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Girls soccer: Neal will head to Colorado School of Mines

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By Mike Cote

Senioritis hasn't set in for Kelsey Neal. It probably won't have a chance.

Neal, a top athlete at Los Alamos High School, has kept herself plenty busy throughout her senior season. She did cross one thing off her to-do list Wednesday, however: she signed her National Letter of Intent.

Following the conclusion of her career at LAHS, Neal will move on to play soccer for the Colorado School of Mines. She made that official in a ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the school.

Neal, a multi-year standout for the Hilltopper girls soccer team, attended a soccer camp during the summer at CSM, located in Golden, Colo. She said many things about the school impressed her.

"I really like Colorado and the school's a really good school," Neal said. "I really liked the team and the coaches."

Neal was an All-Class AAAA Honorable Mention for the 2009 season, in which she solidified a stout Hilltopper midfield. She was named co-District 2AAAA Player of the Year for the Hilltoppers along with teammate Shaina Riciputi, leading the team in scoring with 47 points.

Neal led AAAA with 19 assists and tacked on 14 goals, making her the fifth-leading point-producer in the classification.

Los Alamos finished the season as the Class AAAA runner-up for the second-straight season, losing to Albuquerque Academy for the second-straight time in the final.

For right now, she's looking forward to finishing up her prep diving season — Neal has already qualified for the state championship meet later this month — and will return to the Hilltopper track and field team this spring.

Her college squad, the Orediggers, is coming off a successful 2009 season playing in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The Orediggers finished their year with a record of 19-5-1, losing to Grand Valley State in the NCAA Division-II championship quarterfinals.

During her official visit to CSM during the early part of the school year, Neal got to visit with Oredigger head coach Frank Kohlenstein and was impressed by the coaching staff and the athletic facilities.

The program seems to be on the upswing, Neal said, especially with a brand new soccer facility.

Just as importantly, however, was the academic aspect of the school.

"The fact is that it's one of the top engineering schools," Neal said. "People keep up a high (grade-point average) and play soccer."

Neal said she would like to study biomedical engineering at the school. Neal's father, Ben, is a well-know local pediatrician.

Soccer has been a big part of the Neal household. Kelsey's older brother Avery Neal plays for Pacific University in Oregon and younger sister Amy Neal turned in an impressive freshman year for the Hilltoppers in 2009.

Neal said she doesn't know what her prospects for getting playing time right away with the Orediggers — they had seven seniors on their 2009 roster — but said she'll worry about that when she gets to Golden.

"I'm really excited," she said of her signing with CSM. "It's kind of a weight lifted off my shoulders. I don't have to think about where I'm going anymore."