Lincolnville native Kristina Kelly, the state’s third-leading goal scorer of all time among both boys and girls, has transferred to the University of Maine.
Kelly, who scored 159 goals for Camden Hills High School of Rockport, left Central Connecticut State University and has already joined the program this semester along with University of Oregon transfer Lara Kirkby.
She led Camden Hills High School to four Class A state championships and was named the United States Coaches National Player of the Year in 2019. She was a three-time high school All-American.
“I didn’t transfer because I wanted to play at a higher level. I wanted to go somewhere where I could do well and make an impact on the team. That’s what I’m hoping to do here,” Kelly said.
UMaine posted its first winning season since 2015 this past fall as it went 9-3-5 overall, 4-0-4 in America East. In its first playoff berth since 2016, UMaine beat the New Jersey Institute of Technology 4-1 in the quarterfinals before losing in the semifinals to eventual champ New Hampshire 2-1.
Kelly was a two-time All-Northeast Conference first team selection at Central Connecticut State and an All-Rookie Team pick.
The Blue Devils went 29-13-2 in her three seasons and made the NCAA Tournament in 2021 after winning the Northeast Conference title.
This past fall, she shared the team lead in goals for the Blue Devils with six and was second in points with 14 as she also had two assists in 17 games.
Kelly notched nine goals and had five assists in 40 career games at Central Connecticut State.
She will have two years of eligibility remaining at UMaine.
“I wanted to be closer to home so it came down to New Hampshire and Maine and when I got here, I loved the work ethic, the team, the community feeling and the whole atmosphere. It was an easy decision,” said the 20-year-old Kelly who can play in the midfield or up front.
Kelly is fast and also strong, courtesy of her time on the Camden Hills boys wrestling team.
“She has a lot of attacking qualities and she is perfect for our style of play. She is good at running at people, she has a lot of distribution skills and she can also finish,” Atherley said. “She is exceptionally strong and athletic.”
Atherley added that Kelly’s time at Central Connecticut State made her an even more versatile player.
“I was a utility player. I’d play three or four different positions each game,” Kelly said. During state championship games in high school, Camden Hills coach Meredith Messer moved Kelly back to defense late in games to protect a lead.
Kelly said she enjoyed her time at Central Connecticut State but she felt it was time to move on.
“Twelve players have left and it was a challenge,” said Kelly, who admitted she had lost some of her passion for soccer.
But she said she has since regained her love of the sport.
“A change of pace is exactly what I needed. I love it here. Everything has been super. I enjoy lifting weights and working out with the team, even at 6:45 in the morning. It’s fun,” she said. “Everybody has a team-first attitude. I can’t imagine a better environment.”
Kelly wanted to come here for the second semester rather than waiting until the fall so she could get to know her new teammates and understand Atherley’s system.
The Black Bears pressure the ball all over the field and look to force turnovers and create transition scoring opportunities.
Last season the Black Bears scored nearly two goals a game (1.88), the most in several seasons.
Kelly, who is a pre-med student majoring in microbiology, said their style of play suits her game nicely.
“I love to attack and defend,” she said.
The team’s other transfer — Kirkby from Adelaide, Australia — also has two seasons of eligibility remaining and played in 10 games for the Ducks last fall after appearing in one the previous season and picking up an assist.
Like Kelly, she is a versatile midfielder.
“She has great vision and her distribution skills are off the charts,” Atherley said.
Kirkby played in the W-League (National League Australia) for Adelaide United in 2018 as a 16-year-old and was named one of Australia’s top 20 age group players in the 2019 national championship.
She plans to major in biochemistry.