Ally Kennedy wasn’t a top lacrosse recruit coming out of North Babylon High School. But when Joe Spallina first saw her play, the Stony Brook women’s lacrosse coach knew there was a competitiveness that couldn’t be taught. And Kennedy never forgot that feeling of being slighted by other programs.
"Being one of the girls that wasn’t as highly recruited as some of the other girls definitely gave me a chip on my shoulder," Kennedy said. "And the fact that Coach Spallina believed in me from the first day and he believed in me until now, that really gave me a chip."
Any questions surrounding Kennedy in 2016 quickly were answered and dispelled. And now, entering her fifth season due to an extra year of eligibility after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down collegiate spring sports, Kennedy has been named Preseason Player of the Year by US Lacrosse Magazine. She is the first Stony Brook student-athlete to receive the honor.
Kennedy had 84 goals and 16 assists as a junior and had 22 goals and five assists in five games in 2020 before the pandemic. The midfielder said she was humbled to be named Preseason Player of the Year. But she’s looking for more.
"It’s something I’m definitely going to take a lot of pride in, but I know the job’s not done," Kennedy said. "It’s awesome to be named Preseason Player of the Year, but I want to be the National Player of the Year at the end of the season as well."
Spallina called Kennedy one of the most competitive athletes he’s been around. He said the Seawolves sometimes have to pull her out of drills because she’s competing too hard and they don’t want her to burn herself out.
"I always say in a lot of ways that she’s the poster child for our program," Spallina said. "She’s a kid who’s a try hard, super competitive, doesn’t take drills off, leads by example. So a lot of the foundation we try to build our program on, she emulates and does at a super high level."
Stony Brook has grown into one of the elite women’s lacrosse programs over the last few years. Kennedy still remembers being a younger player sharing the field with record holders such as Kylie Ohlmiller and Courtney Murphy and trying to learn from them.
"The work really started when I got to college because the game was so much faster and there was so much I had to learn," Kennedy said. "I had to work every day because I wasn’t the tallest girl on the field, I wasn’t the most skilled girl on the field, but I always tried to be the hardest worker, and I prided myself on that."
Kennedy has 193 goals and 55 assists over 69 games at Stony Brook, but she's a true two-way midfielder and a key contributor on defense.
"She’s as complete of a player that I’ve ever been around on the team," Spallina said. "She does every part of the game at an elite level, and that’s rare."
More than any individual award, Kennedy wants to lead Stony Brook to its first Final Four appearance. The Seawolves have made the NCAA Tournament the last seven years.
Kennedy was heartbroken when spring sports were canceled in 2020, but once the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility, she called returning "one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made."
As for her lasting legacy, Kennedy just wants to be synonymous with hard work.
"I want to be remembered as the person that was never outworked," she said. "The person that always worked the hardest and gave her all no matter what. Someone that always left it all out on the field."