BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – One of the criteria used to determine greatness in a player is whether he or she makes others around them better. Katie Dembrowski? Check!
Another are wins and championships. Katie Dembrowski? Check!
Great players’ levels of contribution also stand the test of time. Katie Dembrowski? Check.
They also have a way of carving out their own special place in a program’s history. Katie Dembrowski? Double-check.
Like it or not, time is slowly running out on Dembrowski’s playing career with the Palmyra field hockey program. While it seems like only yesterday that the seasoned senior was a wide-eyed freshman, her place in the Cougars’ storied history is secure.
Recognized as one of the best Cougars to have ever played the game, Dembrowski will always be a measuring stick, a point for comparison of future Palmyra players.
But she will not be remembered by the goals she scored, the plays she made or the teams she helped beat. Dembrowski’s legacy will be one of leadership, relationships and friendships.
“Yeah, I do think about my place in Palmyra field hockey history,” said Dembrowski, who’s committed to playing Division One collegiate hockey at Penn State. “After I go off to college, I want to come back. I want to give back. This has made such a big impact on me, personally.
“I know the history all the way back to when Coach Kristi (Costello) played,” added Dembrowski. “I remember going to the games and watching some of the older players play. I always dreamed of being on the high school field hockey team. Yeah, it seems like it went fast. Especially playing three sports, it’s like boom, boom, boom. They all run into each other.”
But the leader Dembrowski has evolved into is not one of the traditional sense. It is not a role she sought out or aspired to. It just kind of came to her, because she was never afraid to open her mouth.
What Dembrowski is is the ultimate team player. A liaison between coaching staff and players. A midfielder who links the offense with the defense. A conduit through which to run the Cougars’ attack. A facilitator. An orchestrator.
She’s a present-day transition from Palmyra’s past to its future.
“My role is to keep everybody together,” said Dembrowski. “When there’s tight situations, we have to stay calm, I’ve to to remember that. I have to do things the right way so that they (her teammates) do it the right way.
“When they do have a question, they come to me,” Dembrowski added. “I try to help them as much as I can. I guess they look up to me.”
“As Katie goes, the team goes,” said Costello, the head coach and herself a former Division One stand out. “In many ways Katie had been a coach on the field, especially the last two years. She is the kind of kid that is a natural leader – she is respected because she respects others. Her teammates admire her athletic ability as well. They trust her and will ask questions to her when needed. ”
Because she is so team-oriented, Dembrowski sometimes feels uncomfortable talking about herself the player. Over the last three years, Dembrowski has been voted by her teammates as ‘the players’ player’.
“I probably started to become a leader in my sophomore year,” said Dembrowski. “In my freshman year, I didn’t say much. The coaching staff comes to me a lot. I get insight from them, and I’m able to provide insight into what the other girls are thinking.
“On the field, I’m definitely more of a distributor,” continued Dembrowski. “I distribute up to the forwards. I’m centralized. I try to do that to the best of my ability. But I do look to score.”
“As a senior, Katie has really emerged as an offensive threat,” said Costello. “The other three years she took on more of a defensive or distributor role. Now she is confident in her attacking skills and has proven to be a real offensive threat.”
Through her unselfish approach, Dembrowski measures success in titles. During her four-year career, the Cougars have shared two Mid-Penn Keystone Division crowns and captured a pair of District Three Class AA championships
Currently, Dembrowski’s Cougars sport a 20-2 overall mark. Palmyra finished as the runner-up in District Three, during its initial foray into Class AAA.
“No, I don’t like to think about that,” said Dembrowski of the impending end of her scholastic days. “I like to think we’re going to win the next game and end the season on the highest note. You don’t want to think about that when you’re playing.
“It’s been a great season so far,” Dembrowski continued. “We had as much success in the regular season as we could’ve asked for. In my mind, I wanted the team to do the best we could. At the beginning of the season, we talked about what we wanted to do.”
More than just a continuation of it, Dembrowski’s super senior season has been a very fitting finale of a remarkable career. It was everything she could have hoped for, and more.
“Yeah, I did have personal goals for the team, but it was more like goals to make the team better than the number of goals I wanted to score,” said Dembrowski. “Yeah, it has been a success. I couldn’t have asked for a better season with my teammates. I guess it’s a good way to go out. It’s always nice to beat Lower Dauphin. We got along, and those friendships will last forever.
“Not all of our season will be defined by how we did against Lower Dauphin,” continued Dembrowski. “That rivalry with them, it’s a big game. But we won all of our other games this season. And we’ve beaten a lot of good teams.”
But Dembrowski is also a winner off the hockey field, in fact, in everything she does.
A tough-to-handle point guard with great court vision, Dembrowski has been a key component of a Palmyra girls’ basketball program which has gone a combined 56-6 over the past two winters. She is also a highly decorated track and field distance runner, with a state gold medal among the prizes in her trophy case.
“I think field hockey’s always been my thing,” said Dembrowski. “In my later years in rec (recreational field hockey), I just loved it so much. I figured I wanted to go to college for field hockey. I always thought I was a better field hockey player than a basketball player, in my opinion.”
“Katie is a winner,” said Costello. “She has played on so many high-level teams at Palmyra Her championships come in all of her sports, which shows the kind of competitor she is. This is a huge asset to her as she moves on to play at Penn State.”
Katie Dembroski’s Career Scoring Stats
Freshman – 1 goal, 11 assists
Sophomore – 9 goals, 10 assists
Junior – 12 goals, 16 assists
Senior (so far) – 17 goals, 11 assists
Totals – 39 goals, 48 assists