Two sisters from Foxboro who grew up competing in local youth leagues are now flourishing academically and athletically at the Wheeler School in Providence.
Meghan and Kate Keenan are both two-sport, two-time Rhode Island Interscholastic League All-State selections.
Meghan, a senior bound for Williams College, is a four-year starter in both field hockey and lacrosse.
Kate, a sophomore, earned her two All-State selections on the soccer field and is well on her way to becoming a multi-time selection on the basketball court as well.
“My sister really pushes me and supports me — and I push her,” the younger Kate said. “We went up against each other all the time in every sport — she helped me get better. She was a mentor and has been a role model for me.
“She has been a great example for me to follow all these years.”
Meghan has driven the family car down Interstate 95 from Foxboro, taking one of the Pawtucket exits and heading down Hope Street onto the East Side campus of the private Wheeler School.
“It’s just really competitive between us,” the elder Meghan said. “We play two totally different sports. We’re close in age so we grew up playing in the backyard or in the driveway. My parents (mom Nancy and dad Greg) would be out there too. It was so much fun.
“That was kind of the plan in going to Wheeler. It’s almost better that we play two different sports.”
“I made All-State, she made All-State. I can’t be second best to my younger sister,” Meghan joked.
Meghan was named a U.S. Lacrosse All American and Academic All American last year and is well on her way to eclipsing the 200-point threshold in her career.
She has helped the Wheeler School program, a Division I team in the Rhode Island Interscholastic League, to a 4-2 record this spring.
During her freshman season she had 27 goals and eight assists, then fired in 43 goals and collected eight assists as a sophomore. Last spring, she more than doubled those totals with 57 goals and 32 assists, entering the 2019 lacrosse campaign with 174 points.
“Meghan has improved so much as a lacrosse player since her freshman year,” said coach Stephanie Bissett. “She’s our top scorer, she figures out what we need to do, the other team’s weaknesses.”
Meghan is a product of the Foxboro Youth Lacrosse program, moved along to the Outlaws program, then on to Team Laxachusetts.
“Field hockey and lacrosse were the two big sports that all my friends played in Foxboro,” Meghan said. “I go to the Foxboro High games when I can. They’re really good.”
For the Division 2 state champion Wheeler field hockey team, Meghan had 11 goals and five assists. She was a major factor in the team winning two straight Division 2 regular season titles and this year avenging two regular season losses to the Lincoln School with an 2-1 upset of the previously unbeaten team in the title game.
The sisters’ mom played basketball at Babson College. Their dad was a multi-sport standout at St. John’s Prep and played baseball at Babson.
“Whatever that they wanted to play was fine with us,” said Nancy Keenan. “Of course, I wanted them to play basketball. They tried everything.
“But what we tried to impress upon them was the value of team sports, making that commitment, making those sacrifices of yourself. And I think the other thing was the social aspect of playing a team sport — a lot of sports has to do with the life lessons they teach.”
School comes first
Even still, the Keenan sisters knew that academics were first and foremost.
“They knew what they needed to do,” Nancy said. “If their academics were suffering, the first thing that would go would be the phone. The one true thing that I can say about them both is that they don’t want to be unprepared, for either their academics or athletics.”
It’s part of the reason Meghan is ranked among the top 10 seniors academically at the Wheeler School and had Ivy League schools pursuing her for her athletic skills, before she opted to travel to Western Massachusetts where she will play lacrosse at Williamstown.
Their father instilled some toughness and aggressiveness into the sisters’ mold too.
“Kate really liked basketball more than soccer, but I think that some of the toughness that she got by playing soccer helped her on the basketball floor, when she needed to make a free throw at the end of a game” Greg said. “She doesn’t get nervous.”
Stephanie Bissett currently serves as the Keenan sisters’ basketball coach and Meghan’s lacrosse coach. She notices a difference between the two siblings.
“Meghan is a bit more intellectual, she’s older,” Bissett said. “She figures out her weaknesses and how to counter them. Kate does have a great basketball IQ, but she is more flash, flash, flash. She can handle the ball, she can hit the big shots.
“They’re both very competitive but Kate is a bit more vocal and Meghan is quieter. They’re different, both equally skilled and offensive-minded. Kate is more of a shooting guard and Meghan is more of an assist person. She reads the game so well.”
Bissett said the sisters complement each other on the floor so well, “you can tell that they’ve been playing together for a very long time... Meg knows where Kate is going to be cutting and where to find her.
Time on the court
Meghan played a lot of basketball in Foxboro youth leagues, at Mass. Premier Courts and on AAU teams until the eighth grade. She now works part-time at Mass. Premier Courts.
Kate is a sharpshooter in the mold of one of her Foxboro peers and AAU teammates, Foxboro High’s Katelyn Mollica, also a sophomore.
Kate was Wheeler’s leading scorer on the basketball court as a freshman and the top scorer in any division of the R.I. Interscholastic League. She averaged 21.6 points per game for an 18-5 team. She averaged nearly 23 points per game her sophomore year.
Kate has improved her shooting stroke under the guidance of former Attleboro High great and Bentley University hoopster Tim Forbes, her “Shot Doctor” at Mass. Premier.
“I love training with him, he’s awesome,” Kate said. “We get so much done. He’s helped me so much with my form, my footwork, my dribbling — he works on my whole game.
“I kind of grew up playing a lot of soccer; that was my sport,” Kate added. “I trained all the time for soccer and I didn’t have enough time for basketball. But I started liking basketball more when I started getting involved with AAU. With basketball, you play offense and defense. In soccer, I’m the last line of defense in goal. Basketball is so dynamic, it’s such a great team sport.”
The Keenan sisters have plenty of friends from Mansfield and Foxboro.
“Playing at Mass. Premier and on the travel teams, it’s been great,” Kate said. “Katelyn (Mollica) and I grew up together, playing against each other and on a lot of teams. We’d always be shooting around or having 3-point shooting contests.”
Making a good decision
“It was a good decision for me to follow my sister and go to Wheeler,” Kate said. “It’s a strong academic school. It’s really challenging, which I love. I like to push myself. And since my freshman year, I was able to play entire games (in soccer and basketball). It exposed me so much to great players and having that experience has helped me so much as a player.”
Meghan said going to Wheeler has worked out well for her too.
“Academically I was challenged and athletically it allowed me to shine and develop as a player,” Meghan said. “And going on those international trips helped with athletics, too.
“It’s kind of like a team, kids with different personalities, a variety of backgrounds. That really taught me to be open to things. People can be so different in their stories. People are so much deeper than what they show on the outside.”