LEOMINSTER — When it came time for the dynamic Leominster High soccer tandem of Ava Troest and Nicole Kelley to make their collegiate choices, both standout players looked for the same thing: What school offered the best fit for the both on and off the field.
The Blue Devils seniors each found what they were looking for, though in different places, and made their collegiate commitments official Monday with the signing of their National Letters of Intent.
Troest, a striker, will take her talents to Rindge, New Hampshire, and Franklin Pierce University, while Kelley, a center back, will head to Western Mass. to attend American International College.
The two signed their letters in the Leominster High cafeteria among friends, family members, teammates, teachers and coaches.
“These two, they did a great job as leaders and as captains,” Leominster head coach Todd Turcotte said. “They were an integral part of our team and this is well-deserved. They’ll both be able to offer something to their schools at the next level and make them better.”
Troest was determined to play Division 2 soccer and while other offers came in, Franklin Pierce impressed her on multiple levels.
“It was tough,” Troest said. “Franklin Pierce was the first school that I visited and I ended staying there in a dorm and going to one of the practices. I just loved everything about it.
“I kept in touch with some other D2 schools, but I kind of knew Franklin Pierce was where I wanted to go.”
Traditionally competitive in the Northeast-10 Conference, Troest was impressed by what she saw from the Ravens just in practice.
“They’re a very good D2 school,” she said. “The competition level in the practice that I went to was really high and I loved that. It was intense and competitive, even just going through drills.”
The striker says she’s leaning toward majoring in some sort of psychology, likely involving sports.
For Kelley, the process of picking a school wasn’t quite as simple.
“Honestly, it was really hard,” Kelley said. “It took over a year. It was hard to find the right college for me and what I hope to be able to do.”
Exhaustive searches led the dogged defender to the school in Springfield and found her match with the Yellow Jackets.
“When I went to AIC, it was the perfect fit. I loved the people there, I loved how small it was and everything was great,” Kelley said. “I loved the coaching staff there and the team and it just seemed like the right place for me to be.”
Kelley says the practice sessions she’s taken in have featured the school’s club team and varsity team — which she will play for — combine. And while it was competitive, she was impressed with the supportive nature of both groups.
“It looked like a family,” said Kelley, who plans on majoring in sports management. “It didn’t matter what team anyone was on. It seemed like a good place to be.”