One-Track Mind


here were 24 seconds remaining in Boston College lacrosse’s regular season finale. Tied, 12-12, with No. 16 Syracuse, all that stood between the Eagles’ first-ever ACC regular season title and first loss of the 2018 campaign was one goal.

Sam Apuzzo and Dempsey Arsenault, BC’s top-two point scorers, pressured Orange goalkeeper Asa Goldstock, who cradled the ball in her own third as she had done for much of the game. Although the freshman netminder had logged nine second-half saves, she couldn’t make a play when it mattered most.

Attempting to escape Apuzzo and Arsenault, Goldstock scurried toward the sideline but was greeted by a host of BC players. She tried to save the possession by lofting a pass into the field of play but stepped out of bounds in the process, handing the ball back to Apuzzo and the Eagles with 21 ticks left in regulation.

Head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein looked on, as Apuzzo, Arsenault, Kaileen Hart, Tess Chandler, and the rest of the BC attack set up shop for one last possession in Syracuse territory. Just past her line of vision rested the arms of Kenzie Kent atop the wet and cold black chain-link fence bordering the Newton Campus Lacrosse and Soccer Field. One year removed from being named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Kent—a redshirt senior—was nothing more than a helpless spectator.

“During those games in those moments, like being at the field, not being with them on the sideline, it was almost like I just I wanted to fast forward time,” Kent said. “I wanted it to be next year, where I’m on the field.”

But even without Kent—who cracked BC’s top-20 all-time scoring list in just 30 career games—the Eagles prevailed. After failing to come down with an Emma Schurr pass, Taylor Walker scooped up the corresponding ground ball and whipped it to a cutting Apuzzo. From there, the eventual Tewaaraton Award winner faked a shot before tossing the ball into the bottom left corner of the net while falling to her back, all with 1.7 seconds remaining.

BC had just completed a perfect regular season, tied its program record for single-season victories, and claimed the conference regular season title. And all Kent could do was watch.

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bout three weeks after suffering one of the toughest defeats of her athletic career—a 2-0 loss to Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Hockey Tournament—Kent made one of the hardest—albeit exciting—announcements of her life.

On March 30, the Norwell, Mass., native declared that she would be redshirting the 2018 lacrosse season with the intention of playing the entire 2019 campaign. The decision meant that, for the first time ever, she would have a full 17-plus games in a BC lacrosse uniform. But the problem was, she’d have to both wait a year to suit up again—the longest she’d ever stepped away from the game—and miss out on her senior season. Put simply, she’d never play another minute with Chandler, a childhood friend and then-graduate student, in addition to classmates Carly Bell, Emma and Tara Schurr, and Hart.

Although the news came as a surprise to Eagles fans and even the media, Kent had known all along that she wanted to dedicate one full season to both hockey and lacrosse, even when she was a high school senior.

BC’s head women’s hockey coach Katie Crowley—a former ice hockey and softball player at Brown—presented Kent with a number of options during the recruiting process. They discussed playing both sports and the opportunity of redshirting down the line for a chance to come back to BC for a fifth year and earn her Master’s. Kent, who had both a hockey and lacrosse stick in her hands all throughout her childhood, couldn’t have received a better offer.

“It’s certainly a challenge, but, you know, of all the people that that we’ve had, I mean Kenzie is that type of player and person that can do it,” Crowley said. “ You’re excited when she is around your team and you understand when she’s not, she’s helping on another team.”

Knowing whether she wanted to redshirt was one thing, but knowing when to actually make the decision was a whole separate dilemma.

Crowley explained that Kent wasn’t always set on redshirting a lacrosse season—in fact, for quite some time, she considered redshirting the 2017-18 women’s hockey campaign. If she had gone that route, she would have been able to finish out her BC hockey career with two players that were by her side when she first stepped foot in Kelley Rink: Megan Keller and Kali Flanagan. Along with then-freshman Cayla Barnes, the two defensemen took a leave of absence from the program to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. In Crowley’s mind, though, that was all the more reason for Kent to play the 2017-18 season—BC needed a leader, a veteran presence on the offensive end of the ice.

Kent’s decision drew out over the course of summer 2017. Crowley called twice to give whatever advice she could and see which way Kent was leaning, ultimately respecting whatever the rising senior wanted to do. A couple weeks before the 2017-18 academic year began, Kent made her final decision: She was returning to the ice for one last National Championship push. Lacrosse, on the other hand, would have to wait.

