Football

Park City goalie Ava Kimche named Deseret News 2023 Ms. Lacrosse

For someone who didn’t really want to be a lacrosse goalie, Park City’s Ava Kimche sure mastered the position better than anyone else in Utah this season.

And ironically enough, much of her unparalleled success was a direct result of all the years she wasn’t playing goalie. In middle school, Kimche was an attack player and had no interest in being goalie — after all, she played goalie in soccer and that was good enough.

When she quit soccer around the same time COVID-19 hit, though, she suddenly found herself missing the adrenaline rush of stopping shots. Her mom suggested she try goalie in lacrosse to see if she liked it and the rest is history.

“I just fell in love with it. I mean, the adrenaline rush you get from saving a ball is nothing like I’ve ever quite experienced in any other sport. So I stuck with it and I’m glad I did,” Kimche said.

Led by Kimche, this year’s Deseret News Ms. Lacrosse recipient in the third year of the award, Park City captured the 5A state championship. This fall she’s moving on to college lacrosse at Columbia University in the Ivy League.

Kimche leaves behind a tremendous legacy at Park City with a skill level that very few goalies possess.

“She is such a smart goalie, and I think part of that comes from the fact she was a field player for so long. So she really understands both the attack and defense in a way a lot of other goalies don’t who haven’t played the field before,” Park City coach Mikki Clayton said. “It’s like having another coach on the field for us.”

She finished with 86 saves and a 48.5 save percentage facing a very tough schedule. And while she could definitely make the acrobatic saves, it was her ability to kick-start Park City’s attack with her stick skills that separated her from her peers.

“She has an incredible arm. It gives our middies an advantage cause they can use their speed and release. We can get into our attacking zone before a lot of defenses are ready. So just the speed with which our team could play was that much faster on account of Ava,” Clayton said.

Added Kimche: “I was always pretty comfortable with my stick skills and being able to transition the ball and then when it came to being a goalie that’s an aspect of my game I always wanted to heighten. I always felt confident out of the cage even though I was goalie.”

The senior’s best game of the season came in the 5A state championship game against Olympus. It was a team Park City lost to in last year’s state championship, and then again in the regular season this year, but Kimche was instrumental in making sure a third straight loss didn’t happen. She played out of her mind in that final with 13 saves on 21 shots as the Miners won 12-8.

She was quick to defer praise to her numerous teammates who helped make things difficult for Olympus’ attackers before they got off their shots.

Kimche believes the early loss to Olympus in the regular season, along with three losses in California in early April, strengthened the team’s mentality and allowed it to pull away in the second half in the title game.

“When it came to the state game we were able to stay calm and collected while we were down and then make that comeback earlier in the game so we were able to pull through at the end of the game,” she said.

Kimche actually started playing lacrosse back in first grade, but she had to play up on her sister’s fourth grade team without a younger team to join and it wasn’t a great experience.

“It wasn’t that fun. A lot of running, a lot of conditioning, not a lot of playing time, so I stuck to basketball and soccer,” Kimche said.

She continued to play basketball all the way through high school, but eventually found her true athletic calling when she picked lacrosse back up in middle school.

Lacrosse became much more fun the second time around and quickly became her passion. The past couple of years she started reffing youth lacrosse games and even coaching some young teams. She said the love her players show her, especially when they come out and watch her games, is incredibly sweet and is very inspiring to keep doing so.

“I didn’t really have the same experience growing up, that’s one of the reasons why I didn’t enjoy it because I don’t think there were a lot of older girls coming down and helping the youth program. So giving these little girls something to look forward to and actually wanting to continue to play in high school I think is super important,” Kimche said.

For everything she meant to the program both on and off the field, replacing her will be extremely difficult for the program, but she leaves behind a great legacy.

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