The first time St. Joseph High School girls soccer coach Jack Nogueira saw Westport resident Sabrina Toole try out for his club team -- Yankee United -- in seventh grade, he had a feeling Toole could develop into a special player.
"It was the little things (Toole) could do with the ball," Nogueira recalled. "Her touch on the ball, her first touch away from pressure and her work rate really made me think she would have a possibility to play Division I soccer."
Almost six years and many accolades later, Nogueira was on hand as Toole signed her letter of intent Feb. 7 to attend the University of Connecticut.
Toole, who started playing soccer in kindergarten for the Westport Soccer Association, rose through the Westport travel ranks before moving on to Yankee United. Toole attended St. Thomas Aquinas in Fairfield from K-8 before moving on to St. Joseph.
A four-year starter for the Cadets, Toole developed into one of the top defenders in the country. Toole also scored 36 goals in her St. Joseph career.
"The number one thing she has is her ambition and desire to be the best player she can be," Nogueira said. "She's talented, but she has a drive, determination and focus to really be the best player."
Toole was named All-FCIAC all four seasons, and All-State in three. In her last two seasons, Toole was named All-American by the NSCAA and played in the first ever girls high school All-American game in Raleigh Dec. 7.
"She reads the game like none of the girls I've ever had," Nogueira said. "She's intelligent, instinctual, knowing where to be at the right place at the right time. She's very skillful, she's very good with the ball at ease with the ball when she has she can get away from pressure.
Toole was part of a dream team in Trumbull that featured fellow All-American Sami Grasso and All-State players Jenna Bike and Leah Lewis. The Cadets, who can draw players from nearby towns, went 58-6-4 over the past three seasons and defeated Suffield 2-1 in the Class LL final Nov. 22 for the school's third state title since 2007. St. Joseph won back-to-back FCIAC titles in 2012 and 2013.
"It was amazing," Toole said of playing for St. Joseph. "It felt really good because a lot of teams only have one or two good players and there is pressure on them to play well every game. With St. Joe's there were so many great players if you were having a bad day you know you would be picked up."
Toole originally committed for Fordham, but coaching change in the Bronx and a visit to the UConn campus changed that.
"I fell in love when I visited UConn," Toole said. I picked UConn because it's not too far so my parents can watch my games, the soccer program is strong there and the campus feels like its own little town."
If Toole's decorated career is any indication, success at Storrs is likely.
"It's great that she has the opportunity to play at UConn, and to be a part of the best programs," Nogueira said. "I think that's why she chose it; she enjoys the challenge."