McKenna the last line of defense for Salem State field hockey
October 9, 2009
By Ryan Froats, Salem News Staff Writer
Succeeding through a sense of urgency never comes easy, yet Jessica McKenna is more than accustomed to making adjustments under pressure.
When the former Bishop Fenwick goaltender was mulling her options on where to continue her field hockey career in college, she was all but certain she was going to attend the University of New England. However, following some late conversations with Salem State head coach Jill McGinnity, she finally decided on attending school in the Witch City.
"I knew coach McGinnity from high school (at Bishop Fenwick) and she really made me feel like I could succeed there. So I went with it," said the 5-foot-3 McKenna.
A technically sound goaltender who has a penchant for making big saves, McKenna carries a 1.72 goals-against average heading into tomorrow's contest against Worcester State, hoping to get the Vikings (4-5) back to .500.
McKenna played for McGinnity during her junior year at Bishop Fenwick, where she was the second goalie on the depth chart.
"It wasn't because Jessica wasn't talented enough, because she definitely was. It was just the other girl was having a great year," said McGinnity.
McKenna explained there were no bitter feelings that season; she understood her fellow goalkeeper gave Fenwick the best chance to win. But at the same time, McKenna wanted to show McGinnity that she could play - and play well.
Instant playing time
A Rowley native, McKenna began her collegiate career in familiar fashion, fighting for a starting job against two other goalies.
Or so she thought.
About a week prior to the beginning of the Vikings' preseason practices, McKenna received a call from McGinnity and learned the other two goalies that were supposed to play weren't going to be able to.
"At first I thought she was joking, because she likes to try and do things like that to get me to play harder," says McKenna, who is majoring in liberal studies/general studies.
McKenna quickly learned that wasn't the case and she would be starting as a college freshman - ready or not. Though she was admittedly nervous, McKenna embraced the opportunity and excelled right from the get-go.
In her first year, McKenna backboned the Vikings to a playoff berth and led the Little East Conference in goals-against average. Her impressive statistics and leadership ability earned her MASCAC Rookie of the Year honors. The following year McKenna continued to shine, leading Salem State back to the playoffs.
Her fundamentals and technique are things McKenna constantly keys on in order to remain successful, yet they also attract some constructive criticism from McGinnity.
"I've never been a diver on the field. I usually just stay on my feet and stay in position, but coach always tells me to dive (to stop shots)," says McKenna.
One of her best memories at Salem State happened to be her first dive in net, when she leapt across the goal to make a sprawling save. She remembers it so vividly because right after it happened, she thought of how happy it would make McGinnity.
Throughout her time at SSC, McKenna said she has become much closer with McGinnity.
"In the past I was intimidated of her because she just gets to the point," she admitted. "Now, she's easier to talk to because I know she's just trying to push me harder."