Near midfield several defenders converged on Kenul but instead of breaking stride, she deftly angled her stick and threaded a nifty pass to classmate Natalie Sebeck. A few seconds later, junior Kristen Lauda found the net in transition for another tally in an eventual 11-9 victory.
Coach Kelly Hughes has become accustomed to Kenul producing jaw-dropping plays on both ends, but the coach said the soft-spoken Johns Hopkins recruit’s impact goes beyond her gaudy stat lines, setting a high standard for the rest of her teammates.
“She makes the game more exciting,” said Hughes, who took over the head job last season. “She makes every player on the team want to be her. It changes the way practice works. It changes the way girls work on their own without me even there. She doesn’t even have to say a lot and the influence is there.”
After coming up short in the Maryland 4A/3A West region final against Churchill each of the last three seasons, Sherwood is off to a 9-0 start and the favorite to land its first state tournament berth. The Warriors have one of Montgomery County’s most potent scoring tandems in Kenul and Virginia Tech recruit Maddie Doan, who is the team’s vocal leader, according to Hughes.
After a five-goal, two-assist effort against Blake, Kenul has 34 goals and 20 assists in eight games. (She missed the team’s win over Whitman during spring break.) For her career, she’s accumulated 132 goals, 74 assists and 40 caused turnovers.
Kenul, an honorable mention All-Met field hockey player, piled up scholarship offers from many of the country’s top college programs before picking Johns Hopkins over Princeton in the fall.
She said she wanted to get her recruitment out of the way so she could focus on lacrosse and pushing her team to the next step. The Warriors led Churchill most of the way in the region final last spring before falling 20-19 in a loss Kenul called “devastating.”
Kenul said she’s learned to be more comfortable trusting her teammates late in games this year, and against Blake, they delivered with Lauda scoring the game-winning goal with 4 minutes 45 seconds left.
“She is hands down the best player in the county, if not the state,” said Hughes, a former Sherwood midfielder who went on to play at Iona. “She’s one of the brightest kids, one of the fastest kids, one of the most competitive kids. I don’t know where things would be if I didn’t have somebody like that.”
On Tuesday, Kenul had the rare chance to match up with another Division I-bound player in Blake senior Caroline Wannen, who will play at Maryland. Wannen managed four goals and two assists and also helped keep Kenul scoreless after halftime, but the Warriors got the victory to stay perfect.
“I have a lot of fun playing against her,” Kenul said. “She’s such an amazing player. We’ve been playing with and against each other since I was in second grade, and I still look forward to it every time.”