Charles Nailen/The Hoya Head Coach Kim Simons will attempt to lead the Hoyas back to the title game.

The Georgetown women’s lacrosse team has steadily pushed its way to the top in the nation. They have competed in two consecutive National Championships, garnering the top spot in the polls, and have placed several players on the All-American list. Behind this powerhouse lies the engine propelling it toward the top, Head Coach Kim Simons.

Simons has shown skill handling teams while standing on the sidelines, maybe because of her illustrious career on the field. Simons picked up lacrosse in junior high, and despite some early frustration, she persevered with it through high school.

“I started in seventh grade, which is the earliest you could start. I probably started playing because all the other girls were doing it,” Simons said. “Initially I didn’t like lacrosse all that much, and I was going to quit because I wasn’t that good at it. I had a coach who encouraged me to stick with it. I did, and I loved it.”

Her determination paid dividends, and soon she was playing for Princeton as one of the top players in the nation. She made her mark on the program, as a three-time All-American and co-captain her senior year she lead the team to a national championship. Her 119 career goals placed her in third in the school’s history. In 1994, she graduated and six months later migrated to Washington to take up the double-duty of lacrosse and field hockey assistant coach at Georgetown.

“It’s one of those things I fell into initially. I was working in D.C. at a non-profit organization. The position opened . and I just decided to apply for it. I got the job, and the head coach left. I was in the right place at the right time,” Simons commented. “I loved athletics, I felt that athletics had come to define me and I wanted to try something different. I thought I’d do it for a little while, but then I became the head coach and things just evolved from there.”

In the fall of 1995, Simons became interim head coach and then the head coach. In the spring of 1996, the team posted a 12-3 final record and boasted a seventh place finish in the final polls. The team finished seventh again the next year, and kept in the top 10 in the following seasons. While Simons also held the Head Coach position for field hockey as well from 1996 through 1998, she abandoned the post in favor of concentrating solely on the lacrosse team.

In 2001, the team posted its best record ever, 17-3, and made it through to the national finals, succumbing to six-time defending champion Maryland 14-13 in overtime. The team repeated the feat in 2002, concluding the season 17-2 and reaching the finals. Unfortunately, Simons’s alma mater kept the team from the title as the Hoyas fell 12-7.

“Losing that National Championship the first time was one of my worst moments. That class really pushed this program forward. To lose in sudden-death overtime after coming back from 8-1 is hard to take. There were a lot of nights when that game came back to haunt me,” Simons said.

National championship or not, Simons enjoys Washington, D.C. and the Georgetown experience. She believes that the area and the university community have abetted her in hooking top recruits to stay at the Hilltop.

“There are few places that I’ve ever been that I think that has the whole package. You step back and see that you have everything right at your fingertips. You have great education, great athletics and great location. There always things to do, there’s culture, there’s the urban life. That’s always been exciting to me. I’ve always said that the only places I would coach are the places I would sell. I believe in Georgetown and it’s not a hard sell to most of the recruits.”

While coaching one of the elite lacrosse programs in the nation, Simons has also labored to create a family. She is married to Justin Tortolani, a fellow Princeton alum and lacrosse player, and has an infant son, Jack. Having a child has put some extra demands on Simons, put has also help focus her as a coach and add perspective.

“The more experience I have, the more I understand in terms of coaching young women and coaching college students. When I was younger, I looked at it more from a player’s perspective, and then I looked at it from a coach’s perspective, and now I look at it from a coach’s and parent’s perspective. It makes you a better coach, it makes you more understanding,” Simons noted. “It gave me perspective to recognize wins and losses. Putting that yellow ball in the back of the net is not the end-all, be-all. Even after losing the National Championship, the first thing I thought about was getting a hug from my son. A couple of years ago, that wasn’t the case. Now I have something that brings me back to reality.”

The team has been great and very supportive,” Simons added. “I bring my son on all the trips, and I think having him makes me a little more human in their eyes.”

Her husband currently resides in Atlanta for a year completing a fellowship and Simons has shuttled back and forth between her home in Maryland and Georgia to spend time with him.

“I’ve definitely had to give up some responsibility to my assistants, but I have a terrific staff. There were times when I definitely wasn’t here, and the team picked up the slack, especially the seniors,” Simons said.

As preseason predictions begin rolling in and Georgetown becomes a team to watch, already ranked fourth in the nation, Simons keeps her cool, despite the expectations.

“The drive and the necessity to win, I don’t feel those things like I used to. Maybe that’s because I’ve done it, and I don’t feel like I have to prove something. I’ve gotten to the point where I just love coaching, I love putting together the team and each team being a new team and figuring out how to make it work,” she said. “That’s what gets me up in the morning, not the winning of the national championship. If that happens in the end, obviously I’d be ecstatic and I want to do that for the girls.”

While the team has not stimulated overwhelming enthusiasm and may often play second fiddle to the men’s team, Simons has developed a team that the school can point to with pride. For the coach, though, she prefers her players to the trophies and accolades, and enjoys nurturing them and watching them grow up.

“It would be great if 20 years from now you could read off a list of National Championships that would be associated with my name, but I’m seriously in this because of the impact that I’ll have on a few of the young women in this program. When I say that, I hope to give players the self-confidence to help them do things they didn’t think they could do before. You talk to one of our seniors and one of our freshmen; the way they talk about trying to accomplish things that are difficult and challenging is completely different.

“I’m not trying to say that’s all because of me or this program, but I know we have a little impact on that, and that’s what I take pride in.”

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