OKEMOS – For Angela Palmer and the Okemos girls lacrosse team, the last three seasons were successful, yet, frustrating.
A tease, if you will.
Palmer, a four-year varsity standout, has helped the Division 2 Chiefs make multiple deep postseason runs – reaching the semifinals twice (2013 and 2015) and the state finals once (2014) – throughout her high school career.
However, that feeling of supremacy, the one every competitor seeks, has eluded the program since the start of the new decade, and East Grand Rapids will gladly take the blame, as the four-time defending state champions have eliminated Okemos the past three years.
But, before she leaves, Palmer is keen on getting the Division 2 No. 4-ranked Chiefs (11-4) on the right side of the hump and end her career on the highest of notes.
“It makes you want to work harder and harder every year because you want to get to that one goal,” said Palmer, who will continue her playing career at Central Michigan next season. “As a sophomore, I was able to play in the state championship. Talking about it, and that experience, makes everyone else want to get there as well.
“The adrenaline … It’s a life changer making it there.”
Palmer has kicked off her final year doing what she’s done most of her career: scoring goals. The senior has 29 goals and 12 assists through 15 games and has been a big reason Okemos is ranked No. 8 overall in the state.
But there was some uncertainty coming into the season, as the program ushered in several new underclassmen, which she labeled as “very good,” and named its fourth different head coach in as many years.
“It’s a lot to adapt to their type of style, new plays, conditioning…,” she said of having a new coach every season.
Palmer has responded nicely, however, to the demands of first-year coach Brandon Schwind. Schwind said he didn’t know much about the players he was inheriting, but he was familiar with the program’s success because of lacrosse magazines he read while living in Ohio.
“I knew it was a great program, great tradition, that was putting out good players,” said Schwind, who moved to Michigan in 2010, the last time the Chiefs won the state title.
And when he saw Palmer for the first time, he was able to confirm all the hearsay.
“Angela is one of those athletes that’s just a step above the rest,” Schwind added. “The way she runs, the way she moves, it’s at a different level – a collegiate level here in high school. It’s a noticeable difference on the field. Her explosiveness, her reactions, she’s got a great passion for the game and you can tell.”
Both Palmer and Schwind believe Okemos is on the right path to reaching the ultimate goal, but said it will take continuous improvement from the underclassmen. Palmer said Schwind’s “competitive” nature has been good for this young team.
“He wants to win so bad, which makes us work so hard,” she added.
With the postseason less than two weeks away, the Chiefs are gearing up for what’s to come. And so is East Grand Rapids, which sits atop the Division 2 rankings.
Palmer is looking forward to one more meeting.
“Playing all three years and ending the season to them, it would feel a lot better beating them,” Palmer said. “Even if we made it there and beat them, that would be awesome.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.