For star athletes, road to college was long and winding

Watertown High’s Kourtney Kennedy, Olivia Venezia, and Shannon Murphy trace steps to the next level


Kourtney Kennedy (UConn field hockey), Shannon Murphy (Holy Cross basketball), and Olivia Venezia (Holy Cross field hockey) made their college plans official at a signing ceremony at Watertown High School on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016.

Zach Rimsa, Raider Times correspondent

    Over the past few years Watertown High School’s sports programs have experienced a tremendous amount of success. Both boys’ and girls’ teams have appeared and won state championships and North Sectional titles. Countless teams have captured the Middlesex League. Great coaching has a lot to do with this, but you still have to have great players to have all this success.

    Some of these great players from Watertown are even going to play on the next level. Watertown stars Kourtney Kennedy, Olivia Venezia, and Shannon Murphy signed their Letter of Intents this past fall.

The 2016 Watertown field hockey team surrounds Olivia Venezia (seated, in blue) and Kourtney Kennedy (seated, in white) during a letter of intent signing ceremony held Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, at Watertown High School.

    Kourtney is heading to UConn in the fall, but the field hockey star said she had her heart set out for college field hockey at a young age.

    “I set the goal for myself to play college field hockey when I was in sixth grade but it wasn’t until the eighth grade that I realized that I could really play at the next level.”

     Kourtney said she received offers from UConn, Louisville, Duke, UMass Lowell, UMass Amherst, and Boston University.

     “The recruiting process is different for everyone and it seems to be starting earlier and earlier each year,” she said. “For me starting in the eighth grade, I would go to tournament with my club team and email college coaches to let them know that I would be there.”

    From there coaches began to recruit Kourtney, inviting her to visit their respective schools. But it was UConn and Louisville that really caught her eye. When asked what was important to her when it came to picking a school, Kourtney had a great perspective.

    “I wanted to pick a place that wasn’t too much money and that I would enjoy even if I wasn’t play field hockey,” she said.

    Kourtney chose UConn at the end of her sophomore year because of the “academics, great coaches, good team, and even better teammates.”

From right, Kourtney Kennedy (UConn field hockey), Olivia Venezia (Holy Cross field hockey), and Shannon Murphy (Holy Cross basketball) made their college plans official at a signing ceremony at Watertown High School on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016.

    Fellow senior field hockey star Olivia Venezia will continue her career at the College of the Holy Cross, but the thought of playing field hockey in college didn’t come along until later.

    “It wasn’t until I was at the Holy Cross camp going into my junior year when I wanted to, but other than that I never wanted to go Division 1,” she said. “I wanted to go Division 3 the end of my sophomore year because I wanted to play, but I didn’t want it to take over my life.”

    Olivia was coming off a tough sophomore season and wasn’t playing well in club tournaments, but coach Lindsay Jackson saw it in her.

     “At the tournament, Coach Jackson watched more games and texted my club coach on our way home and asked her where I was going to be next,” Olivia said. “My coach told her, and Coach Jackson showed up and watched in the stands. I went to the camp and on the last day there was a long line to talk to her. She saw me and my dad and jumped out of the line and came to talk to us.”

    Olivia’s top schools were Holy Cross, Tufts, and Amherst, but she had also received interest from Connecticut College, Middlebury, and Cornell. Olivia said she prioritized getting a good education and having a life outside of field hockey. Holy Cross gave her the best opportunity for that.

    “It was the only school I visited and thought I want to go here even if I don’t play field hockey,” she said.

Kourtney Kennedy (UConn field hockey), Shannon Murphy (Holy Cross basketball), and Olivia Venezia (Holy Cross field hockey) made their college plans official at a signing ceremony at Watertown High School on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016.

    Also attending Holy Cross in the fall will be Shannon Murphy. The basketball star had her hopes set high at a young age.

    “Ever since I was a little girl, my goal was to play Division 1 basketball in college.  However, I did not realize that this could be a feasible task until I was in ninth grade,” she said. “During the summer going into my freshman year of high school, I went to a college showcase in Washington, D.C., and received some interest from Division 1 coaches directly after this exposure. After this point, I realized that it was possible to play collegiately, and I decided that I would continue to pursue my goal.”

    Shannon has a love for the game that is very tangible on and off the court. She hopes to continue to grow from the sport in college as she always has before.

    Shannon began playing AAU at young age, as all basketball players who have aspirations of playing in college have to do. It was at these tournaments that Shannon would go to with her AAU team that coaches from schools like Holy Cross, Brown, Boston University, and New Hampshire began to show interest in her. She ended up receiving seven offers.

    Shannon knew what she was looking for in a school.

     “In general, I was looking for a somewhat small school that balanced athletics and academics, but was still exceptional at both,” she said. “Also, I wanted my school to be relatively close to home, as I did not want to travel outside of New England, and I wanted to go to a liberal arts college, because I was not sure what I wanted to study yet.”

    Holy Cross ended up being the best fit for Shannon.

    “I loved all of the coaches and the players on the team. They made me feel as though I would fit in with them perfectly, and I felt completely comfortable talking and spending time with them,” she said.

    “Lastly, and most importantly, the feeling that I got the first time I visited the campus was all I really needed to make the decision. It just felt right, and I knew it would be the school for me.”

–March 31, 2017–