At Johns Hopkins, Malvern graduate Drew Kennedy has established himself as one of the top faceoff specialists in Division 1 lacrosse.
After graduating from Malvern in 2011, Kennedy came to Hopkins as a freshman. While some players struggle to adjust to the change from high school lacrosse to college lacrosse, Kennedy credits Malvern with preparing him to be a college athlete.
“The level of play [at Malvern] was very high and it was very competitive to get on the field. The coaches made playing at Malvern very similar to playing in Division 1,” said Kennedy.
For years, Malvern’s lacrosse program has sent players to the college ranks, where they have had immense success. Players like Matt Mackrides ‘08 and Matt Dolente ‘07 both saw immense success in college, and have even gone on to play professionally. Matt Barrett ‘13 started in goal as a freshman at University of Virginia, and Greg Pelton ‘14 is in line to see significant playing time as a freshman at Duke.
At Hopkins, Kennedy backed up All-American Mike Poppleton for his first two seasons, who he says helped him to elevate his game.
“Every guy you’re going against in practice and in games is very skilled, and I needed to prepare more than I ever have to be successful,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy won 29 of 55 faceoffs his freshman year as the main backup. In 2013, he saw some more action, going 37 for 68. After Poppleton’s graduation in 2013, Kennedy took over at the faceoff X for the Blue Jays.
In the first game of the season in 2014, Kennedy exploded, going 18 of 22 against Ohio State as the Blue Jays won in overtime. He continued this success throughout the season, with key games against Syracuse (21 of 25), UMBC (18 of 26), and Towson (16 of 23). For the year, Kennedy finished 191 of 324, good for a 59% winning percentage. Most schools set 50% as the benchmark they want to reach at the faceoff X, a number that Kennedy eclipsed by almost 10%.
It was a great year for Kennedy (he finished with the 14th best win percentage in D1), but he did it all while battling injuries throughout the season.
In 2015, with improved health, he has some goals in mind. Aside from the team goal of winning a Big Ten championship, Kennedy hopes to again be one of the top faceoff specialists in college lacrosse.
“I also want to step into a bigger leadership role this year, and help the younger guys adjust so our senior class can leave the program in a position to succeed in the future,” said Kennedy.
Hopkins has a tough schedule this year, with games against Villanova, UNC, Princeton, and Maryland, so Kennedy will be able to compete against some of the other top teams in the country. He will face Maryland’s Second-Team All-American Charlie Raffa and UNC’s Stephen Kelly at the faceoff X.
Kennedy is not the only Malvern player who will have an impact on college lacrosse this year. In fact, many Malvern teammates end up playing against each other at the college level. Kennedy describes this as, “definitely different. You don’t think of it much during the game, but we always talk and catch up afterward. It’s a cool experience.”
Many of the teams that Hopkins plays this year have Malvern graduates on their rosters, such as TJ Hanzsche ‘11 at Navy and Chris Isenberg ‘14 and Tripp Traynor ‘14 at Penn State. Kennedy also plays with two Malvern grads at Hopkins, defenseman Eddie Morris ‘12 and defensive midfielder Joe Carlini ‘13.
While Kennedy is a senior this year and will graduate from Hopkins following the spring season, lacrosse will continue to impact him off the field after graduation. “Lacrosse taught me the importance of teamwork to succeed in any situation,” he said. “At Hopkins, we call our team a family, and our willingness to do anything for each other puts us in a position to succeed”
2015 gives Kennedy and the Blue Jays a great opportunity. They have a high-powered offense and a stout defense, and the talent to make a deep run in the postseason.
However, just as every lacrosse game does, it all starts at the faceoff X, and that is right where Drew Kennedy will be.