When the ball landed in the pocket of Kelsey Kimmel's lacrosse stick, the game was all but decided. But as he raced to the finish, he'll probably never forget what happened next.
Kelsey's father, Scott Kimmel, died just 28 days earlier. As Kelsey mourned the loss of the man who had played such an important role in her life, she missed all of Penn State's practice and season opener.
Scott attended almost all of Kelsey's games and still had to adjust to her father not being there to cheer her on during the Nittany Lions' third game of the season under an overcast sky at Penn State's Panzer Stadium .
Kelsey got a clear view of the net towards the end of the fight and did what Scott wanted her to do: shoot on target. The ball went over Duquesne's goaltender to seal the Nittany Lions' victory. And then it happened.
"The clouds parted," Kelsey said. "Direct sunlight."
He immediately felt his father's presence.
Scott, a resident of West Lampeter Township, died of heart failure in his sleep on January 24. He was 57 years old. He is survived by his wife, Wendy, aged 27, and their three daughters: McKenna, 24, Kelsey, 22, and Rowan, 18.
Since McKenna started playing lacrosse in fourth grade, the Kimmels have shaped the Lampeter-Strasbourg program whether on the field, behind the scenes or on both sides. A streak of nearly 15 years comes to an end, with Rowan graduating soon and Wendy retiring, according to the team's post-season statistics.
But what was to be a glorious end to the Kimmels' involvement in L-S lacrosse has brought new meaning to the sport as family and community come to terms with Scott's unexpected loss.
"In the Ring of Fire"
On the fence at the entrance to the L-S lawn are plaques honoring each of the lacrosse team's eight seniors, including Rowan. His father's poster is to the left of Rowans and shows Scott with a younger Rowan. The bottom of the board reads "Scott's Spot" in white letters.
This is where Scott has stopped many times over the years to watch his daughters play lacrosse.
"It was hard to see my dad out of place at the gate," Rowan said. "He usually wore business attire after he organized his schedule so there was enough time to get to the game."
Sometimes Scott would be approached during a game by a parent or two, such as Mary Wolff, president of the LSHS Girls Lacrosse Booster Club.
"There wasn't much Scott didn't know when it came to lacrosse," Wolff said.
Part of this was due to Scott's role as treasurer of both the LS Girls Lacrosse Youth Association (2014, 2015) and the Advancement Club (as of 2016). It is one of about six local organizations Scott has been involved with, including eight years as a member of the Lampeter-Strasbourg school board. During his time on the school board and with the West Lampeter Community Foundation, grass athletic fields were built at the high school and the athletic fields in Village Park were improved.
Scott J Kimmel
"He's a dad, but one of the few dads who would go into the Ring of Fire," said Marshall Krebs, coach of the L-S Women's Varsity lacrosse team. "It's very important because of his credentials. You couldn't wish for more qualified.
Scott earned three bachelor's degrees in finance, real estate, and business administration from Kent State, an MBA in international marketing from Saint Joseph's University, and a degree in information technology/e-commerce from Saint Joseph's University. From New York. He has had an impressive corporate career and spent the past 12 years at RKL, a business and accounting consulting firm with offices in Manheim Township and York County.
"Everyone is always so busy these days," Krebs said. Scott was a partner at a very large accounting firm. But this time he made it. She defended her daughters' goals by giving her time and getting involved. But it wasn't just her daughters. It was about the show and the kids.”
"I hope Scott's legacy is his commitment to the community and his desire to help others and our family," said Wendy Kimmel. “Perhaps it will encourage people to volunteer their time. She really tried to be a good mother, a good husband, and a good person.
Scott and Wendy are transplants from Lancaster County. They were married for ten years before moving to Lancaster to work in November 2004, just two months after Rowan was born.
From pigskin to pep talks
McKenna Kimmel first picked up a lacrosse bat in fourth grade. Scott wanted to play tag with his daughter, but hadn't mastered the lacrosse bat yet, so he grabbed a baseball glove.
Once, Scott returned to his football prep days in the family backyard to show Kelsey how to play defense in lacrosse.
"He gave her a little nudge," Wendy recalls. "He flew away."
Kelsey fell to the floor laughing. His mother didn't like it.
As the girls got older, Scott would often find a way to cheer them up after a bad game, usually by stopping for an ice cream cone.
“I was on the roster after a game over the weekend,” said Kelsey. "He would do something to change the focus."
"Now when I come home from matches, it's extremely difficult," said Rowan. "I just remember you're not in the house to talk to him."
Also disappeared were the encouraging text messages Scott sent to his daughters before the game, all three of whom were wearing L-S lacrosse uniforms.
McKenna played lacrosse his freshman year in high school. Kelsey scored a program-record 396 career goals in girls' lacrosse LS before playing at Penn State. Rowan surpassed 200 career goals for the Pioneers earlier this spring while wearing the same No. 11 LS jersey that Kelsey previously wore.
"Everybody loves Rowan," said L-S coach Krebs. “She is a reflection of her mother and father. She is modest. She does her job and doesn't complain. And she supports her teammates.