Kent’s choice was partially rooted in her 2017 NCAA Tournament performance the spring prior. During the five-game stretch, she recorded 37 points—at the time, 11 more than any player had ever totaled in the annual competition. Judging by her abbreviated seven-game regular season, it’s no surprise that Kent exploded in postseason play.

Entering midseason, following the conclusion of the NCAA Women’s Hockey Tournament—as she had done her first three years on the Heights—the dual-sport phenom racked up 40 points by the end of the ACC Tournament. Couple that with her NCAA Tournament outburst, and Kent finished the 2017 season with 77 points to her name. To put that in perspective, if the eventual 2016-17 ACC Female Athlete of the Year had played all 23 games that year and kept up that kind of output, she would have tallied approximately 148 points—a total that would have tied Maryland’s Jen Adams for the third-most in NCAA single-season history.

“I think we knew she was going to be good, but, you know, I don’t know that we knew she was going to be this good,” Crowley said.

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s the 2018 lacrosse season progressed, and the Eagles kept on winning, the cries for Kent only continued. Having deflected interview requests and questions during her final hockey season at BC, the senior knew that, sooner or later, she had to make an announcement about her future. More than anything, Kent didn’t want to be a distraction—for both her teams.

While Kent’s decision was nerve-wracking, she had the full support of her teammates and coaching staff. Crowley and Chandler are confident that some of Kent’s fears, including those pertaining to disrupting team chemistry, can be traced back to her selfless nature.

“She was always asking advice like, ‘Hey, Tess, was that pass too low? Do you want it higher?’ or, ‘Do you want me to feed you earlier?,’” Chandler said. “She was always concerned with how she was doing because she wanted to make other people look good.”

Although Kent didn’t explicitly talk to Chandler about taking minutes away from other players on the team after missing fall ball and practically the entire non-conference slate year in and year out, Chandler knew that it was on Kent’s mind. After all, Kent was concerned about the team, first and foremost. Chandler notes that the “inhuman” one-week transition from ice hockey to lacrosse was even more difficult for Kent—a player that was so talented yet unselfish that the minute she returned to the team, she was automatically inserted into the starting lineup, superseding those who had been with the team all year.

“I think the kind of person Kenzie is, she probably thinks [about] that more than what her teammates do because she’s such a good teammate and a good leader,” Crowley said. “And, you know, she really is—she is a player that you want on your team and a person you want on your team.”

Rather than attending practice, team meetings, and games, like redshirts often do, Kent decided to take a full step back from the program last spring. She took more time off from sports than she had in quite some time, resting her body for a good portion of the second semester. No ice hockey, no lacrosse—that was uncharted territory for Kent.

“I think one of the biggest things you take away when you don’t play for a year for whatever reason is just an appreciation,” said Chandler, who missed practically the entire 2017 season with an ACL tear. “And I think when you take a full step back, it makes it that much more exciting to come back and sort of give it your full attention again.”

Kent, who has never suffered a major injury while in college or really sat on the bench for any duration of time, gained a new perspective throughout spring 2018. She watched every game with her father, and as hard as it could be to stand on the outside looking in, she found herself picking up on parts of the game that had previously gone undetected.

From falling one game short of the program’s first-ever ACC Tournament Championship to making a second straight trip to the Final Four, BC’s high-achieving 2018 season had everything a player or fan could ever want—well, except a national title.

Kent traveled to Stony Brook, N.Y., for what ended up being a roller coaster of a weekend. First, the Eagles defeated Maryland in the national semifinals for the first time in program history, avenging their 2017 National Championship loss and, in Kent’s eyes, affirming their status as a program that’s “here to stay.” Then, just two days later, pure jubilation turned into agony, as BC lost its second consecutive national title game to James Madison.

For Kent, it was her third National Championship loss in just as many years. And even though she wasn’t on the field, it was just as hard to swallow—just like back in March, she had to say goodbye to graduating classmates, knowing full well that she had something they didn’t: a chance to run it back one last time.

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summer without ice hockey was a summer of change.

Normally, Kent would go to the rink two to three times a week during the heat of June, July, and August, but as she turned her focus to lacrosse, she adopted a new routine—one that involved everything from road runs to pickup basketball.

Her father, Jeff, recalled intense 2 v. 2 games, where he and Kent would square off against Addison and Parker, two of Kent’s five siblings. Off the court, though, Kent was all business. Training alongside Addison, who was gearing up for her sophomore season at BC, she made frequent trips back to Norwell High School, where the two first gained notoriety.

