Kennedy Josephs had to make sure that every “t” was crossed and “i” dotted in making this move.

She didn’t want to get herself or anyone else in trouble.

But she also wanted what she wanted, and that was to take her sister Kayley Josephs’ advice.

“My sister told me she had an amazing experience playing high school soccer,” Kennedy said.

Kaylee is a 2017 Mayo graduate and former three-time All-State player for the Spartans. She is also that big sister who Kennedy has forever looked up to.

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So, she listened. For the first time, Kennedy — one of the top teenage players in Minnesota and one who’d previously played elite-level club soccer only — is giving the high school version a try.

The level isn’t what she’s experienced on the Twin Cities and Illinois club teams she’s been on, but she could give a hoot about levels right now. She’s having way too much fun to be weighing that.

“Playing soccer with my friends,” Kennedy said, “has been amazing.”

LIFE ON THE ROAD

Kennedy spent the last two years playing her soccer in Illinois, all while still living in Rochester and attending Mayo. Through the school year, her father, Keith Josephs, would drive her the six hours to Oak Brook, Ill. That’s where she played for the Eclipse, a member of one of the top two leagues in the country for her age group, the Elite Clubs National League.

June through August, she spent more time in Oak Brook than Rochester. She’d be gone for two weeks at a time there, training and playing games, then back in Rochester for a couple of days, before repeating the routine again and again.

Finally, this summer, she determined she’d had enough of that. Not enough of playing club soccer, but enough of doing it in Illinois and with it missing out on the opportunity to play at Mayo. The ECNL season never stops, which in the past had precluded her from suiting up for Mayo.

So, she’s switched leagues. She’s now a member of the Girls Academy League, another nationally renowned organization but this time on a team based in the Twin Cities, the Salvo. Their tradition is to take a break beginning in August, allowing their players to flip over to their respective high schools teams, then back to the Salvo once that season is done in early November.

Kennedy, her Mayo coach Andre Bailey and her Salvo coaches had to make sure all of the paperwork was done perfectly in order to make her eligible to play at Mayo. It was both painstaking and worth it, for Bailey, Josephs and the Spartans.

Mayo’s Kennedy Josephs controls the ball during a game on Saturday, September 12, 2020, at Mayo High School in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Mayo’s Kennedy Josephs controls the ball during a game on Saturday, September 12, 2020, at Mayo High School in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

PERFECT PIECE

It’s early, but Mayo is having one of its best seasons in years. The Spartans are 2-1-1 and coming off an impressive 2-2 tie with powerful Century. It’s more than a coincidence that Mayo’s turnaround has coincided with Josephs operating as the Spartans’ most dominant force at midfield.

Bailey, who rightly insists that Mayo has plenty of other nice pieces to go with her, also understands the importance of this new piece. Josephs has four goals in four games, giving Mayo the kind of scoring punch it’s lacked in recent years.

“Kennedy has been someone who can finish in front of the net,” Bailey said. “Most games, she’s had a goal. She adds that dynamic piece where she can attack and also distribute (the ball). She’s got very good balance to her game. She’s been fun to have. You can tell that she’s very competitive and a hard worker. Plus, she’s always got a smile on her face.”

That smile is partly due to the new freedom she finds herself playing with at Mayo. Always surrounded by the best of the best on her elite club teams, Kennedy has found herself taking on a bigger role at Mayo and with it adding more layers to her game.

There is one particular move with the ball, her spinning 360 degrees with it, that she’s turned to time and again, finally finding enough space to do it in these high school games.

There's also been the thrill of firing shots from 20 yards out and beyond and actually having room to do it.

Things have opened up for her. Five games in, it’s been a revelation for Josephs.

And that doesn’t even include her favorite element in having joined the Spartans: The togetherness of it, being surrounded by people she’s known for so long.

“Next year, I’m quite sure I’ll do it again,” Josephs said. “You only get the high school experience once, and you don’t want to miss it.”

Mayo’s Kennedy Josephs moves in to steal the ball from Century players during a game on Saturday, September 12, 2020, at Mayo High School in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)
Mayo’s Kennedy Josephs moves in to steal the ball from Century players during a game on Saturday, September 12, 2020, at Mayo High School in Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)