Kennedy Wesley, the graduate student defender who recently broke Stanford women’s soccer’s program record for appearances with 104 matches played, has established herself as a stand-out player and exceptional leader.
Wesley recently finished five phenomenal years on the Farm, beginning with an NCAA Championship (2019) and ending with a season as NCAA Runner-Ups (2023). She is the recipient of a plethora of awards, including: two-time Pac-12 Champion (2019, 2022), College Cup appearance (2019, 2023), Team Captain (2022, 2023), United Coaches All-Region first team (2022), All-Pac-12 second team (2022), All-Pac-12 third team (2021), College Soccer News National Team of the Week (Oct. 3, 2022), TopDrawerSoccer Freshman Best XI second team (2019) and All-Pac-12 freshman team (2019). For her academic efforts, Wesley is also a College Sports Communicators Academic All-District first team member (2022), United Soccer Coaches Scholar All-America third team member (2022) and a three-time Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll recipient (2020-21, 2021-22).
The Daily’s Chantal Eiwanger sat down with Wesley to reflect on her time at Stanford, including leading the women’s soccer team, and what her future looks like professionally.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): What made you choose soccer? Did you play any other sports growing up?
Kennedy Wesley (KW): Growing up, I did soccer and gymnastics pretty competitively starting pretty young. Nearing high school, it became a decision to pick one that I really wanted to excel in. I think that sort of team aspect of soccer is what drew me in. It wasn’t as individual as gymnastics. Being able to compete as a group, with teammates, was definitely the selling point for me in terms of picking soccer.
TSD: Did you always know you wanted to play soccer in college? What was the process like getting to Stanford?
KW: At first I didn’t think that was a realistic possibility. For me, it was kind of more just for fun. But as I started to compete more and do well as a team and individually, I think it started to become a possibility my freshman year of high school. Getting to Stanford was obviously a dream school. It was never somewhere I actually thought I’d be able to attend. My coaches reached out pretty early in my high school career and I made the decision and was super happy. But, I definitely didn’t picture myself doing that.
TSD: What has been the highlight of your time here at Stanford, both on the soccer team and off?
KW: In terms of soccer, being able to win a National Championship in 2019 was definitely the highlight for me. I’d only been here for a few months, but I had gotten to know the team really well and obviously we had a really successful year. That was probably my favorite moment in my time here even though it was just at the beginning. Off the soccer field, I think just doing as much as I could socially while also having balance. I joined a sorority, I was in Theta, and I made a lot of friends through that. I think a lot of the people I could come home to that weren’t affiliated with soccer were some of my best friends as well. Definitely capitalizing on all the friendships here has been one of my favorite parts.
TSD: What advice would you give your freshman self?
KW: I think I would have wanted to put myself in different situations earlier on, whether it was dorm activities or even clubs. I know that the amount of time we have as an athlete can be limited, but I think I did have more time than I thought to dive into the Stanford community a bit more. I definitely did as I got older, but if I could do it all over again, I would have done that a little earlier on.
TSD: As a team captain for the past two years, what has been the best part of leading this group of girls?
KW: Leading comes with its challenges, but I think overall I learned a lot from the girls above me when I was a freshman. Also, the girls we have had the last few years have been the easiest to lead. We are all sisters to each other, so we were able to give each other constructive criticism while having fun at the same time. The team has definitely made it the easiest and most fun thing because of the personalities and the relationships we have off the field.
TSD: You recently passed the record for most appearances of any player in program history, how does that feel?
KW: Honestly, I did not know that was something I was even close to. But now looking in retrospect, I guess it makes sense. I am super blessed that I was able to stay a fifth year because of COVID and to stay healthy all those four years. And to contribute to the program as much as it has contributed to my life — it’s a super great honor and blessing for sure, but definitely not something I thought I would achieve in my time here.
TSD: How have your teammates and coaches shaped your experience at Stanford?
KW: I think in a really significant way. Obviously the recruiting process happens pretty early on. I was just a freshman in high school and the coaching staff took a chance. They clearly saw potential in me, so I am super appreciative of them for taking the chance and continuing to develop me as a player throughout my team here. They’ve helped on the field but also in life. They have definitely taught me a lot of lessons I will take moving forward. As I mentioned earlier, my teammates are like my best friends and sisters. So having them in all the good and difficult times has made my experience a lot easier. I think that if our group wasn’t as close knit as it was, it would definitely be a little bit difficult to navigate a place like Stanford.
TSD: In your time here, you and the team have been quite successful, starting off your freshman year winning the NCAA tournament to being runner-ups in this year’s tournament: What do you credit that success to?
KW: I think a lot of it is what happens behind the scenes, not even on the field. It’s the team bonding we do early on in the season to make everyone as comfortable as they can be. If we can be comfortable with each other off the field, it will translate on the field. One of the words our team talks about a lot is trust. We trust each other off the field that we will take care of each other. We trust each other on the field that everyone is going to have each other’s back and do everything for the person next to them. Between those two, I think it sets us up to be really successful on the field.
TSD: What made you decide to take your fifth year? Was that ever not on the table?
KW: I wasn’t totally sure. I ended up deciding with a couple months left. I definitely knew that the fifth year was a possibility, but I was also considering just starting my professional career a little bit earlier. At the end of the day, I didn’t really feel like I was ready to leave Stanford and all it had to offer. That was one of the biggest factors in making me stay. I just wasn’t really ready to leave when push came to shove.
TSD: What are your plans post graduation?
KW: I plan to enter the NWSL Draft, which is taking place in January. I hope I can continue my career on the field a little longer.
TSD: What are you going to miss most about being on the Stanford soccer team?
KW: The girls. They are literally my best friends. We see each other every day for at least 11 months out of the year. Not having the accessibility to bike to someone’s dorm or meet at the dining hall is definitely something that seems like little interactions, but something I’m really going to miss. All the resources, coaches, everything about this place is great. But, I think the team is definitely what I will miss most.