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Soccer: Ragin' Cajuns Eight For Eight: Taylor Kennedy

With eight home matches and eight seniors on the 2017 squad, RaginCajuns.com will be profiling each senior heading into home weekends.  This weekend senior Taylor Kennedy will be featured.
LAFAYETTE – Sometimes the worst things that can happen to someone, turn out to be the best thing they've ever experienced.  In athletics that can come in the form of a major injury and for Louisiana senior Taylor Kennedy it was a torn ACL and a season spent watching from the stands.
But Kennedy didn't let that moment define her career with the Ragin' Cajuns and she used it as motivation to truly enjoy playing the game of soccer, relearning the love she had for it from the start.
"It's just given me a better perspective on the game and it's made me grateful for every time I get out on the field," said Kennedy.  "I've also grown in my faith with God, and I just knew that he had some sort of purpose for me.  Now my faith in God is a strong pillar in what and who I am going forward."
Kennedy's infatuation for soccer began as early as it could have.  Starting with watching her brother play the game at a young age, the game was love at first sight.
"I have an older brother, who when he turned four, began to play soccer and I started going to my brothers' soccer games," said Kennedy.  "And the love for soccer started with me attending those games, I remember kicking the ball around when I could barely walk.
"And even though I did play other sports when I was little, soccer was the one that really stuck."
Kennedy came to Louisiana in 2013 after spending four years at St. Thomas More High School, in Lafayette.  While she did visit other schools, the Cajuns just felt like where she belonged right from the start.
"I toured a bunch of different schools before committing to Louisiana," said Kennedy.  "But the campus here at Louisiana just felt like home.  Compared to the other schools that I went to, it just felt right here."
For head coach Scot Wieland, the addition of Kennedy to his squad was an injection of energy that the Cajuns have benefited from.
"Taylor is one of those kids that breathes life into a team, all the time," said Wieland.  "She's got such an infectious personality and she's one of those kids where teams can't be successful without players like her.  She just brings so much more than just how athletic she is on the field."
Her infectious energy and effort meant that she was tailor made to be in the central midfield.
"I started playing soccer on defense, and because of that I've always been more of a defensive minded player," said Kennedy.  "But I can run for a long time since I've got great stamina, and I think that's why I was moved into the midfield.  And I started playing center mid when I was about 13 and still in high school.
"What helps with me in that spot is that I'm loud on the field and center midfielders need to be good communicators which helps me play the position. I love playing the position, and center mid is where I feel right when on the field."
Her game in the midfield improved and over three seasons at Louisiana she put together 2,664 minutes, starting 26 games, including scoring two game winning goals and being an overall force in the midfield for the Cajuns.
Then the spring of 2016 came, with Kennedy ready to attack the season with the effort and work ethic she'd developed over the past three seasons.
"Entering that spring I felt like I was playing my best," said Kennedy.  "And that's when I suffered the ACL tear.  For me it really was a wakeup call.
"I could've fallen into a depression, since I felt so good that spring, but I instead choose to go the opposite way and attack the rehab positively and I feel that made all the difference in my coming back this season and my outlook on life."
The tear came during a spring practice where, had it been a few minutes later, she wouldn't have even been there.
"I had an 8 a.m. class so I usually left practice a little early," said Kennedy.  "So, honestly I was almost ten minutes away from leaving the practice. 
"We were in a full team scrimmage and I had stretched my knee out going for a ball and as I did that, I watched someone come in and hit my knee on the side.  It was then that I watched my knee go out to the side and it made a loud pop.  I fell to the ground and thought that my leg would just be there dangling but when I looked it was still there."
It was then that things changed for Kennedy, and she started rehab right away.  Since there was enough time for her to get back on the field that season, she worked her way through rehab faster than most, due to her ingrained toughness.
But even after being cleared physically she didn't feel as though her game was there mentally.
"I immediately began rehabbing after that, before I even had the surgery," said Kennedy.  "And I was physically cleared to play before the 2016 season.
"But I wasn't mentally there just yet.  I couldn't even kick a ball with my left leg, and for me I didn't think I'd be any good to the team if so I needed to take the time to get my mental game back."
Kennedy took a medical redshirt for that 2016 season, and rededicated herself to be everything she can for the Cajuns in the 2017 season.
"She's always done what I expected of her and she's always been the one that when you've got her on the field, no matter where she is you know what you're getting," said Wieland.
"Her work ethic is unbelievable, and I never questioned that she would rehab well and come back strong."
That hard work has taken her into the starting lineup for the 2017 season, and in the Cajuns first two matches she's already logged over 100 minutes.  And she's been an important leader on the team and for the Cajuns midfield so far in the young season.
"She's respected and looked up to by all her teammates," said Wieland.  "And in the central midfield position it's important to have the type of player that Taylor is in that spot.
"That central part of the field is where you need to get down, dirty and gritty and she's all about that.  And because she's that type of kid it's infectious and rubs off on the rest of her teammates."
Over the past year through adversity Kennedy has grown in not only her ability on the field but with her faith in God, making her a leader for her teammates and a shining example of how to tackle life's twists and turns.
"I want to remember that every time I get to step out on the field how lucky I am," said Kennedy.  "And I want my teammates to never lose the mentally of how lucky we are to play college soccer and to be here at Louisiana doing this."
Kennedy's infectious personality and work ethic means that her teammates have a great example to follow into battle throughout the 2017 season.  And through her own trials Kennedy knows that she'll be ready next time she needs to grit her teeth and get down and dirty with life.

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