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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
Kenna Newman always believed she was capable of big things at the collegiate level.

For two years she waited her turn, watching as others got a chance to star, always believing she was capable of taking on a big role for the Binghamton women’s lacrosse team.

After playing in six games in two years, and scoring one goal in that span, Newman has 25 goals and 17 assists for 42 points, leading the team in all three categories.

“I actually hadn’t played as much in the past and I was able to step up this year and it’s gone pretty well,” Newman said. “I showed myself as a leader and have been a person people can go to. I have kept my morale high, whether I was on or off the field.”

The Binghamton junior is enjoying this season with her teammates.

“Honestly, it’s been a really great time,” Newman said. “We have a lot of potential on our team, a lot of talent this year. We are finally starting to mesh it all together for the long haul, looking toward the common goal of the tournament. Everyone is on the same page and enjoying the sport and it is really a great time.”

As she plays more in more in games it just helps Newman build more confidence in herself and what she can do.

When you are coming off the bench it can be tough. Players sometimes press, not wanting to make mistakes that lead to them coming out of games.

This year, Newman knows that everyone believes in her. She knows if she makes a mistake there will be a chance to come right back the next play.

“I do think it is part of it,” Newman said. “The more you are out there you aren’t as worried about it if you make a mistake. I know what I’m doing, my coaches are supporting me. My teammates are supporting me. Being out there regularly gains confidence.

“Teammates are looking up to you. You fill that role and it does build confidence. I think that’s a big thing in sports in general is getting that confidence boost and not getting so nervous and forgetting you are playing the sport you love.”

For Newman it was tough coming out of high school. After a standout career at Corning she went to college expecting to step right in and excel. Instead Newman saw in college everyone was a star in high school and she had to wait her turn. And, Newman was able to improve some things to make her a better player.

“It definitely was a big adjustment,” she said. “It’s not something I anticipated. Coming out of high school you are typically on your highest high and ready to show I’m going to do the same thing I did in high school and do it at a collegiate level. It is different. It’s not a small group of girls who are the best of the best. You want to be out there where you can help team.

“I didn’t love having to wait my turn, but I wasn’t as confident with both hands. I was more nervous to drive because I was afraid I would turn it over.”

One thing that made things even tougher for Newman was going through two years where Covid impacted the spring seasons, and limited the work coaches could do with the players.

“That was definitely a big thing,” Newman said. “Obviously it was unexpected, nothing we could have imagined. It definitely was tough. Freshman year when everything shut down we were coming to our peak and had a chance to go pretty far in the tournament, it was tough to see that cut, it was definitely hard.

“Last year we only had nine games and they were all conference, and we didn’t want to risk Covid. It was kind of a limited opportunity. This year we are finally getting back to normal. All the non-conference games boosted the teams skills and the team’s morale.”’

It’s not just that Covid impacted the seasons itself. It also took away a lot of offseason training, and last year’s fall season. That meant less and less chances to show coaches what you could do.

It was hard for Newman. She knew she was ready to show coaches what she could do. But, there weren’t fall games to show off her skills. There weren’t non-league games early in the season to get an opportunity. There was just a shortened offseason and then right into games, and Newman knew that showing what you can do in practice isn’t the same as getting a chance to show your abilities in those fall games, or non-league matchups.

“That’s a big part of it for sure,” Newman said. “It was tough for me, freshman year was tough and sophomore year in particular, I struggled. I knew the girls on the field were doing something right and were performing. Not having the chance to prove myself definitely stung a little bit. How do you expect us to show what we can do on the field when we aren’t on the field. We can show up in practice and do the right thing, but practices and games are totally different animals.

“When you play in games you can see, this is what you are missing, this is what we can do. I think having a fall season (this year), impacted that a lot. I stepped up. Last fall we really didn’t have anything, there was no stepping up. Last year there wasn’t an opportunity to prove until there was a season and then it was right into conference games.”

With a normal offseason this year Newman was ready to show what she could do.

This year Newman has had the chance to contribute to the team on the field. But, even when she wasn’t playing as much Newman always tried to help the team anyway she can.

“It was exciting (Newman said of starting this year). I knew I was capable of doing that, I needed the chance to show it,” Newman said. “It’s always a little nerve-wracking stepping on the field. It’s my time to shine, I know it. I know I can help our team, I can help our program, it’s all positive thoughts. I know I didn’t play in the past, but I really just took what I was given and ran with it and it helped me be successful here.

“I was able to focus on what my goals are. I’m able to focus and I’ve been able to step up and able to show I can score and assist and feel like my old self like in high school. It’s really great honesty to have it come full circle. As much as I didn’t like sitting on the sideline, I was there cheering my teammates and I understand the other side of it. Whether you are on the field or on the sides everyone knows their role. It kind of allows me to come full circle and realize how big it is. It’s bigger than lacrosse.”

In those first two years in college Newman wasn’t just sitting and waiting her turn.

The former Corning star was spending her time watching, learning everything she could to become a better player.

“I was a freshman, sophomore watching the girls older than me, they had more experience, and I was watching their different moves, how they are going to beat their defender,” Newman said. “Just working har to be a part of it. I wasn’t seeing the field, but I was working hard in practice, knowing I was making them (her teammates) better. It was definitely helpful and I learned a lot from people who were playing around me.”

