It started with a stick and grew into a legacy.
Shannon Kenedy grew up playing soccer but was influenced by friends to try lacrosse. She didn’t realize how much she’d fall in love.
Her freshman year at Athens Drive High School, Kenedy, the oldest of four sisters, tried out for the girls’ lacrosse team. When she didn’t make it, she became a team manager instead of returning to soccer.
“I think it was more of a benefit for me not to make the team my freshman year,” said Kenedy, 23, who played on the rugby team at Brigham Young University. “I practiced with the team but never played in any of the games. As the season went on, I was able to learn about the sport and how it worked. I would go home and practice after practice and over the summer. By my sophomore year, I was able to be a starter.”
Kenedy’s effort was bigger than just making the team. Her three sisters followed in her footsteps and formed a memorable family legacy. Each time a Kenedy graduated from Athens Drive, she’d bequeath her No. 22 jersey.
While the youngest, Mary, plays at Apex Friendship High School as a freshman who decided to create her own path, the last Kenedy sister is about to graduate from Athens Drive, hanging up the Jaguars heirloom for good.
BYU-bound Erin Kenedy, a former hardcore soccer player, had a lot riding on her senior season this year.
“(My sisters) had been pressuring me a lot to play,” Erin said. “I was hesitant at first, but I grew to love it.”
Erin, a senior at Athens, said giving up soccer meant losing friendships. But she liked the idea of playing something new.
I think (lacrosse) has a lot more to it; soccer is more simple. There are a lot of rules, so you have to be thinking. It’s more strategic than soccer.
Erin played as a freshman when her older sister Colleen was a team captain, and Colleen was a freshman when Shannon was the captain. Erin and Mary played against each other twice this season.
“Probably the best years with my siblings were on the team. Maybe not at the time, but looking back,” said Colleen, 20, a junior at N.C. State who plays club lacrosse. “It was something for us to do together. Someone had to be out there passing with you … so we kind of grew together and learned how to play on the same team.”
Colleen put in a goal a game her senior year and was third on the team in groundballs. Erin led the Jaguars with 27 points to end her high school career this season, averaging three goals a game. And while her younger sister’s team defeated Athens twice, Erin prides herself on winning the individual matchups. She scored five goals in the Jags’ 7-6 loss to Apex Friendship in the season opener.
With Mary being the lone Kenedy sister playing lacrosse in the area, she hopes she can continue the standard the others set.
“It does put a lot of pressure on me to try to be as successful as they were,” Mary said. “Erin made varsity her freshman year, captains – they’re all very successful. I’m just trying to live up to it.”
Lacrosse extends beyond the sisters of the Kenedy family. Their father, Brian, is the Athens Drive team announcer who also learned about the game as Shannon picked it up.
Shannon encouraged all of her siblings to play, including her younger brother Shawn, who is 12, and it’s created an unbreakable bond.
It felt nice ... carrying the family legacy. It’s weird. It’s really sad and kind of sentimental to think that the family’s been wearing this jersey for so many years.
Athens Drive senior Erin Kenedy
Since Erin is graduating with no sister to give the No. 22 jersey next, the family is hoping to retire the number.
“It’s kind of crazy to think that when I started playing lacrosse, I just wanted to do something different and it led to this, that everybody would play this sport,” Shannon said. “I fell in love with this sport, and I didn’t know that my love would spread to other people.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan