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Field hockey athlete of the year: Kaili Simmons, Palmer Ridge
Kaili Simmons feels like a relative newcomer to field hockey, but Palmer Ridge coach Paul Lewis insists she’s a natural.
“She dominated the center of the field for us all year long,” he said. “Our whole midfield line was good, and that led to our success.”
The Bears finished 10-2-4, losing in conference play to eventual state champion Kent Denver and in the state tournament’s second round to Smoky Hill.
“It was a great year, really fun,” Simmons said. “We were hoping to win state, so losing in double overtime to Smoky Hill was tough.”
Simmons hopes to continue her career in college, likely on the East Coast. But another season at Palmer Ridge — learning the intricacies of the game from Lewis — awaits.
“A lot of it goes to coaching because I’m pretty new at this sport,” said Simmons, a junior who has played three seasons. “I like the intensity of it. I used to play soccer, but I like this better. I’m dedicated to field hockey.”
Simmons scored six goals this season, but Lewis said statistics don’t tell her story.
“She has all the tools and does a little bit of everything for us,” he said. “She’s got strength, speed, amazing skills and she picks up everything quickly.
“She’s a heck of a kid and a heck of an athlete. She was definitely a dominant player for us this year.”
Simmons, who also plays on a talented club team, remains focused on improving.
“I’ve got drive and dedication,” she said. “I want to be as good as I can.”
That’s her team goal, too.
“We lost some good people from this team,” said, “but we definitely could be even better next year.”