Redemption on the court, field

Kaileigh Westermann’s comeback helped left the Wolves’ basketball (above) and soccer (below) teams to good seasons. - Jesse Beals/Staff Photos
Kaileigh Westermann’s comeback helped left the Wolves’ basketball (above) and soccer (below) teams to good seasons.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/Staff Photos

It was a possibility that was difficult to envision a year ago.

The South Kitsap girls basketball team finished 2-17 overall and 1-13 in Narrows League play and Kaileigh Westermann could only think about her senior season of soccer for the Wolves. And the prospects for playing soccer after high school.

“With our season my junior year, I never thought basketball would be an option,” Westermann said. “I got back into the swing of things and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

South rebounded to finish 10-13 this season, Mike Allen was selected as the Narrows League Bridge Division coach of the year and Westermann again realized how much fun the game can be.

The 5-foot-11 Westermann, who started for the soccer and basketball teams, is the Port Orchard Independent’s female athlete of the year. She recently signed a letter of intent to play basketball next season at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., a Division III-school.

“That was really cool,” she said. “When we went down there, they were really into the kids.”

Westermann was a first-team, All-Narrows League selection as a defender as South allowed an average of one goal per match and finished 11-5-1.

She said that season was difficult because the Wolves were just one win away from their first state-playoff appearance since 2005.

But Westermann, who hopes to major in marine biology, still thought she would pursue soccer in college.

After all, basketball was difficult to think about. Besides the poor record, Westermann landed awkwardly in a January 2007 game against Stadium.

She hoped to re-enter the game, but her left knee began to swell and Allen wouldn’t allow it.

She later learned that the knee was dislocated and would require surgery to take a chip of bone out.

“When I went to the doctor and they told me I had to have surgery, I was terrified,” she said. “I think the worst thing I had before was maybe a sprained ankle.”

She watched from the bench during the final nine games of the season, including a 64-40 loss in the season finale at Central Kitsap.

“I remember our last game at CK, I completely broke down because I couldn’t be out there,” she said. “It was frustrating to watch my team struggle and know that I couldn’t do anything about it.”

Buoyed by an final year of eligibility, Westermann worked under the guidance of South athletic trainer Patrick Olsen and his assistants to regain her leg strength.

“I think that experience has taught me that I can push through that,” she said. “If something is going to push me, I can push back.”

It’s a dedication that Westermann, who was honored by the Bremerton Athletic Roundtable earlier this year for her academic and athletic success, has shown in the classroom.

She maintains a 3.65 grade-point average.

“I always had high expectations to do well in school,” said Westermann, whose mother, Sabrina, teaches at Manchester Elementary. “I need to do well in school and I want to do well in sports.”

Through hard work, she did both at South.

“She’s the last one to leave practice pretty much every day,” Allen said in January. “She understands the competition and doesn’t shy away from it.”

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