One last trip

Hannah Kenney has seen it all during her career with the Souhegan High School girls basketball team.

There was the high of a championship her freshman year, when she watched from the junior varsity as the Sabers celebrated back-to-back championships.

There was the low of a losing season as a sophomore, as the varsity struggled to find its way without the group that had led the team the previous two seasons.

And then there was last year, where the Sabers returned to the top of the Division II standings, but suffered a heartbreaking defeat on their home court in the quarterfinals.

Now, as a senior – and the lone returning player with quality varsity experience – Kenney is hoping that her final basketball hurrah can end in a celebration.

“We bonded by that
mutual experience of seeing our seniors go through that heartwrenching experience of losing on your home floor when you’re so close to the state championship,” Kenney said. “It’s kind of pushed us forward.”

Kenney has had to be at the forefront of that for Souhegan, which entered Tuesday night’s game against Plymouth with a 3-2 record in the division.

“What make her unique on this team is that she’s a three-year varsity player,” Souhegan coach Mike Heaney said. “She got some minutes as a sophomore, she was a rotation player last year as a junior, but the other two seniors didn’t play quality minutes. Hannah is really the only veteran leader we have. She’s also kind of the big sister this year.”

It’s been tough at times. The Sabers struggled in the Nashua North Holiday Classic, and suffered one of the program’s worst defeats last week in a 51-19 loss to Milford.

But with so few returning players, and so much of the team’s talent so raw, experience was something Souhegan was going to need.

“Somebody asked me what’s our greatest weakness, and I said, experience,” Heaney said. “You can’t drill experience.

“What I think really helps Hannah is she knows how different the makeup is this year. If she and the others seniors don’t mentor the freshmen and sophomores, we’re in big trouble, because some of our more talented players are our younger players. For her to be successful, there’s no body else to do that. She knows what she wants to accomplish for herself and for the team, really depends on how good a job she does for the underclassmen.”

If the roster change wasn’t enough, Kenney has also changed positions. After being a back-to-the-basket, post player for most of her life, she’s moved to the wing to fill a need for Souhegan.

“All things considered, it’s probably the last thing you should do to a senior, but she’s embraced it,” Heaney said. “For most kids, senior year, they’d be bummed, saying why me, but she’s embraced it. She’s quick and she’s athletic, she’s long and she can shoot.”

It took some time, but Kenney enjoys the new role on the court.

“I was pretty hesitant because I wasn’t a great ballhandler,” she said. “I’ve always been a decent outside shooter, but I didn’t have that confidence. Preseason this year was all about adjusting and getting the confidence up. I feel like I’ve done that. Being a senior and a captain, it’s sort of like a booster shot of confidence. If I can lead the girls, than I can have the confidence in myself and in them.”

Kenney hopes to be pre-med in college next year, and with that workload, doesn’t expect she’ll continue playing, making senior year bittersweet.

“I kind of had my mind made up that I wasn’t going to play in college,” she said. “This was my end game, this senior year. Maybe I’ll try to walk-on at whatever school I decide to go to. It’s keeping me motivated, thinking this is the last time. This is it, so I’m really working hard this year.”