Senior forward Kalli Zimmermann suffers a career-ending injury, but is finding her way in helping her team in other ways.
By Conrad Engstrom
Kalli Zimmermann drove the ball to the hoop against rival St. Thomas. Making a side-step move, she felt her knee twist.
“Initially no one thought it was an ACL tear, our athletic trainer did not think it was and I saw a doctor and she didn’t think so either,” Zimmermann said. It was not until she saw the results of her MRI that she realized her senior season would be lost to an ACL tear in her knee.
For Zimmermann, Bethel basketball runs in the family. Kyle Zimmermann, a ’15 grad, was an asset to the men’s basketball team until he graduated in 2016.
Zimmermann started on the women’s basketball team at Bethel as a freshman. She averaged double figures in points all four years, including the ten games she played in the 2016-17 season. This included back-to-back 20-point performances against St. Mary’s and Macalester.
Women’s basketball head coach Jon Herbrechtsmeyer has coached the women’s team since 2002. He laughs as he remembers trying to recruit Zimmermann. She told him that she “probably couldn’t play basketball at the next level.”
Like most people who witnessed Zimmermann’s fall against St. Thomas, Herbrechtsmeyer did not think anything of it until he watched it on film late at night.
“There was an uncontrolled scream on her part that was audible in the video that I did not hear during the game,” Herbrechtsmeyer said. Zimmermann is a player who was always in control of what she did on the court. When Herbrechtsmeyer heard that scream at midnight after the game, he called up the St. Thomas coach Ruth Sinn. Sinn heard the exact same thing in his video playback. Both knew that bad news could follow.
Kyle Zimmermann suffered a similar setback during his senior basketball season. Nine games into the 2014-15 season, Kyle suffered plantar fasciitis, which means that he tore the arch of his foot. This ended his senior season of basketball prematurely. Fortunately, Kyle was able to get a medical redshirt because he had only in less than a third of the games that season. As a fifth-year senior, Kyle was MIAC Conference MVP and was an All-American.
Kalli’s injury happened when she had just passed that threshold of nine games. This made it highly unlikely that she would qualify for a medical redshirt. Regardless, one of the biggest encouragements that Zimmermann got after her injury was from her older brother. Kyle sent Kalli an email with encouragement, reassuring her that God had a plan for her even with her setback.
“She was having some tough games before so I was going to send her an email about that, but then after the injury, none of that stuff really mattered anymore,” Kyle said.
Zimmerman smiles at the thought of her big brother sending her an encouraging email. “Kyle is not a man of many words, but (he) has been super supportive. When he says something, it’s meaningful,” she said.
Whatever happens next for Zimmermann is up in the air. She plans on graduating with a degree in psychology and hopes to go to graduate school. As for basketball, she is still a part of the team despite not being able to play. As one of two seniors on the team, Zimmermann is able to coach the younger talent.
Since her injury, the women’s team is 10-1 and are currently on a nine game winning streak as of Feb. 14. Although they’d like her to be on the court, the leadership she has shown since her injury hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“The way she conducts herself on the sidelines, talking to the other girls… You should not lose your best player and get better, but we have because she has helped other players find their hidden talents and has coached them along the way. And that takes a special person,” Herbrechtsmeyer said.
Zimmermann and co-captain Shanni Moorse are the two seniors on the women’s basketball team. Both will graduate as the winningest class in Royals’ women’s basketball history, and will also be the first class to make the MIAC playoffs in all four years of playing. Zimmermann was also recently recognized as a Capital One Academic All-District.