By Hayden Choate
With her team down one with 20 minutes left on the road against NEWMAC opponent Wheaton, Kaleigh Dale scored her third goal of the game on a penalty kick to tie the game and notch her sixth career hat-trick.
The goal would be the last one of the game that ended in a 4-4 tie. What Dale did not know until she got on the bus and saw an Instagram post from Springfield College Athletics was that the third goal of the day accounted for her 100th career point.
“It feels obviously really good,” Dale said. “It was something that I actually didn’t know I was close to so to find out about and to be congratulated on it was a very cool feeling, kind of feels unreal.”
The game against Wheaton was the senior’s 58th of her career in just her third season after her junior campaign was shut down by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Honestly surprised that I hit that already,” Dale said.
“What an achievement,” Springfield College women’s soccer coach John Gibson said. “She’s a ‘senior’ but by no metric is she a senior, other than the class she started with is all seniors, so she’s done it in three years.”
When an opposing team has to play against a special player like Dale they hope to keep them off the scoresheet and hope it will be the last time they face them, this was not the case when Dale completed her hat-trick.
“Actually to his credit, the Wheaton coach said after the game what a great game it was, said ‘Has Kaleigh got another year?’ I said, “Yeah, he said ‘I love watching her play,’ that was very nice of him,” Gibson said.
Not only is she just the second player in program history to score 100 points, but she is second in career goals and career points. Angel Schofield is No. 1 on both lists with 127 points and 51 goals.
Dale plans on returning next year and still has two regular-season games and playoffs this season.
“Yeah it’s amazing, she’s a great player and she’s hit the crossbar six times as well, so she could be even further along,” Gibson said. “Angel [Schofield] always says, ‘Yeah but Herb used to take me out when we were three up’ and the answer to that is, ‘Yeah, but we play a lot of better teams, so we haven’t ran the score up with her, a hat-trick in a 4-4 tie – that’s a real hat trick. Such a good player and such a hard worker, she’s a great person to have here.”
Dale added on the records she’s approaching, “Obviously that would be really cool and I hope [I reach that mark] – I would rather win the conference. I’m much more of a team player, I mean obviously if I do that’s really cool but I wouldn’t say that’s my focus, my focus is do as much as I can for the team and hopefully do well in our last few weeks in the season.”
Dale never thought she would achieve something like this, even after breaking the single-goal record in program history with 20 her first season.
“Honestly I had no idea, I’ve never been someone whose focus has been on stats, my focus is always on trying to play good for the team, trying to win for the team,” Dale said. “It was just a very big surprise, after my first year I obviously knew that I had done really well but the thought never really crossed my mind about getting 100 points and to do it in my third year is a really good feeling.”
Gibson remembers very well when Dale first came into the program as a first-year, three years ago.
“I remember being out here, we’re in the fitness test in preseason and we’re saying, ‘She runs funny and she’s on her heels, ah god that can’t be right she looks slow but she’s beating everybody’ so we got used to that, it’s great to watch,” Gibson said.
The hat-trick goal was only Dale’s eighth of the year but her 42nd in her 59-game career at Springfield College. Scoring has been something Dale has worked on for a long time.
“That also feels really good, that feels like hard work paying off,” Dale said. “I work a lot on shooting and finishing so it feels really good to kind of have that all paying off and it feels good to be able to do it in a program that historically has been very good.”
Part of Dale’s ability to be a dominant player and constant scoring threat is not only her confidence in both her left and her right foot, but being able to switch feet quickly.
“Ever since I first started playing, something I tried to work on was my left foot as much as my right,” Dale said. “At this point in my playing ability my left foot is just as good as my right I think that’s very important I don’t think many people focus on that, so I think having the versatility of being able to switch to my left if I’m being shaded on my right I just think its helped a lot growing up working on both feet.
“I would say sometimes my left foot shooting is almost more accurate than my right just because of how much time I’ve put into it, when I was younger trying to get it just as good as my right.”
With a year and some change left in her collegiate career, Dale is honored to have already made her mark in Springfield College women’s soccer history.
“It feels awesome honestly, this school I feel like it’s a very well-known school and the athletics here I kind of feel like is the main focus of the school so to have my name there and people always congratulating me and coming up and saying good job is just a really cool feeling,” Dale said.
“It’s cool that when I do leave I still would have left my mark. That’s a really cool feeling especially in this type of program.”
Photo: Hayden Choate