One thing for Newman is that her experience as a freshman and sophomore is something she believes makes her a better leader now. Newman has seen both sides of things. She has been a player who sat, and waited her turn. And now she’s also been a player who is one of the team leaders.

“I know what they are going through,” Newman said of the younger players on the team. “I know what it feels like to come in and feel like you are going to change the program, save the day and kind of get here and realize it might not be happening at all. I can tell them, here’s what I did, what I tried to focus on. Don’t look at it as not playing games, I proved myself in practices. Coaches will remember it, you are making us better for our games.

“I can relate to the freshmen especially, and to the older girls, the sophomores, anyone on the field. If I talk to them I’m not saying it as a four-year starter. I have the experience on both sides of things.”

One thing for Newman is that sitting and waiting her turn makes her really appreciate everything that’s happening now. When you have to put in that much work to succeed it’s that much more special then when things come easy.

“It’s way more special,” she said. “I worked for it. Every goal, every assist the work is paying off. I can see where this paid off, I can see where the hard work is paying off. It’s definitely way more special knowing I had to work for it. I had to prove myself doing what I knew I could do the whole time.

“Everyone can see it. Others are believing in me. Coaches are behind me, teammates are behind me, the recognition between everyone is great. Our team recognized we are all working together, we are in this together, we just keep chipping away and that makes it all more special.”

As the team wraps up the regular season, they are 6-8, but they have been right there in a number of games. Two of their past three games ended in losses of either one, or two goals. They are a game out of the fourth spot in the postseason.

The team also has 29 freshmen, sophomores and juniors on the roster, meaning that a lot of the team will be back together next year.

Newman feels like this team is capable of a strong finish to the season.

“I think we have a lot of potential, I know everyone says that every year, but we have special girls on this team that work together and gel,” Newman said. We have games like when we beat UMBC, we beat a team that beat us pretty bad last year. We played Albany and lost by four goals, it was one of the best games we have ever played against them in Binghamton history. I know are finally string it all together. I know we can really make an impact in this conference and make the tourney and do what this program really has never done.”

With Covid things are different. All the upperclassmen on this team have an option of a Covid year for the year that was essentially lost. That means some seniors will return, and the team will have some fifth-year players on the roster next year.

“I think it’s honestly for the best, it can only help us girls to have players with that additional experience, that have been a part of the program for so many years,” Newman said. “They can kind of be a mediator between the players and coaches, leading people through practice. They bring that extra experience and extra knowledge. I think it really helps. Last year we had one of our goalies stay for a fifth year and it could have taken away (playing time) from a goalie in my class. I asked kind of are you bummed, she’s like no, I am so glad I get one more year to learn from her. It’s so nice to have those fifth and sixth years, they have so much to offer.”

For Newman she knows that it’s a choice that all athletes have to make on if they are going to use that extra year.

“Honestly, I think it depends for everyone,” Newman said. “I think personally when I finish my undergraduate bachelors of science in nursing, it wouldn’t make as much sense to stick around because my schooling will be complete. It makes a difference for girls who want to finish an extra minor, or double major. It’s another option. It’s definitely unique to each individual I think.”

While Newman is enjoying her college season, she spends free time watching a lot of her former teammates playing in college as well.

“I follow a ton of the Corning girls still, actually we are playing a lacrosse game on our TV almost every night,” Newman said. “I’m definitely following along to see how everyone else is doing. What you can take back to your own game, recognizing there is something you can learn.”

It’s special for Newman to see all the success former Hawks are having in college.

“I think it’s great,” Newman said. “I love all the different girls taking it to the next collegiate level. I know it seems like there might be a lot of us. If you look at the stats it’s really difficult to be at the collegiate level. To see so many girls going at the higher levels, it’s really awesome. When I’m done with college it will be fun to see some girls start their collegiate careers as freshman (the athletes at Corning now). Seeing them go to schools like Virginia (Jenna DiNardo) and Syracuse (Ashlee Volpe), big impressive schools. It’s awesome, even girls in my own class. Seeing their success is special to. Even though we are not a part of the current success, I remember the times on the same field with the same Corning Hawks jersey on. Seeing everyone grow and go through life changes is special.”

There are also chances for Newman to square off against some of her former teammates, including a matchup this Saturday with Charlotte Nevins at Vermont.

“We played Charlotte Nevins in Vermont and we play her (this weekend). We played Riley Davis at Canisius. I still watch the Olmstead’s at Loyola (Riley and Logan), Rachel Plumley at Mercyhurst. It is fun to compete against them. They have their signature moves, you tip your hat to them, you knew their potential. We are still friends off the field even when we are competing against each other. We are competitors and when the game is over we go back to being friends. They allow you to be yourself and compete and push yourself to be the best version. They are just my friends and I’m glad to have them around.”

And, playing against her teammates is a lot of fun, especially come Saturday when she could be guarded by her former teammate.

“I love the opportunity to play against them,” Newman said. “I know in terms of Vermont, Charlotte is playing defense, I’m playing attack. I’ll see what she can do to stop me, what I can do to beat her. I can see it now, one of us will do something well the other will just be laughing. It’s just a good time, you are there for your team, but it is great having those connections and being on the field with the girls that were once your teammates to.”

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