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Top Native Athletes to Watch in 2015

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A new year is mere days away, and there is always plenty of optimism in the air whenever calendars are ready to be flipped. In the sporting world, there are numerous Native athletes looking to add to their accomplishments and highlight reels in 2015.

Here are 12 Native athletes to root for in the next 12 months.

Bryce Petty

Petty, a 23-year-old Chickasaw quarterback, will be looking to lead his Baylor Bears to victory on New Year’s Day against the Michigan Wolverines in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl. Following that game, Petty’s final collegiate contest, the star QB will see if he has what it takes to make it in the NFL. Sports analysts believe Petty will indeed be selected in the NFL draft. But there are varying predictions on when he'll be has him pegged as a fourth-round pick, while believes Petty might drop down and be chosen as late as the sixth round. 

RELATED:Chickasaw Quarterback Headed to Cotton Bowl, Ignores Snub Speculation

Johnny Powless

Powless, a 21-year-old Mohawk Turtle, hopes to add more lacrosse championships to his already impressive resume. Powless, one of the world's most exciting young players, won three straight National Lacrosse League championships with the Rochester Knighthawks. In September, the Knighthawks traded him to the Vancouver Stealth.

In 2014, Powless also captained his hometown Six Nations Arrows to a Canadian Junior A title in his final year of junior eligibility. And he can still suit up for the Six Nations Chiefs, a team with which he won a Mann Cup, a Canadian senior men's title in September.

Bronson Koenig

Koenig, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, is a sophomore playing for the University of Wisconsin basketball team. Koenig and his teammates enter 2015 sporting an impressive 11-1 record this season. The Badgers' lone setback thus far was a 80-70 loss against Duke in early December. Koenig, a 6-foot-4 guard, has been averaging 21 minutes of action and 4.8 point per game this season.

Associated Press

Bronson Koenig

Selena Lasota

Lasota, a 19-year-old, who is a member of Katzie First Nation in British Columbia, will be looking to make an immediate impact with the Northwestern University Wildcats women's lacrosse team. Lasota is expected to play her first NCAA match with the Wildcats, a perennial national powerhouse, on Feb. 5 in Los Angeles against the University of Southern California. Lasota, who is from Campbell River, B.C., is expected to be an offensive star with the Wildcats. She previously played for the Canadian women's under-19 squad. And though her high school did not have a lacrosse team, she was the school's athlete of the year as a senior, playing basketball and soccer.

Kali Reis

Reis, a 28-year-old middleweight boxer who lives in Providence, Rhode Island, hopes to capture some more prestigious hardware in 2015. Reis, who has Cherokee, Nipmuc and Seaconke Wampanoag ancestry, captured the women's International Boxing Association (IBA) middleweight belt during a bout in Bermuda in November. Reis, who is sporting a 7-3-1 professional record, will be required to defend her title this coming year, but she'll also be seeking to add championship belts.

RELATED: Native Boxer Wins Women's IBA Crown

Kobi Crossley

Crossley, a talented Chickasaw softball player, will start her collegiate career in her home state as she has accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Science and Arts in Oklahoma. This past fall, Crossley led her Newcastle High School squad to an Oklahoma state championship. Crossley will train with her new team this coming fall, and her first collegiate game is expected to be in February of 2016.

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Kobi Crossley, and her uncle, Coach Mike Crossley, hold the OK softball) state championship trophy.

RELATED: Chickasaw Softball Coach Waits 27 Years for Big Win

Tesha Buck

Buck, who grew up on Minnesota's Mdewakanton Sioux reservation, is now in her sophomore season with the Green Bay Phoenix women's basketball team. During her first season with the Phoenix, who represent the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Buck was third in team scoring, averaging 10.4 points per outing. For her efforts she was selected as the Horizon League's Freshman of the Year. This year, she averages 10.8 points per contest for the 9-2 squad.

Iroquois Nationals

The Iroquois Nationals will be one of the medal contenders at the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships.The 16-team tournament, which runs Sept. 18-26, marks the first time an international event will be held on Indigenous land. Round-robin and quarter-final matches will be staged at the Onondaga Nation Arena near Syracuse, New York. Buffalo's First Niagara Center will then host the semi-final and medal contests as well as matches that determine the fifth through eighth-place squads.

The Iroquois Nationals have won the silver medal in all three previous world tournaments, which are held every four years.

Michael Ferland

The 22-year-old Metis hopes to become a National Hockey League regular in 2015. Ferland has already had a taste of NHL life this season, appearing in 10 contests with the Calgary Flames. Though he did earn one assist, Ferland is still awaiting his first NHL goal (he scored two points in an exhibition game against the Colorado Avalanche). He suffered a concussion in his NHL debut on Oct. 31 versus the Nashville Predators.Though he returned to action with Calgary, Ferland was later sent to the minors. He's currently a member of the Flames' top affiliate, the Adirondack Flames of the American Hockey League.

Associated Press

Michael Ferland, of the Calgary Flames, center, fights for the puck.

Lyle Thompson

Lyle Thompson undoubtedly has the skills to shine as a pro in the MLL and NLL. But before turning pro in 2015, the Onondaga star will play his senior NCAA campaign with the University of Albany. This past year, Thompson shared the Tewaaraton Trophy, as the most outstanding collegiate lacrosse player, with his brother Miles, who also starred for Albany and has since graduated. Thompson will be looking to improve upon his 2014 stats; an NCAA record of 128 points (51 goals, 77 assists) in 18 matches.

RELATED: Lyle Thompson Named 2014 Person of the Year by Lacrosse Magazine

The Schimmel Sisters

They no longer play for the same university (Louisville), but Shoni and Jude Schimmel, who grew up on Oregon's Umatilla Indian Reservation, still have plenty of supporters who will be cheering on their exploits in 2015.

Shoni Schimmel is now in the pro ranks and gearing up for her second WNBA season with the Atlanta Dream. And her younger sister Jude is now a senior at Louisville, who is hoping to conclude her collegiate career on a high note.

Associated Press

Jude, left, and Shoni Schimmel, on Shoni's WNBA draft day.