Inglemoor High School’s girls soccer team is preparing to send off their graduating captain after she solidified her intent to play for the University of New Mexico on National Signing Day on Feb. 7.
Nearly two dozen friends, teammates and family members brought cake and balloons to Kylie Russell’s signing party in head coach Kent Nelke’s classroom. Kylie is a senior and played her final season as an outside defender with the Vikings this year.
“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for her,” Nelke said. “She’s a great kid. She’s a great player. She’s a good person in general and to see her have the opportunity move on and play at a higher level is really exciting for me.”
Russell was surrounded by ecstatic friends during the energetic signing party. She said she’s slightly nervous about moving away but overall, she’s excited to join the UNM team.
“Today definitely made it feel more real, especially signing and knowing that I’m officially on the team now,” she said.
Russell visited the UNM campus earlier this school year and said she fell in love with the university. She starts in the fall.
“I’m looking forward to the team atmosphere,” she said. “I love the coaches, the weather, the campus and everything about it, honestly.”
The Inglemoor girls’ last game of the season was Oct. 30, which was Russell’s last chance to play with the team. The girls became close friends in the fall, according to Nelke, and seven teammates attended the impromptu signing party.
“I think the girls love her,” Nelke said. “They’re all extremely happy for her.”
Unfortunately, Russell spent the last half of the season benched with an injury, but as a captain she said she still learned a lot from her coaches.
“They definitely helped me a lot,” she said. “Being a captain this year, he showed us how to be leaders.”
Russell began playing soccer, among other sports, at 12 but eventually decided to strongly pursue soccer in high school.
“In soccer they commit so early, but she really worked hard,” Allison Russell, Kylie’s mother, said. “She really gravitated towards the social part and we just couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Kylie’s parents said they’ll miss her as she moves away, but they are proud and excited to see her excel in the sport.
“It’s kind of sad that she’s going far away,” Allison said with a laugh. “But we’re very happy for her and we think she’s going to be in good hands with the coaches (and team) at New Mexico.”
Kylie added that the thing she’ll miss most about home is her family and friends.
“They’re (all) a big part of where I am right now,” she said.
Despite coming on as a freshmen, Kylie and Nelke agree that she’ll fit in well among the UNM Lobos.
“I think I’ll mesh pretty well, we all follow each other on Instagram and I’ve met most of them and hung out with a couple of them,” she said. “It was really fun and I can just see myself fitting in.”
“I think she has absolutely all the ability in the world to step in, be successful there and contribute really heavily,” Nelke added.