By VAN HOLLAND
Tarboro Lady Vikings forward Shayla Thorne is still learning about the game of soccer. She has turned into one of the best female soccer players in school history. Every time she takes the field she gets better and better, because of her hard work and the help of her teammates. Her hard work paid off for her during her junior year as she led the Vikings with a winning record, co-confoerence championship and into the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
For all of her hard work and success, Thorne was recently named Regional Player of the Year at a regional coaches meeting.
"Being named Regional Player of the Year means that I played great throughout the season and accomplished a lot," Thorne said. "My teammates were a big part of that in helping me accomplish what I did."
Thorne said she wouldn't have been able to receive this award if it wasn't for the structure and coaching she gets from Tarboro coach Leshaun Jenkins and the support she gets from her teammates.
'My teammates are a big part of me being the player I am," Thorne said. "We had goals set at the beginning of the season and we accomplished them. I also accomplished my individual goals and more."
Jenkins had high expectations of Thorne this season, but he didn't think she would surpass them. Coming off of a 20 goal season as a sophomore, Jenkins thought she could give the team 30 goals. She went above and beyond that. He said Thorne was a very important piece to the puzzle for their success this season.
"Shayla had a remarkable season," Jenkins said. "She has great speed and can beat defenders, but I never thought she would give me the production she did. I knew when we were in tight matches this year I yelled to her to take over and get us a goal. She still has a lot of growing to do on the field, but she is going to be special before she leaves this program."
Thorne had 89 total points this year. A player earns two points per goal and one point for an assist. She scored 40 goals and had nine assists for the Vikings in 16 matches. She scored at least one goal in 13 of the matches and had six goals in one match. The only matches she didn't score in, were the three that Tarboro was shutout.
Scoring those 40 goals gives Thorne the single-season record at Tarboro in girl's soccer.
"It is a great feeling knowing I am the record holder and scored that many goals in a season," Thorne said. "It is the best feeling knowing I accomplished that during the same time that we had a great season."
Thorne said she couldn't of accomplished that feat if it wasn't for the help of teammates Julie Hayes and Katie King on offense. Hayes was out for several games this season and Thorne said missing Hayes during those matches were hard for her to find ways to score, because it was just her and King up front.
"My teammates helped me a lot this season because they assisted me on a lot of my goals," Thorne said.
When Thorne has one on one chances against the opposing goalie, she said she is just thinking about the opportunity and wants to make the best of it.
Jenkins told her at the beginning of the season that if she has one on one chances she has the green light to rip shots at will.
"It is just extra special to be able to coach a player like Shayla," Jenkins said. "I get real excited when I see her get the ball through the gap or over the top because I know something exciting is going to happen."
Jenkins said Thorne is a good finisher and knows how to make the most of her chances. He just feels good when she has the ball at her feet.
Being only in his second year with the girl's team, Jenkins said Thorne means tons to his team. He takes a player like Thorne and builds the foundation around them.
"She is just a very crucial piece to the puzzle," Jenkins said. "Put it this way...without her on the field we have to change our whole system."
Thorne falls right into Jenkins' system, because he likes for his team to play fast and likes for them to counter attack their opponents.
"We can't attack like we do if we have slow pokes up top," Jenkins said. "Shayla is a fast athlete and with her speed she makes things happen."
Thorne accounted for half of the Vikings goals this season. Hayes scored 23 and senior Chandler Harris and King each chipped in five apiece.
Thorne wasn't the only player to make the All-Region team from Tarboro. Harris and Hayes, King and Courtney Perkins were also named to the team.