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New Life Academy: Eagles' Westlund signs soccer scholarship

New Life Academy senior Chloe Westlund signed to play Division II soccer at Southwest Minnesota State on Wednesday, Feb. 5. (Submitted photo)

Amidst all the festivities of snow week, a National Signing Day ceremony simply added to the atmosphere at New Life Academy.

“We rarely have a signing, so it’s kind of new for everyone,” NLA senior soccer standout Chloe Westlund said.

Westlund signed to play Division II soccer at Southwest Minnesota State on Wednesday, Feb. 5. She had a large crowd of fellow teammates and students on hand to cheer her on and support her.

“It was kind of scary, but also exciting,” Westlund said about going to SMSU. “Scary because you don’t know what to expect, but exciting because college is a new experience.”

Westlund, a forward, led the New Life Eagles, who were 16-2 overall and 7-1 in the conference, in scoring and helped them to the section finals last season despite an MCL injury over the summer. She has been a key player for the Eagles since her seventh-grade season.

“She’s been the hub of our wheel,” Eagles soccer coach Lynn Atkinson said. “Everything we do runs through her.”

Southwest Minnesota State University signed 13 high school student-athletes to National Letters of Intent last week.

“We are excited to add this talented group of recruits to our current soccer family,” said head coach TJ Buchholz. “While we had a great season in 2013, we know that we have to continue to build for success in future years. This strong recruiting class will not only help us fill holes for next season, but it will also help build a strong foundation for the next four years.”

Southwest Minnesota State, located in Marshall, is a member of NCAA Division II and competes in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. SMSU had a Cinderella season in 2013 - finishing the season 16-4-2 overall and in the process set numerous records and experienced many firsts. SMSU opened the season with 11 straight wins - setting the school record for consecutive wins and consecutive wins to start a season. SMSU finished the season setting the program record for wins in a single-season (16), qualified for its first NSIC tournament since 2007. Although SMSU took a first round exit in the NSIC tournament,

The Mustangs went on to qualify for their first NCAA tournament in the program’s 18-year history. SMSU wasn’t done there, as the Mustangs did something else that hasn’t been done in SMSU’s previous 17 years of play - beat a nationally ranked opponent - SMSU defeated No. 14 Central Missouri 3-1 to advance to play No. 6 Minnesota State in the NCAA second round. SMSU followed its biggest win in program history with an even bigger win, a 2-1 victory over the Mavericks. The win gave SMSU its first defeat of MSU in program history and advanced them to the Sweet 16, where the historic season was put to bed by a 2-0 loss to NSIC foe Minnesota Duluth.

-Matthew Davis