Of her many individual accolades, there's one thing that tops all that when Jaclyn Daigneault looks back at her career. It was a Saturday afternoon in Bloomington, Illinois, that Daigneault and her Amherst College teammates won the Division III national championship of women's basketball, the first in program history, vanquishing five-time defending champion Washington University of St. Louis by a 64-55 margin. A two-time State Farm Division III All-American, Jaci would go on to be named 2011 Division III National Player of the Year, capping a career she began back at Guilford High School.
"After losing national (semifinal) games two years in a row, my Amherst College basketball team made it back to the Final Four my senior year," Jaci said. "We battled the same team we'd lost to in the previous two Final Fours and ultimately captured the national championship. I played a different role in that game, as I was tasked with defending Washington's top scorer, thus focusing far less on my offensive performance than usual.
"I was so proud of the players who stepped up on our team to help us finally bring home the championship. We had worked so hard that season to be better, stronger and smarter than years past, that plus a little luck and a few bounces that went our way. It was the sweetest feeling to win the championship with my best friends."
A 2007 Guilford graduate, Jaci scored 1,326 career points for the Indians, earning All-Southern Connecticut Conference, New Haven Register All-Area and New Haven Register and Connecticut High School Coaches' Association All-State honors as a senior captain. A small forward, she would later add 1,299 points and 654 rebounds at Amherst, averaging 14.8 points and 7.3 rebounds her senior season when the team finished 32-1 with a national championship. Jaci graduated fourth on the program's all-time list for points and fifth in rebounds.
She received her undergraduate degree in psychology and is currently a medical student at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. She lists herself as an amateur golfer and fisherman, hiker and hot yoga enthusiast, avid traveler, homemade wine connoisseur and proud aunt to a niece and nephew.
Jaci was introduced to the game by her dad, John, who watched countless UConn and Yale women's basketball games with her, as well as those of the Boston Celtics. She was inspired by Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Michael Jordan and studied their moves and their demeanors. She hopes to continue playing recreationally until she hits the "over-80" league. Today, her father will present her as a member of the Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
"My father introduced me to basketball, a passion that we both share," Jaci said. "He coached me throughout much of my career, made it to every game but one that I ever played in and always supported me ... even after trying (and failing) for years to teach me a jump hook.
"Basketball has always been a constant in my life. It's been something I have loved to do since I was young. Basketball has shaped me as a person. It has given me confidence to step outside of my comfort zone, to set high goals and work hard to achieve them. It's taught me to be dedicated and fierce and to never be afraid to fail because failing means you're trying."