Credit: Photo by Vin Contento Photo

Camden Hills of Rockport striker Kristina Kelly, the reigning Gatorade Maine Girls Soccer Player of the Year, has verbally committed to attend Central Connecticut State University beginning in the fall of 2020.

The 5-foot-3 Kelly, who will be a senior this fall, led the Windjammers to a third straight Class A state championship last fall with 39 goals and 10 assists to bring her career totals to 110 goals and 39 assists through three seasons.

The two-time All-American from Lincolnville owns the school record for goals.

Kelly will be a scholarship player at the New Britain, Connecticut, university and plans to study biology. She cited several reasons for her college decision.

“It was pretty much the whole package,” Kelly said. “I wanted a school that had a real campus feel to it rather than a city or a town and it definitely did. The coaches were all about personalities and making sure the environment was positive and fun, and that was important to me because I’m so shy.

“It definitely makes it easier when you know you’re going to get along with your teammates. I felt comfortable talking to [her future teammates]. I didn’t get that feel anywhere else.”

Kelly also visited Boston College, Dartmouth, Quinnipiac and Franklin Pierce University.

Camden Hills coach Meredith Messer said Kelly did a lot of research and added that Central Connecticut State’s competitiveness within its conference was appealing.

The Blue Devils went 16-2-2 last fall and won the Northeast Conference regular-season and tournament championships to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament where they lost in the first round to then-undefeated Georgetown, which went on to play in the national semifinals.

“The whole team was excited about their game with Georgetown and that was real exciting for me,” Kelly said. “They led 1-0 at the half. They have a lot of energy and they are motivated to do well and that’s really important to me.”

Messer said Kelly continues to improve and that should serve her well in college.

“She has gotten a lot stronger, especially after wrestling last winter,” said Messer, referring to Kelly’s decision to join the Camden Hills wrestling team coached by her uncle, Patrick Kelly. “She has gained some muscle mass and that will definitely help her.”

Kelly competed in the Class A regional wrestling tournament and won the 113-pound weight class at the girls’ state championships.

“In previous years, girls would be running into the back of me. When I tried to turn and shield the ball, I’d lose my balance. I haven’t lost my balance this year. I barely noticed them and it’s nice knowing at the college level that I will be able to handle [the contact] better,” Kelly said.

She will wrestle again next winter after trying to lead her Windjammers to a fourth straight Class A soccer title in the fall.

Kelly, who will turn 17 on Aug. 9, said she is glad to have her college decision out of the way so she can concentrate on and sports during the coming year.

Her attending Central Connecticut State is contingent on being accepted into the school and meeting NCAA eligibility requirements.