The past four years for the seniors on the Virginia’s field hockey team have been filled with glorious wins, outrageous upsets, tough losses, uphill battles and enduring friendships. Just when senior midfielder Kelsey LeBlanc and senior goalkeeper Jenny Johnstone thought that their collegiate careers had come to an end, they learned that together, they had earned one more honor: being selected to play in the Victory Sports Tours/NFHCA Division I Senior All-Star game.
For the two girls, this honor not only serves as a great end to each of their individual college careers, but also as a perfect finish to their four-year relationship on the field. The senior all-star game will take place this Saturday and will include 38 of the nation’s best seniors, including LeBlanc. Johnstone has opted out of playing in the event.
“I was very happy for both of them,” coach Michele Madison said. “You can see from the list that not many universities have two selected. I think it is a tribute to what they have done here at U.Va. in their four years. … I am very proud of both of them.”
Johnstone indicated her surprise.
“I had never heard of it before, so it was kind of nice to hear of an award you had never heard of and be awarded it,” she said. “It was good to know that someone out there was thinking of us.”
The women started their time at Virginia as first years together living in the same dorm and ended it as co-captains.
“Jenny was the most vocal and incredibly inspirational — and there is no bigger model of lead by example than Kelsey on the field,” Madison said.
The two girls sat side by side in their interview, giggling and smiling the entire time. Their friendship is almost as obvious as their spectacular teamwork on the field.
LeBlanc, who had to return to play after a surgery in her first year, said Jenny has been a huge help to her both on and off the field.
“When I came back second year, [coach Madison] moved me to the backfield, which is Jenny’s — you are under Jenny’s reins if you are in the backfield. She is the dictator!” LeBlanc said, as the two girls erupted into laughter. “We got a lot closer being back there, which was fun. I really liked playing in the back with Jenny.”
“This year, Kelsey got moved back up to d-mid [defensive-midfield], which is higher up the field and means she was far away from me,” Johnstone said. “Whenever she would come back, I would be like, ‘Yay! I have got Kelsey back!’ I missed her, I missed her presence back there, she is just so calm and collected and just really solid.”
Both girls endured hardship in their athletic careers as well.
“[Johnstone] battled an illness last year, which was amazing for her position for her to overcome and still perform,” Madison said. “Her fourth year, she just came back her strongest and most mature, her most focused and determined [season].”
LeBlanc’s surgery was not her only roadblock, either.
“Kelsey, unfortunately was plagued with injuries,” Madison said. “She was a kid who never says anything is wrong. She is so, so tough and mentally tough. Once we were able to get through that her sophomore year, junior year we had to manage it, and senior year was the first year we think she was pain-free, but I am sure she wasn’t, but she would never be one to complain or even talk about it.”
Kelsey mentioned their win this past season against No. 1 North Carolina as another highlight of their time on the field together, describing it as “pretty awesome.”
“But I don’t know if that feeling trumps the feeling from when we beat Maryland,” she said.
However, their relationship in the past four years has not been confined to the field.
“I think, aside from their friendship … they came in together and support each other day in and day out,” Madison said. “I think there is a mutual respect athletically among all four of [the seniors]. I think Jenny knew she could depend on Kelsey on the field, and Kelsey vice versa with Jenny. That is the greatest compliment you can give somebody, a teammate.”