While Kent worked on her shooting, Addison practiced defending her big sister. Not only that, but they also ran several drills in preparation for fall ball, which—in Kent’s eyes—was the one of the most difficult but important components of the entire redshirt process. For the first time in her career, Kent was playing lacrosse without a game in sight.

What’s more is that the season marked the first time that Kent had played with Walker-Weinstein and Co. in nearly a year and a half. Doubting whether or not she’d fit into the offense or the team as a whole was only natural.

“I had that fear every year, every season, just because I missed so much time with each group,” Kent said. “But they’re such amazing, nice, welcoming people. The first day, those fears kind of went away.”

Addison believes that Kent took her game to another level during fall ball, improving her speed and agility over the course of the offseason. Although Kent was living out her vision—reserving a fifth year solely for lacrosse—leaving her skates at home was definitely an adjustment.

“I would walk by the rink sometimes and just stop and watch and be like, ‘Damn, this is really weird,’” Kent said.

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C’s Feb. 10 season opener against Boston University marked Kent’s first time playing college lacrosse in the month of February. It was also her first time wearing an Eagles lacrosse uniform in 622 days. She didn’t lose a step, though. If anything, she gained one.

All it took was 24 seconds for the graduate student to find the back of the net. The quick goal was just the start of a nine-point performance, one that fueled a 20-6 BC victory, tied Kent’s career-high scoring total, and foreshadowed what was to come. Kent has simply picked up right where she left off in 2017, dissecting defenses on a game-to-game basis, always looking to find the open man before taking matters into her own hands.

During BC’s 14-0 start to the season, Kent has unsurprisingly racked up a career-high 82 points. She’s tallied 29 goals and, more importantly, 53 assists—by far the most of any player in the country. There’s been times where she’s had to shoulder the scoring burden—like when she logged five goals at Northwestern amid a back-and-forth top-five matchup—but for the most part, she’s played the same role she has her whole BC career: that of a playmaker and, of course, a leader.

“I think her being a captain and her getting back, it has made everyone so excited,” Addison said. “We all have just rallied behind her.”

Kent has tallied five or more assists on four separate occasions this season, at one point stringing together three straight games with six assists against the likes of Harvard, Dartmouth, and Southern California. Coupled with Apuzzo’s scoring prowess, the duo is practically unstoppable—Chandler, however, would use a different word.

“I think it’s magical,” she said, when describing what it’s like to see Kent and Apuzzo play.

It certainly looks that way on paper. As of Sunday afternoon, Apuzzo and Kent ranked first and second in points, respectively. They were also on track to become the third teammates ever to lead the nation in goals and assists, the others being Louisville’s Bergan Foley and Katie Oliverio (2010) and Maryland’s Debra Wood and Stacey Reynolds (1997).

Physically, Kent is in better lacrosse shape than ever, but she’s also playing with more confidence than she has in years past—in fact, Chandler sees a bit of her old assistant coach when she watches Kent pick apart opposing defenses. That assistant coach is Kayla Treanor, a U.S. National Team member and former three-time Tewaaraton Award finalist who joined the program following the 2017 season.

“I think something that Kayla taught us is that we are good enough to do the things that she does all the time,” Chandler said. “Like why not try a no-look pass? Why not shoot from goal line extended? Why not go behind-the-back?”

Kent has inherited those creative and fearless tendencies, making her fair share of defenders look bad throughout the season. Back on March 6, Kent skipped into the field of play from behind the cage before spinning past a Midshipman—sending the defender stumbling in the process—and bouncing a shot into the bottom left corner of the net. Then, just last week against Notre Dame, she used a hesitation move to drop her defender to the ground, ultimately setting the stage for a behind-the-back Dempsey Arsenault goal.

Highlights and all, Kent is no longer on the outside looking in. She’s right in the middle of greatness. BC is the top-ranked team in the nation—and has been all season—and boasts a top-10 offense with a defense that’s held four of its last five opponents to under 10 goals. For the first time in Kent’s Eagles career, she’s dedicated an entire year to the game of lacrosse. But her goal remains the same as it was on the ice: winning a national title.

“It’s my last chance,” Kent said. “I just want to do something that no women’s sport at BC has ever done.”

Featured Image by Jonathan Ye / Heights Editor
Images by Jess Rivilis / Heights Staff , Bradley Smart / Heights Editor, and Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Senior Staff

Andy Backstrom

Andy served as the sports editor and managing editor of The Heights, wrote over 450 articles, covered hundreds of Boston College sporting events, and made lifelong friends in McElroy 113. Like what you see? Follow him on Twitter @andybackstrom.

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