By Helen Tuman
Imagine your best moment in sports.
It’s the last home game of the season against your lasting rival, and the win could secure your place in the Division III national tournament. It’s the draining minutes of overtime and your teammate passes you the opportunity to win the game. You switch off the safety, focus on the target and pull the trigger. The crowd screams for your victory.
This isn’t a fantasy for UC Santa Cruz women’s water polo captain senior Kate Simonis. Just a few weeks ago, it was her reality.
But Simonis wasn’t always the last-minute hero. She has come a long way from her high school water polo days.
“[In high school] they told me to get in and play,” Simonis said. “They didn’t teach us much.”
It was no wonder that after such an experience she had no desire to continue her water polo career in college.
“The summer after I graduated my mom asked me if I wanted to go to a water polo boot camp at UCSC,” Simonis said. “And I said no.”
Simonis came to UCSC with plans to continue swimming, an activity she started when she was nine, but then soon realized that laps weren’t for her. She stayed in the pool but returned to water polo, a sport she would come to adore.
“When Kate first came here she didn’t have experience,” said UCSC women’s water polo coach Alan Cima. “But she had desire.”
During her first year, Simonis got her feet wet, learned the rules of the game and fell in love with the sport.
“[Water polo] is soccer, wrestling, rugby all into one,” Simonis said. “Anyone who plays sports can get into it.”
In her four years here, Simonis evolved from someone who wasn’t fluent with the rules of the game to someone coach Danielle Mulford can only describe as “damn good.”
“She’s one of our top players, very versatile,” Mulford said. “She can play defense, outside and center.”
Above all, Simonis gave the team commitment throughout her four years.
“She stuck it out throughout the thick and thin,” teammate Chelsea Meyers said. “Plus, she has an upbeat attitude, the best attitude. She can always pump you back up and make practice fun.”
Simonis’ commitment, dedication and leadership were evident to everyone around her and she earned the position of team captain.
Taking dedication to a new level, Kate Simonis took it upon herself to e-mail the team with any information they couldn’t remember from the team meeting. She also designed shirts in an effort to raise money for the team.
After college Simonis has a job lined up at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, after an internship last summer.
“I’m going into accounting,” said Simonis, laughing. “With 60-hour weeks, it’ll be rough.”
Though going out into the real world may be rough, it won’t be as rough as those water polo games when she walked away “looking like a Dalmatian,” covered in bruises and scratches.
“[I’m] going to miss the team aspect the most,” Simonis said. “It was good to be part of a program where the teammates are friends.”