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Neal to pull double duty at Heidelberg

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By Goose Lindsay

Most high school athletes dream of getting the opportunity to play one sport in college. 

Kingston’s Christina Neal, however, will have the unique opportunity to play two sports, basketball and soccer, at the next level as Neal signed scholarship papers Tuesday with Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio.

“I’m beyond excited,” Neal said after the signing. “A lot of people don’t have an opportunity to play in college and I have the opportunity to play the two sports that I love. This is a real blessing.”

There has never been much doubt that Neal would have the opportunity to play soccer in college. At Kingston, Neal was a goal scoring machine as the lightning-fast striker is the Lady Jackets all-time leading scorer with 153 goals. 

“Soccer has always been my passion,” Neal said. “They’re looking at me at the striker position. That’s my favorite position on the field. I can also play midfield and I was the third string goalkeeper.”  

Neal’s unique blend of speed, power and accuracy were the main reason for her ability to find the back of the net more than any other player in Kingston history.

“I’m fast and I’m ambidextrous with my feet,” she said. “I have the ability to shoot hard and accurate with both feet.”

While scoring a school-record 153 goals jump out on Neal’s résumé, it’s not the most impressive part. What really jumps out at people is that this past summer when Neal played for the USA 21-Under Team in Sweden.

“That was a great experience,” she said. “It was kind of a shocker to see a girl from a small town like Kingston get that kind of opportunity. After doing that I had more than 300 colleges looking at me.”

With so many college choices it was surprising that Neal would pick a school 470 miles from home, but she felt it was by far the best fit.

“When we went there I really liked it,” she said. “It’s a small private college in a small town and I feel it gives me the best opportunity to learn more about soccer.”

While offense is Neal’s calling card in soccer, it’s her defense that will get her on the floor in basketball.

“I wasn’t expecting basketball at all, but when they found out I played basketball and was pretty good they made me an offer,” Neal said. “I’m a very good defender in basketball, but I need to work on my offense. They tell me I play too fast on offense and need to slow it down. I’m not a great shooter, but I do a good job off looking inside.”

While Neal is excited about the opportunity to play two sports at the collegiate level, she wasn’t always sure playing two sports would be a wise decision as she is planning on a dual major in criminal justice and crime scene analysis. It wasn’t until she got some assurances from the coaches at Heidelberg that she felt she could be effective in both sports while taking care of her business in the classroom.

“I debated what to do, but they think I’ll be great at both and can handle both,” she said. “The biggest thing for me is that I’m going to have to stay focused on both my sports and grades. They told me that if it’s too much for me that I can drop basketball, but I’m going to do everything I can to play both sports for four years. It’s going to be a matter of balancing my schedule.”

Neal also knows that she is going to have to be in the best shape of her life when she arrives at Heidelberg in late July.

 “I’m going to have to work out more to be ready when we have preseason training in late July. “I’m also going to have to be ready to play in colder weather.”