February 13, 2009

This article on Lacrosse Magazine NJCAA Preseason Player of the Year Kelly Viens originally appeared in the January issue of LM. Join US Lacrosse today to start your monthly subscription to LM.

Viens Gives Lacrosse a Second Chance

by Paul Krome | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Kelly Viens didn’t travel far when she left Old Mill (Md.) High School for CCBC-Catonsville. The drive from Millersville to Catonsville takes less than 20 minutes using two interstates.

But the journey she’s had more resembles the scenic route — replete with the peaks, valleys and uncertainties that often mirror a teenager’s growth into adulthood.

“She’s come an awful long way in a short time with maturity, skill level and leadership,” said Catonsville coach Tom Taylor, whose Cardinals enter 2009 as reigning NJCAA champions but with eight starters to replace.

“It’s been a thrill to see.”

What Taylor sees now is a sophomore goalie who could’ve bolted to a four-year school after her freshman All-America season, in which she allowed just 4.6 goals per game opposite 7.1 saves per contest for the unbeaten Cardinals. In the NJCAA final, Viens stopped 15 shots against Harford, a team that pushed Catonsville in a 9-8 regular-season game, to hold the Fighting Owls to six goals while the Cardinals rung up 13. Viens was named to the NJCAA All-Tournament Team.

“At nationals, I felt like I was on fire,” said Viens, LM’s Preseason Player of the Year. “I like being independent, and I was the only goalie dressed for that game. I thought about how bad I wanted it, and that energy boosted me up. The team had the same energy.”

It’s that independent streak that has gotten her in trouble in the past. Speaking your mind is fine, as long as you’re prepared for the consequences that can accompany addressing, or dressing down, perhaps, your coach.

Irked by what Viens perceived as favoritism shown by her high school coach toward a younger goalie during she senior year, she sparred with the coach at a practice, took her helmet off and left.

For good.

“I left my teammates,” said Viens, who played varsity as a freshman but lost her junior season to mononucleosis. “I regretted it 10 seconds after I did it.”

Mentally, Viens had “moved on” from lacrosse on graduation day, but she got a second chance last January. A friend sent her a text message asking if she could give Viens’ phone number to someone. The next day, Taylor called. He needed a goalie.

For her part, Viens, a makeup artist by hobby, needed Catonsville. By chance, she had discovered on MySpace what it’s like to be a mortician. Viens enjoys mystery, and she took to the idea of being able to help families in need. She enrolled in Catonsville’s mortuary science program and soon found herself on the lacrosse field — sparring with a coach again.

This time it was Cardinal goalie coach Carroll Dixon, a male who played at Wagner.

Taylor intervened quickly.

“It’s his task to raise her confidence and ability. She wanted to give him some lip. I told her she had two choices: do what he says, or don’t play.”

Spurred by a desire to replace memories of quitting on a team with a national championship, Viens chose the latter. She heeded Dixon’s counsel about stickwork, footwork, communication and leadership. She transformed herself from a critical individual into a team captain — and made new friends in the process. Several Division I and II schools contacted Taylor after the season, but Viens returned to Catonsville in part because of her bonds with teammates.

Whatever path Viens chooses after this season, she won’t be going it alone.

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