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Canyon's Meghan Kennedy: Playing for keeps

Canyon’s Meghan Kennedy learned to love goalkeeper, but she didn’t at first

Posted: January 29, 2013 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 29, 2013 1:55 a.m.

Canyon sophomore goalkeeper Meghan Kennedy is a big reason why Canyon has elevated from underdog to contender in recent weeks.

 

It’s quite common to hear an athlete talk about how much she loves the sport she plays.

It’s usually the same story, though — grew up playing the sport from a young age, fell in love with it, can’t even think about stopping.

But Canyon sophomore goalkeeper Meghan Kennedy is not a common
story.

She may be one of the top goalkeepers in the Foothill League, but it’s also a position she downright hated at first.

Kennedy had absolutely no desire to play in the net when she was thrust into the position at the age of 12.

Up to that point, she had played the sweeper position — a defensive position in which she was the last line of defense between the attacking forwards in front of her, and the keeper behind her.

But she was diagnosed with Sever’s Syndrome, a growth disorder related to tendons and bones in the heel that can make physical activity difficult. And so, it was play goalie, or don’t play at all.

“I was upset at first because it was so boring,” Kennedy says, even going as far as to say she hated the position at the time.

It’s funny how things work out.

As time went on, both her abilities as a goalkeeper and the importance of having a quality keeper increased.

In youth soccer, she felt as though goalkeeper was a sort of “no man’s land,” where coaches put “the people they don’t need on the field,” she says.

But now, she’s vital.

The sophomore has pitched four shutouts in five Foothill League games and is a big reason why Canyon is currently second place in the league standings.

“It’s a tremendous asset to have a keeper like Meghan holding up our defense,” says first-year Canyon head coach Derek Rusk. “Our defense works tremendously hard to prevent shots, but when they do (allow them), we’re confident in Meghan’s ability.”

As the shots continue to fly, and Kennedy continues to stop them — she had 14 saves in the Cowboys’ victory over Hart last Tuesday — she can see the frustration on her opponents’ faces.

“They were all kind of frustrated,” she says of Hart. “You could tell they’re not used to getting shut out. They’re in first. They’re used to scoring throughout the game. You could tell the frustration on their faces.”

And that’s the goal — to shut out her opponents.

But there’s something else she hopes to accomplish during her time at Canyon, too.

Relevance.

The Cowboys are a program with a rich girls soccer tradition — winning four straight league titles from 2002-2005. But the last few years have been tough.

Canyon hasn’t won a league title since 2009.

“We came out as an underdog before the season started,” Kennedy says. “People came into our games thinking we were going to roll over. And then the game was over and their minds were changed.”

That happened against Saugus on Jan. 18 when the Cowboys defeated the three-time defending champions 2-0.

It happened again on Jan. 22 with a 1-0 victory over a Hart team that was alone in first place at the time.

And now the Cowboys are hoping for a few more of those moments, with a game against West Ranch today and a match with first-place Valencia on Friday.

And with the success they’ve had to this point, there’s no reason for Kennedy or any of her teammates to doubt the possibilities.

“My realistic goal at the beginning of the season was to make playoffs,” Kennedy says. “That was setting the bar high for us in my point of view ... Now we realize we could do the best. We could finish first or top three. The motivation is there.”

It’s a long way from the adolescent girl who just wanted to get back out onto the field — and that’s something she thinks about a lot.

“I love what I do now,” she says. “I probably wouldn’t still be playing soccer if I was stuck on the field. It’s just how things work out. It’s fate I guess, if you believe in that stuff.”

Kennedy doesn’t believe in fate, by the way — and with all the hard work she’s put in to get to this point, rightfully so.

If the Sever’s Syndrome wasn’t enough, Kennedy dislocated her shoulder for the second time before a game against Hart last season.

Doctors told her she tore a ligament in the shoulder and required surgery after the season — a season in which she continued to play through the pain.

“If I wanted to keep playing I had to get surgery or when I’m older I wouldn’t be able to lift my arm,” Kennedy says of what the doctors told her.

So she got the surgery. And recovered in extraordinary fashion.

“After my surgery, (the doctor) told me later that he was so impressed with my strength and movement,” she says. “A lot of people never move their arm a certain way ever again. I know my abilities and I know how much I want to play. I know how much I want to get better, that I could push through whatever and get what I want. And as long as I have the drive, I’ll be able to do what I want.”

She might not have wanted to be a goalkeeper in the beginning. But now there’s nowhere she’d rather be — and more importantly, there’s no one the Cowboys would rather have behind them.

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