Kameron Simmonds has gone from a college freshman to World Cup player to Tennessee’s leading goal scorer within the last year.
Last season as a Lady Vol soccer freshman, Simmonds found the net four times. In three games this season as a sophomore, she’s already matched her first-year tally. Between seasons, she played on the game’s greatest stage in the World Cup this summer as part of the Reggae Girlz, the nickname of the Jamaican national team.
“How quickly things change in 12 months,” Tennessee soccer coach Joe Kirt said. “She’s grown in terms of her approach and preparation and all the work she has put in. She deserved that opportunity with Jamaica. We’re excited to have her back here. It’s been a whirlwind of a summer for her. I’m really impressed by her maturity, her growth, her perspective on all of it.”
The now sophomore scored in the opener against California, again against Lipscomb and twice against ETSU. The team is now 3-1 overall after a loss to SMU last weekend – match time temperature in Dallas last weekend was more than 100 degrees – and will host Indiana this Thursday, Aug. 31, at 6 p.m. at Regal Soccer Stadium. Admission and parking are free.
Simmonds has had considerable scoring help with Tennessee scoring 10 goals in four games by seven different players, including Simmonds: freshmen Sarah Greiner, Kate Runyon and Keaton Mitchell; junior Jordan Fusco; redshirt senior Maria Nelson; and graduate Sizzy Lawton. Simmonds is the only player with multiple goals. Tennessee’s total tally is 11, but one was an own goal by an opponent.
It’s a significant jump for a second-year player, and Kirt said part of the growth is physical maturity after a year in college and being stronger, and “the other part of that is her confidence that she’s playing with.”
Simmonds is from Midlothian, Virginia, with family roots in Jamaica. Her father and grandfather played for the Jamaican national team, making her the third generation to represent Jamaica.
The Reggae Girlz recorded Jamaica’s first win ever at the Women’s World Cup with a 1-0 victory over Panama, played France to a 0-0 draw and then eliminated powerhouse Brazil in another 0-0 draw to win the group stage, not allow a goal and become the first Caribbean team to reach the knockout stage. Jamaica, which was making just its second-ever World Cup appearance, exited with a 1-0 loss to Columbia.
Simmonds played with the U-17 national team in 2020 and then the U-20 team. In 2022, she was called up to her first senior team camp and made the roster for the 2023 World Cup, which was held in New Zealand and Australia. The Reggae Girlz Foundation and a player’s mother took to online fundraising last June to raise money for training camp, travel, food and compensation.
During the World Cup, Simmonds played with former Lady Vol Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, one of the most dynamic players in Tennessee program history despite playing just two seasons in 2017 and 2018 as a transfer. Shaw, who is from Spanish Town, Jamaica, and teammate Cheyna Lee Matthews were among the players who beseeched the Jamaican Football Federation to address the issues.
“On multiple occasions, we have sat down with the federation to respectfully express concerns resulting from subpar planning, transportation, accommodations, training conditions, compensation, communication, nutrition and accessibility to proper resources,” the statement said. “We have also showed up repeatedly without receiving contractually agreed upon compensation.”
Cedella Marley, the daughter of reggae legend Bob Marley, has been a champion for the team for years through fundraising and securing sponsors. It’s time for the federation to step up for the women’s national team for the veterans and youngsters like Simmonds.
“Seeing the roster, it all kind of hit me,” Simmonds said in this interview with her home state paper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, after making the team. “It felt so official and I’m like 19 going to go play in the World Cup, it’s a dream come true. I wanted to do this but I never actually thought I was going to be playing in the World Cup. It’s a dream that deep down every young athlete has.”
Now back in Knoxville, Simmonds is on the pitch for the Lady Vols. The World Cup experience of playing against Panama and practicing against veterans should pay dividends this season.
“It definitely gave me some confidence because of the quality of defenders that I was playing against within the team and the competition,” Simmonds said. “That has definitely helped me shift into another gear.”
LADY VOL BOOST HER CLUB: With the fall semester underway and student-athletes back on campus, the Lady Vol Boost HER Club is in high gear again, too.
The basketball team will hold a camp in Morristown at Morristown Landing sports complex for boys and girls ages 7-14 years old on Saturday, Sept. 23, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The fee is $200 and registration is available HERE. Tamari Key, who missed nearly all of last season due to blood clots, is back this season and will be one of the camp teachers, along with her teammates.
Athletes from multiple women’s sports will host a BOO Bash Halloween Party on Friday, Oct. 20, from 6-9 p.m. at Bearden Banquet Hall in Knoxville. Prices range from $25 for children under 12 that includes dinner, a Lady Vol treat-or-treat bag and trick-or-treat with the players; a “ghostly good” ticket for $75 that includes dinner, Lady Vol Halloween Party tote bag, spooky party poster and best Halloween costume contest with $100 for the winner; and a $100 VIP ticket that includes the “ghostly good” items, plus $5 off a special T-shirt and a Lady Vol athlete at the table.
Maria M. Cornelius, a writer/editor at MoxCar Marketing + Communications since 2013, started her journalism career at the Knoxville News Sentinel and began writing about the Lady Vols in 1998. In 2016, she published her first book, “The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt,” through The University of Tennessee Press.