It’s been a busy, soccer-centric summer for Paige Kenton, but the Padua Academy alumna wouldn’t have it any other way. Kenton, a multi-sport standout for the Pandas who graduated from the Wilmington school in 2020, has spent most of the summer on the pitch, playing and teaching the beautiful game.
Kenton recently finished her season with the South Jersey Elite Barons FC in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, the leading amateur women’s circuit in the United States with more than 100 teams across the country. She was the only player from Delaware on SJEB FC, which reached the national semifinals before bowing out in a 2-0 shutout against the Colorado Rapids Women in Oklahoma City.
Kenton scored three goals for SJEB FC during their seven-game regular season, in which they went 5-1-1. They won two playoff games to earn the trip to Oklahoma City before the season ended.
“It was a really interesting experience,” she said recently.
She heard about the WPSL a during her freshman year from her coaches at the University of Pennsylvania. They recommended the players find a summer league, particularly since the Ivy League did not have a season in the fall of 2020 because of the covid pandemic.
“I went to a tryout in the middle of my freshman year,” Kenton said. “We were deep into covid and weren’t playing. I’ve been with them ever since.”
There are some differences between Division I NCAA soccer and the WPSL. Kenton said in collegiate play, there is more familiarity with one’s opponents. Her teammates and foes in the WPSL come from various colleges, and many have graduated.
Kenton will be a junior academically this fall at Penn, but a sophomore in terms of athletic eligibility because of the missed 2020 campaign. Last year as a redshirt freshman, she played in eight games, starting one, and scored two goals with an assist.
She is majoring in neuroscience, which is a big commitment even without soccer.
“It’s definitely a challenge, but a challenge I enjoy,” she said. After classes, soccer is “a nice break in the day, for sure.”
At Padua, Kenton lettered in basketball and track and field along with soccer. As a senior, she was the Gatorade Delaware Girls Soccer Player of the Year, and she received player of the year honors from the state’s coaches as well. The Pandas won state championships in 2018 and ’19; there was no season in 2020.
Because of the pandemic, the NCAA offered all affected student-athletes an extra year of college eligibility, and Kenton said she has decided to use that year. She can keep playing the game she loves while working toward an advanced degree.
She spent part of July working at a boys soccer camp on the Penn campus. As she gets a bit older, Kenton is exploring ways to stay involved with the game.
“I can’t imagine not playing,” she said. “I’d be shocked if I didn’t at least do something.”