Prep of the Year Honorable Mention: Luke Neal

Annie Goldstein

Luke Neal, ranked 25th in the nation, committed to Yale University to play Division I tennis.

“His legacy will always be here, and the banners up in the gym [show that],” Craig Flax, the varsity boys’ tennis coach, said. 

At the age of three, senior and Yale commit Luke Neal began learning the game that would later become a substantial part of his life. Although Neal was also interested in basketball and soccer, as he got older, tennis became his priority as he enjoyed the flexibility of the sport.

“I just felt that tennis was the one for me. I really liked the kind of individual aspect [of the sport], in the sense that I could play whenever I wanted, and I wouldn’t be put on the bench by a coach like other sports,” Neal said.

As a freshman, Neal played on the varsity boys’ tennis team, and while he was only on the team for two years, his skill and talent greatly contributed to the team’s successes. In Neal’s freshman year, the team won the Marin County Athletic League (MCALS), Northern California Sectionals (NCS) and reached the semi-finals of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) tournament. 

Throughout his tennis career, Neal was recognized as the Marin County Player of the Year in 2018, selected as the league’s most valuable player and, in 2019, received the Northern California Scafidi Junior Sportsmanship award. Neal is ranked number one in Northern California in the 16s and 18s league and 19th in the nation for the recruiting 2021 class. 

His quiet confidence, sportsmanship and innate ability to lead has been felt by his teammates and coach. Although Flax only coached Neal for two years, his presence on the court makes him a standout.

“He just led by example. He was always at practice on time and stayed late if he wanted to stay late. He would do anything that I asked him to do, play at any position that I asked him to play and he would play with anybody on the team, even [when] I asked him to play with somebody lower down,” Flax said.

Along with his flexibility, through his time playing competitively, Neal has learned what it takes to stand out on the court. As the winner of the Daniel Scafidi Junior Sportsmanship Award, he emphasizes the importance of sportsmanship to the rest of his teammates. 

“It’s the guys who are willing to go out there and bleed and do everything they can to succeed. They are the ones who are most tough mentally; [they] can win the close matches and impress coaches, and by just showing how tough they’re going to work and how they want every single point to win,” Neal said. 

From a young age, Neal hoped to play tennis at the collegiate level. Even though his time at Redwood is coming to a close, reflecting upon his growth and experiences gives him confidence as a rising Yale Bulldog.  

“I’m looking forward to being on a high-level team; junior tennis is mostly individual and having teammates to support and push me in training will be a new experience,” Neal said. “Young me would be happy with what I’ve accomplished and glad that I’ll be going to a place where I’ll be able to grow and improve.”