That's why Scott's death hit Rowan's teammates so hard.
"She Needs Your Support"
A few days after Scott's death, Krebs, a science teacher at Martin Meylin High School, held a meeting for his lacrosse players in his classroom.
"You could put yourself in Rowan's shoes," Krebs said. "I realized because she's her age and they're like, 'God, what if I lose my dad?'"
The meeting was a safe place for his players to discuss the sudden defeat and find out how they can support Rowan.
"When someone loses a loved one," Krebs told his players that day, "the people around that person often don't know what to say and suddenly fall silent to that person."
"Don't be afraid to talk to Rowan. Don't be afraid to call his father. Don't be quiet with her. She needs your support
Since then, Rowan's teammates have stood up for her in various ways, sometimes just making her laugh during practice or texting her encouragingly.
Meanwhile, the charity organized a food chain for the Kimmels that has lasted more than two months after Scott's death: The three freezers in the Kimmel house are still full.
For Kelsey, support came immediately after returning home after her father's death, when some of her Penn State teammates came forward and texted, "You don't have to leave the house," but we're here if you need us.
All of Kelsey's teammates and coaches attended Scott's visit, and several teammates traveled to Kimmel's house the following week to deliver food and flowers.
Returning to practice three weeks later, Kelsey discovered that all of her teammates had their father's initials written in black Sharpie on the white athletic tape wrapped around their lacrosse sticks; Rowan had done the same with his lacrosse bat.
When Wendy couldn't make it to the Penn State road game over Easter weekend, another Penn State lacrosse parent brought Kelsey an Easter basket.
On March 25 during Penn State's Senior Day game, LS fans came out and showed their support with signs for Kelsey, who was flanked by her mother and sisters as she was honored at the pregame ceremony.
About three weeks later, a similar scene played out in L-S during the women's lacrosse team's Senior Night celebration, as Rowan walked across center field with her mother on one side and her sisters on the other.
Rowan will soon be off to college, leaving Wendy with an empty nest. Not the plan I had in mind at this stage of my life.
Wendy coached a youth women's lacrosse team in the early 2010s and became president of the L-S Youth Women's Lacrosse Association in 2014 when Scott joined as treasurer. Since then, Scott and Wendy have teamed up behind the scenes on the broadcast of the L-S women's lacrosse hit.
"It's hard to be empty when the kids are in college," Kelsey said. “It is unbelievable that it continues like this. I know my sisters and I were worried about (our mother). But our communities, Penn State, LS and others, have all come forward.
Wendy, a former runner at the University of Iowa, jogs and cycles. As a Christmas present, Scott bought an electric bicycle in hopes of being reunited with his wife in warmer weather.
"We planned to take little trips to the train tracks," he said. "It was a way to train together."
Wendy, 55, has been a housewife since Kelsey was born. While volunteering at Blessings of Hope, a non-profit food distribution center in Lancaster, she plans to get a part-time or full-time job when Rowan starts college later this year.
"I have no idea where to," he said. And Kelsey might come home for a while in the summer. My friends were very nice. We start playing pickleball more and go for a walk. I'm in a walking club.
With their mother soon entering the next chapter, the Kimmel sisters will follow suit.
McKenna is just starting her career with a private equity firm in Philadelphia.
Rowan is on track to be top of the class in 2023 by graduating from LS. After graduation, he begins his studies at the US Naval Academy and plays NCAA Division I lacrosse. She wants to specialize in Cyber Operations or Operations Research and wants to become a pilot.
And Kelsey, now a Penn State graduate, will fulfill a dream her father once had.
The end of an era
When Scott was younger, he wanted to live and work in New York City one day. That never worked out, but it didn't stop him from continuing his successful career.
Still, Scott kept a snow globe on his desk with a picture of New York City in it.
"He bought it when he was young for inspiration," Kelsey said.
Scott always smiled and refused when Kelsey asked her father if she could keep the snow globe.
Kelsey will embark on a career in supply chain management later this year. He goes to work for Ernst & Young in New York City.
When Scott found out about Kelsey getting the job, he finally gave in to the snow globe.
"This is yours," he said. "You deserve it."
But before that gig starts, Kelsey will spend a few months at home watching Rowan play his final games in an L-S jersey as the Pioneers battle it out in the playoffs. Rowan was recently named Lancaster-Lebanon League Two MVP for an L-S team looking to close out their historic season: This year's group was the first in program history to win a section crown, and the first to do sothe league championship game.
This ends a 14-year streak for the Kimmel family, including parents, involved in L-S lacrosse.
"The Kimmel family certainly contributed to the creation and development of the program from adolescence through high school," Krebs said. "Numerous families have contributed, coaches have come and gone, but the Kimmels have been involved with the program since at least 2009...the Kimmels have certainly inspired the current generation to keep our program going strong."
L-S lacrosse continues with the Kimmels as the Kimmel women push forward to make the man who supported them so proud.
"I definitely feel tremendously motivated to repay my father's sacrifices," said Rowan. "I hope I can work hard to gain a lot of experience for him while he takes care of us."
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