Times All-North Frontier League Lacrosse MVP: Carthage’s Kempney continues to lead the way | Coverage all the North
CARTHAGE — Showing his dedication to the sport, Carter Kempney met a young player from Carthage on a Sunday for an impromptu shooting session.
Often teaming up with former Comets player Josh Demko, this time Kempney got a call from eighth-grader and up-and-coming goaltender Connor Hickey, and the two reunited on the high school’s grass field. .
Once a promising player himself and happy to offer some advice as well, Kempney suddenly finds himself at the end of his college career in school and now even in teaching mode for young players who look up to him.
“Definitely Josh, me and him, we come here and shoot every night and we shoot on Connor Hickey a lot,” Kempney said. “He’s only in eighth grade and he’s making saves that I don’t see a lot of high school goaltenders making, so he’ll definitely be a great player one day.
Kempney, whose college career dates back to seventh grade, was selected as the Frontier League’s Times All-North Men’s Lacrosse Most Valuable Player.
“Carter is a great athlete, but more importantly, he’s a big boy,” Carthage boys’ lacrosse coach Jason Coffman said. “He has a lot of compassion and humility. For the accolades he has, he’s still such a down-to-earth kid.
Syracuse University-bound Kempney had a new kind of season for himself as he developed both as a leader and a more versatile player as a midfielder.
“It’s been a pleasure coaching and seeing him become a leader this year, he’s done everything I could ask him to do,” Coffman said. “It was great to see him become a young adult this year.”
After being selected as an All-American who will compete in two prestigious tournaments before heading to Syracuse, Kempney is proud to have been part of the lacrosse legacy at Carthage.
“Definitely this year I’ve taken on more of a leadership role, to motivate guys, to get guys to want to do more, like guys who want to come in here and shoot on the weekends,” Kempney said. “I definitely felt more like a leader this year because the kids were coming up to me and asking me a lot of things. It was like helping them all out while I was having fun playing lacrosse.
Kempney has generated 62 goals this season and tallied 86 points to lead the Frontier League in both categories.
“This community is very supportive and I love their support,” Kempney said. “Because I’ll be walking around town and someone’s going to be like, ‘Hey Carter, you had a great game last night.’ It’s great because if you live in a big community you’ll never get that Geez small communities are cool and going somewhere outside of a small community is cool because they follow you all the way and it’s really great.
He has also registered 24 assists – 10 more than last season – as his role in midfield for the Comets has changed this year.
“It definitely made me more cerebral on the court, just like looking outside and seeing where every kid is and finding the open man when you’re dodging,” Kempney said. “Because half the time when I was dodging there was an immediate double team, so there was always someone open, so I always had to find the open man.”
A natural goalscorer with a goal-scoring mentality, Kempney had to adjust his approach this season as at times he focused on passing the ball to his teammates so they had the chance to score.
“This year has definitely been different because this year I feel like teams have bonded with me more than ever and obviously I’ve had their best defender in every game,” Kempney said. “And that kind of forced me to look for the open man instead of just getting the ball into the cage every time like I’m used to.
“But I really like seeing that aspect of the game because I think it really made me grow as a player because you have to be able to do everything in college, because everyone in college was the best player on his high school team.”
He also hopes his development as a balanced midfielder will help his game at the college level.
“There definitely aren’t a lot of two-way middies these days,” Kempney said. “Because obviously you look at the university and usually after the attack gets possession they run off the pitch and the d-middies come right in, but I’m definitely going to try to be a double middie meaning as much as possible because you can contribute more, so I hope to have the chance to do so.
Kempney also took on other responsibilities, such as clearing the ball and helping set up the team’s transition play.
In total, during his six-year college career with the Comets, Kempney totaled 219 points, including 171 goals and 48 assists.
“With Carter, he was someone who always took what the upper classes were saying to heart,” Coffman said. “And when they were going after him when he was younger, he was working harder because of it. And to see him become and be that leader was absolutely brilliant, we went like Carter went this year and he knew it and the children knew it.
“They hung on to his every word…and there was a certain level of intensity that he brought that the kids didn’t want to let him down, they wanted to match his intensity, they also wanted to make Carter proud, so he was pretty cool to watch.
Kempney is happy to have been part of the Carthage program, which was built by former coach Kirk Ventiquattro, who was his varsity coach in grades seven and eight.
“It definitely swayed me because obviously you see all these greats, like the Powell brothers, the Coffmans and all the rest of them,” Coffman said. “You see them and everything they did in college and high school, and that kind of bar sets you up.”
Carthage forged a 12-5 record this season, including 9-3 in the league, as the team finished second in the league.
The Comets also recorded non-league wins over Penn Yan and Cazenovia before losing to New Hartford, 16-7, in the first round of Class C section play.
“We had a pretty good year, but it didn’t end the way I wanted because I’m a senior and I wanted us to go further,” Kempney said. “But I’m really, really proud of the way we played because we’re very young. A lot of our best players are in their second years and to see them come out and compete the way they did was just brilliant.
Looking ahead, Kempney will compete in the Nike National Senior All-American Game on July 9 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, Md. He is one of 46 seniors from across the country selected to take part in the event.
Kempney was also selected to play in the Under Armor Senior All-America game on July 30 at Homewood Field on the Johns Hopkins campus.
He will then travel to Syracuse, continuing the family tradition as his older sisters Kailah and Braelie both attended and played college.
“I think it taught me a lot more than I’ll ever know,” Kempney said of lacrosse. “Because it taught me not only to be determined and to keep pushing myself, but it also taught me character and everything because I traveled the world for lacrosse and got to meet all the different children in all areas. … I think that really helped me build my character as a person.