In high school, UConn women’s soccer senior Sabrina Toole was a superstar at Saint Joseph’s in Trumbull. She was named an NSCAA All-American twice, earned Connecticut Player of the Year in 2013 and helped guide her team to a state championship as a senior.
But for as impressive of a resume as Toole built over her four-year career, she almost didn’t end up playing soccer at the next level.
Originally, she committed to Fordham until longtime coach Ness Selmani retired during her senior year. Since it occured so late in the recruiting process, most schools had already filled out their incoming classes, leaving few options for Toole.
Her premier coach reached out to UConn, who came to watch one of her indoor practices. The Huskies staff liked what they saw enough to offer her a non-guaranteed roster spot.
“They told me I could come and if I worked hard I could win a spot eventually,” Toole said. “It was going to be a much tougher battle than if I went to Fordham because I came here without a scholarship.”
Toole didn’t expect much playing time as a late addition to the recruiting class. However, that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to try for it. As a freshman, she set a high, yet achievable goal.
“I wrote down that I wanted to travel,” she said. “And I ended up starting for the first 15 games.”
Not only did she start, Toole was the team’s center defender, the most important spot on defense. However, it also requires near-perfect play, something she learned in a matter of seconds.
“Against Cincinnati I lost the starting job because I made a horrible two plays in a row and Tori [Patterson] came in and did an amazing job,” she said.
But instead of hanging her head or complaining, Toole simply went back to work.
Whether it was staying after practice, talking to her teammates or even trying a new position, Toole did anything she could to get back on the field.
Eventually she did get back out there, this time at center defensive back. It’s a position she’s held down for the last three years.
That whatever-it-takes attitude has earned Toole some of the highest praise from head coach Len Tsantiris.
“Sabrina, I mean she’s a fighter,” he said. “She’ll go through a wall to get the ball and that’s who she is.”
Fighting is something Toole has needed to do along every step of her career. She had to fight to make the team. She had to fight for playing time. She had to fight to get her starting job back.
At 7-8-3, the Huskies need to win the American Conference Tournament to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The path starts on at 7 p.m. on Wednesday against Memphis and likely involves going through No. 8 UCF.
But if things went like they were supposed to, Sabrina Toole would have never started over 60 games and clocked over 5,000 minutes. In fact, she would have never been at UConn in the first place.