Two sports and no rest for one amazing Boston College athlete
Boston College's Kenzie Kent carries a big stick.
Exactly what kind depends on the month. From September until early March, she wields a Bauer Vapor hockey stick that this season contributed to 28 wins on the ice and last month's return to the Frozen Four for the Eagles. Kent, a forward, played in every game, amassing 26 points.
From mid-March until May, Kent is married to an Under Armour lacrosse stick that also sees plenty of action. This past Saturday, the junior midfielder made her first start of the season and had a hat trick and eight points, lifting the 18th-ranked Eagles over No. 17 Virginia 17-10. Kent and the Eagles take on Duke on Saturday.
For the past three years, after ending one season, Kent begins another, stepping off the ice and onto the turf for Boston College. In this era of specialization, two-sport athletes in college are rare. What makes Kent's story astounding is the unusual combination of ice hockey and lacrosse, back-to-back seasons that leave literally no off time during the academic year.
"The hockey season is so long," lacrosse teammate Kaileen Hart said. "It's incredible. I don't even know how she does it or why, but it works for her."
Why? Kent shrugs off that question.
"Honestly I just love being on a team every day and going to hang out with 20 or more people," she said. "I love being in season. Some people think it's the hardest part of the year. For me, it keeps me going."
Throw out June, when Kent catches up on sleep and binges on Netflix -- "The Affair" and "Shameless" are her current favorites. "In season" accounts for the other 11 months of the year.
The ice hockey team played its first game on Sept. 22, but the preseason started long before. "Summer is huge for development in hockey," Kent said. "Everyone works out four or five times a week beginning in July."
Thirty-nine games later on March 17, the season ended for Kent and the Eagles when they fell 1-0 to Wisconsin in a national semifinal. The year before, the hockey season extended to the last possible day when Boston College took a 40-0 record into the national title game and lost 3-1 to Minnesota.
A year ago Kent gave herself 48 hours off until she was in lacrosse gear, jacked to be playing against North Carolina, the eventual national champion.
"I was so upset with how hockey ended, and I had never played UNC before. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get over the hockey season," Kent said. "This year I need a little more time."
This year she took a full week, playing in her first lacrosse game on March 29, scoring a goal with two assists as a sub in a 19-12 win over Yale.
"The emotional aspect to the transition is the biggest part for me," she said. "Coming so close to winning a national championship, being on a team for seven months and buying in to what that team is all about, to quickly jumping into the middle of another season with all different people is the hardest part. With that said, the coaches and my teammates on the lacrosse team make it way easier than it really should be."
Kent, who is from Norwell, Massachusetts, puts in the effort on top of an academic load that includes a writing-intensive communication course along with classes in patristics (the study of early Christian writers), the Greek New Testament and marketing. She credits her coaches for making the juggling act work.
"I've never said, 'I don't want to do this anymore,'" she said. "Yes, sometimes I'm so tired, I wish I could sleep in. But once I get there, I get a friendly reminder of how much I love both teams and both coaching staffs."
Kent played ice hockey and lacrosse along with soccer at Noble and Greenough, a college preparatory school in Dedham, Massachusetts, where she boarded weekdays for her junior and senior years of high school.
"I actually played hockey seven days a week in high school for four straight years," said Kent, who was part of a travel team that practiced Sunday mornings and played games in the afternoon.
Jennifer Kent is used to each of her six kids embracing athletics. Her eldest daughter, Callahan, is the starting goalie for Vanderbilt lacrosse; son Parker plays at Lehigh; and daughter Addison is BC-bound to play lacrosse this fall.
Jennifer, an Eagles assistant lacrosse coach, was a three-sport athlete herself at Colby College, where she played soccer, basketball and lacrosse. That background helped her to relate -- sort of -- when Kenzie's USA Hockey commitments conflicted with high school soccer tryouts.
Jennifer assumed Kenzie would sit out soccer when hockey became more intense.
Not happening, Kenzie told her.
"You don't even like soccer. I don't understand," her mother said incredulously.
"What else am I going to do?" Kenzie responded.
"At that point I realized, 'Oh, my God. She's going to do it no matter what,'" Jennifer said. "She just loves the competitiveness of being involved at a high level.
"It's all she knows."
But Kenzie didn't plan on being a dual-sport athlete in college. She took repeated lacrosse visits to North Carolina and Maryland, two schools that don't offer ice hockey. But playing both sports an hour away from home became an option when she realized that Eagles hockey coach Katie Crowley also wanted her.
And that was fine with lacrosse coach Acacia Walker, even though Kent would be missing all of fall conditioning and most nonconference games.
"I've known her since she was maybe 7 years old," Walker said. "I always knew I wanted to coach Kenzie. When I met her, I was an assistant at Northwestern, and I knew by the time Kenzie was in college I would be a head coach. I knew I would be recruiting Kenzie. I didn't know where. But I knew I wanted her."
And, of course, Crowley was over the moon. Kent had been on her radar, too.
"She's such a unique hockey player," she said. "You're not going to come to a game and say, 'Wow! Look at that Kenzie Kent!' The little things she does make her special. She's not the biggest, the strongest or the fastest. When you watch her you see how she thinks the game.''
Her hockey skills spill into her lacrosse game and vice versa. That behind-the-back pass from last week in practice?
"Hockey play," Walker said.
"Her wrist strength comes from hockey," Hart said. "She can move her stick in any-which-way direction. She's so quick with her hands. That has to come from hockey because no one on our team is like that."
Whereas Kent dubs hockey a game of mistakes that she enjoys for its fast pace, she loves the control she has in lacrosse.
Her lacrosse teammates are regulars in the hockey stands at Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill and often at road games at Northeastern and Boston University. They're a slightly more serious bunch than the hockey team, though she praises her lax teammates for their dance moves.
Meanwhile, "the hockey team loves Eminem," she said.
Kent meshes with both groups, her coaches say, the main reason that two sports, one Kenzie works.
"The way her teammates receive her, that's a really big part of this," Walker said. "The girls have a countdown [until she rejoins the team]. They love her. That's the most instrumental part of this whole thing."