The Anzar High girls soccer team started off the season with 23 girls in its program. But that number dwindled to 17 a month in to its current number of 14. Due to some absences last week, the Hawks only had 11 players available in a 1-1 tie with York on Jan. 11.
That’s right—the only person on Anzar’s bench was its coach, Tony Rosa.
“I think we have 13 committed players who actually show up to the games,”said Hailey Kennedy, a senior center back. “But I like how we’re playing as a team right now. We’re more solid now in every area of the game.”
Despite the thin roster, Kennedy said she likes how the core group is coming together. Kennedy plays alongside fellow senior defender Ronnee Davis, and Rosa relies on the two to keep things stable. Both players are natural scorers who played forward last year, but Rosa has them playing on defense this season because the team lacks experience on the backline.
“Ronnee and I work really well together,” Kennedy said. “So far I think I’ve been playing good compared to last year. I’ve gotten better mentally, and I’m able to be more under control and calm with the ball.”
If the Hawks end up making noise in the Mission Coastal League this season, one can bet Davis and Kennedy will be leading the way. It was an unlikely pairing at first, only because upon meeting the two didn’t hit it off right away. However, the duo have displayed tremendous chemistry in.
“There was a lot of competitive tension at first because we were both playing forward,” Kennedy said. “But as soon as we got switched to defense and being forced next to each other 24-7, we became friends.”
Kennedy didn’t play soccer in her freshman or sophomore year, electing to focus on cheerleading and rodeo. In reality, fear was the biggest reason why she didn’t try out for the soccer team.
“I was afraid to try out for some reason,” she said. “But I’m glad I came out junior year.”
So is Rosa, who raves about Kennedy’s skills and speed. The third-year Anzar coach said he has relied on Kennedy and Davis to take a leadership role and provide a semblance of calm to an inexperienced group. Kennedy grew up on a ranch in Salinas, so it’s no surprise her true passion revolves around rodeo.
Kennedy’s favorite event is breakaway roping, a variation of calf roping where a calf is rope, but not thrown and tied. Kennedy practices six to seven times a week at the 101 Livestock Equestrian Center. Kennedy credits the Avery family, particularly Fallon Avery, for allowing her to expand her skills and have use of a facility.
Kennedy comes from a rodeo family, as her dad rode competitively and her mom had a lot of talent with horses. Kennedy would love nothing more than to qualify for the National Rodeo High School Championships. To do that, she would need to finish among the top four riders in the state in her selected category.
“This being my senior year, it would mean everything if I could make nationals,” she said.
Kennedy takes tremendous pride in her schoolwork, to the extent that when she learned she had received four Bs upon reviewing her transcript, she was devastated (she has a cumulative 3.78 GPA).
She’s applied to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Fresno State—the only two colleges in California with a sanctioned rodeo program—along with a university in Texas.
Whatever happens, Kennedy sees a future career in the equine and ranching industry, helping and teaching people how to take care of the animals she so dearly loves.