Virginia Tech’s Soule, who grew up in Lebanon, reflects on run to Final Four

  • Virginia Tech's Taylor Soule reacts during the second half of an NCAA Women's Final Four semifinals basketball game against LSUFriday, March 31, 2023, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) Ap — Darron Cummings

  • Georgia Amoore (5), Kayana Traylor (23), Taylor Soule (13) and Elizabeth Kitley (33) of the Virginia Tech Hokies celebrate after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 84-74 in the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at Climate Pledge Arena on March 27, 2023, in Seattle. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images/TNS) Getty Images/TNS — Alika Jenner

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/5/2023 2:52:00 AM
Modified: 4/5/2023 2:50:22 AM

Upper Valley sports fans tuning into the NCAA women’s basketball Final Four on Friday night weren’t just taking in an exciting semifinal matchup between Virginia Tech and LSU — they were watching one of their own.

Taylor Soule, who grew up in West Lebanon and attended Kimball Union Academy, started every game for the Hokies this season as a graduate transfer from Boston College, averaging 10.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game as Virginia Tech reached its first Final Four in program history.

“It definitely means a lot,” Soule said. “I had a bunch of messages from people, (and) I think it can help the next generation of kids growing up in the Upper Valley, and I’m happy to have been able to do that.”

A week after she was born in Chicago, Soule moved in with her adoptive parents, Kate Soule and John McDermott, in West Lebanon. Her biological younger half-sister, Zoe, later moved in with the family as well.

Soule showed athletic prowess even as a toddler, taking up track, swimming and gymnastics, but it was basketball and soccer where she shined the brightest. She initially enrolled at KUA to play soccer, deciding later to focus on basketball both because it offered the opportunity to play in front of more people and because she did not want to deal with the cold weather that often accompanies late-season high school soccer games in New England.

KUA athletic director Michael Doherty noticed Soule when she was in eighth grade playing with the Norwich-based Lightning Soccer Club, and recruited her to the Meriden campus as a day student. When Doherty first approached Soule’s mother about the prospect, Kate Soule mentioned that her daughter would be playing basketball that weekend in Plainfield, so Doherty sent his girls basketball coach, Eileen Williams, to take a look.

“I’m sure the final whistle hadn’t blown in that game before she was in touch with us saying, ‘Taylor has to come to KUA to play basketball,’ ” Kate Soule said. “She was initially a soccer recruit, but obviously had a lot of success in basketball as well.”

Williams was replaced by Liz McNamara prior to Soule’s junior year at KUA, but McNamara was already familiar with Soule’s game — she had coached against the budding superstar while at Proctor Academy and knew from the first time she saw Soule play that she was a special talent.

McNamara, a Plainfield resident, took the KUA job in 2016, jumping at the chance to coach at her alma mater. But she said it certainly didn’t hurt to have a bona fide Division I prospect on her new team.

“I’m a very defensive-minded coach, and Taylor is a very defensive-minded player. That worked out well for both of us,” McNamara said. “Taylor is so athletic that you could get away with throwing the ball up to Taylor and letting her go get it. We tried really hard to not do that. We had a great team her last two years at KUA, but we worked a lot on fundamentals of defense, moving your feet, staying in front, not fouling, boxing out, things like that.”

Soule joined the Mass Rivals, one of New England’s strongest Amateur Athletic Union programs, and drew the attention of Division I schools all over the eastern U.S., with the likes of New Hampshire, Providence and Marshall competing for her services. But the chance to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference and just two hours from home was too good to turn down.

A starter in 102 of the 113 games she appeared in for the Eagles, Soule became a three-time all-ACC honoree and led BC to the third round of the WNIT as a senior. She also helped found Eagles for Equality, BC’s student-athlete diversity, equity and inclusion committee after the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

“That was definitely something I was passionate about,” said Soule, who is Black but was raised by white parents in an overwhelmingly white area of the country. “It’s been nice to be around people who look like me and share some similar experiences, but at the same time, I’ve met great people who weren’t the same race as I am.”

Despite the individual success she enjoyed in Chestnut Hill, Soule’s BC teams had fallen short of the NCAA Tournament, so with the extra year of eligibility she was granted by the NCAA because of COVID-19, she entered the transfer portal and ended up staying in the ACC at Virginia Tech, where she is working toward a master’s degree in instructional design and technology.

The Hokies were coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances under coach Kenny Brooks but had yet to make a deep run. With Soule joining a strong group of experienced players including Georgia Amoore, Elizabeth Kitley and Kayana Traynor, Virginia Tech spent much of the season in the AP top 10, won the ACC Tournament and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s been great. Our identity is belief in each other, probably more than we believe in ourselves as individuals,” Soule said. “We have a really selfless team that cares about the people around us, and we’re mature.”

Soule scored in double figures three times in the Hokies’ run to the Final Four, including 12 points in the regional finals in Seattle against Ohio State. That win sent Virginia Tech to Dallas, where the Hokies held a nine-point lead after the third quarter against LSU before the eventual national champion Tigers stormed back in the fourth for a 79-72 win.

With her college basketball career in the books, Soule will finish her graduate degree this spring, then plans to pursue professional basketball, whether in the WNBA or internationally.

“She’s clearly the best athlete we’ve had that has come out of the Upper Valley, probably forever,” McNamara said. “I was just texting her, and she said, ‘I love everyone in the Upper Valley for shaping me into the person I am today, and this is for them.’ She’s just a really unselfish, very generous, very nice person, and this couldn’t be happening to a better young woman.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at or 603-727-3302.

Sign up for our free email updates
Valley News Daily Headlines
Valley News Contests and Promotions
Valley News Extra Time
Valley News Breaking News

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy