACO — Thornton Academy girls soccer coach Chris Kohl has been spoiled for the past four years, and especially the last two. He graduated a once-in-a-decade player last year in Amanda Arnold, but in her place stepped another special talent in Tori Daigle.

The Trojans didn’t skip a beat this season, as they dropped just two games during the regular season ”“ to the two regional finalists, Windham and Scarborough. They fell short of their ultimate goal of a state championship, but thanks to Daigle, and a dozen classmates, the Trojans were still a force to be reckoned with.

Kohl said he wouldn’t be able to replace Arnold ”“ the program leader in career goals and points ”“ with just one player, but Daigle lessened the loss as well as any one player could. She tallied 24 goals and 16 assists ”“ a “pretty incredible” total in the SMAA according, to Kohl ”“ and finished her career with a program-record 43 assists.

Daigle became an even better player than the nearly unstoppable force she was last year, and she upped her game when it mattered most, as she scored four goals and assisted on another in Thornton’s two playoff games. Daigle became another once-in-a-decade player for Thornton Academy, and she more than deserves the title of 2014 Journal Tribune Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

“She had a tremendous season,” said Kohl. “She just had a great four years and she just capped it off ”¦ she had her best season peak at the right time.”

There was a question as to whether the Trojans could keep up their scoring pace after the departure of Arnold, who was a field general as a central forward and was the straw that stirred the Thornton attack. Kohl himself even thought his team would drop down a couple goals per game, but there wasn’t much of a drop-off.

Much of that can be attributed to Daigle, who admitted that she put pressure on herself to fill Arnold’s shoes.

Daigle said she looked up the Arnold, and she emulated Arnold’s relentless competitiveness and never-give-up attitude.

That fit perfectly with Daigle’s greatest asset: unrivaled speed.

Kohl said he’s never seen another high school girls soccer player in the state that has the same control at top speed as Daigle, and both he and Daigle agreed that Scarborough’s Aly Atherton was the only opponent to come close to keeping up with her.

“It really helps me get by players,” Daigle said of her speed, which she said she can flip the switch on. “I try to trick them sometimes, and try to go slow and then try to trick them and go fast by them so they can’t catch up.”

Kohl said Daigle learned how to control that speed better this season, and also was more successful once she got past the last defender, as she became a better finisher.

Daigle had some bad memories of missed goals last year ”“ specifically during a regular-season loss to Windham. But she said playing with the Seacoast United premier team, which features a handful of players from Windham, helped her turn those misses into makes.

“(She was) more accurate at placing her shots. In the past, it was ”˜how hard can I hit it?’” said Kohl.

Daigle showed near perfection in an 8-1 victory over Bonny Eagle, as she scored a school single-game record six goals on seven shots in the first half alone.

While Daigle always had an ability to score, she improved in the assists department by leaps and bounds this year ”“ something Arnold also did her senior season. Daigle routinely was able to drive deep into the right corner before firing off a well-placed cross, where classmate Haley DaGraca was often there to finish the play.

“I know she’ll be there every time I cross it. She’s literally always there. She’s a jumping bean,” Daigle said of DaGraca, who scored 19 goals herself this season. “We had a really good relationship because we’ve been playing since like U-9.”

Daigle also said the other 11 seniors this year were a big reason why she is the player of the year, as the class finished its four-year run with a 55-8-3 record. Daigle played in every single game over her four years.

“I definitely wouldn’t be getting this award without the help of my team,” said Daigle. “I think it really helped our chemistry and helped us get a long way.”

Daigle stepped up her own game in big matches this year, including scoring two goals apiece in the two games against Windham.

“Teams would say ”˜we knew we weren’t going to stop her, we just had to make sure we had that second person in position so that she couldn’t do it,’” said Kohl.

Daigle will be following in Arnold’s footsteps once again next season, as she will be attending Division-II Merrimack College, which plays in the same conference as Assumption College, where Arnold currently attends.

“It will definitely be weird,” said Daigle of playing against ”“ rather than with ”“ Arnold.

Kohl said it will be weird to not have either of the two players on his team, and he will again have to figure out a way to fill a large void on his roster.

He was lucky for the past four years, but once-in-a-decade players don’t grow on trees.

“We’ll obviously miss her,” said Kohl.

Staff Writer Wil Kramlich can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 323 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @WilTalkSports.

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