Cougars have great chance to prosper

  • Written by Ken Karrson


MORGAN-STUUTCougars have great chance to prosper on national stage


By Anthony Nasella

For the past 12 years St. Xavier University women’s basketball coach Bob Hallberg has packed plenty of shirts and sport coats for his trips to the NAIA national tournament.

The hope was there’d be a need for all of them because of an extended Cougars stay. So far, though, some clothing has always remained unused.

Hallberg and SXU took another journey to Iowa this past Monday, this time with the nation’s No. 4 ranking in NAIA Division II and a better-than-ever shot at striking gold. One of four top seeds in the 32-team tourney field, the Cougars (29-3) open tonight at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City when they take on No. 8 seed Oregon Tech.

The Bobcats, who are making their third national appearance, did not crack the top 25.

            “We’re hoping that we can perform the way we’re capable of performing and the way we’ve played all season long,” Hallberg said. “We have to play one game at a time and we’ll be fine as long as we remember those basics.”

SXU has performed at a high level the entire season. The Cougars pieced together a school-record 18-game win streak that stretched from Dec. 20-Feb. 28, during which they topped the century mark in scoring seven times and vanquished their opponents by an average of 30 points. SXU’s only defeats came against No. 1-ranked Morningside, No. 3 Concordia and No. 5 Cardinal Stritch.

“There were moments in that winning streak where it didn’t seem real at all,” said senior forward Morgan Stuut, the Cougars’ career scoring leader. “It was so crazy -- I was wondering at [certain] moments if we were playing college basketball. That’s never happened [to us] before and teams we play know about it. They know what we’re capable of and that’s a good thing.

“I like [having] the target on us. We might not win like that at nationals, [but] we’re going to come out firing. We strike fear in people’s minds and we need to keep that a reality.”

Stuut is SXU’s unquestioned leader with her per-game averages of 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists, but by no means is she a one-woman gang for the Cougars. Part of the fear factor Stuut referenced is rooted in SXU’s depth.

Both Stuut and fellow senior Suzie Broski have become more effective this year because other players have also drawn opponents’ attention. The emergence of freshman guard Kara Krolicki in particular has prevented foes from double-teaming Stuut and Broski. Krolicki is averaging nearly 16 points per contest while shooting 41 percent from 3-point territory.

“I’ve never had a better group of girls to play with,” Stuut said. “They’re a special group and I can’t wait to experience the national tournament with them.”

Krolicki credits her veteran teammates with setting the proper tone.

“Morgan and Suzie are great captains and they’re always encouraging us,” Krolicki said. “They keep us focused in practice and especially in games. You can see commitment on the court before and after practices. It’s easy to get comfortable with teammates like that.

“We all jell together and I really think that’s why we’ve played so well this season. We have so many threats on the floor it’s really hard to single one player out and shut one down [because] there will always be another player ready to step up.”

Krolicki has frequently filled that role, but she shares whatever success she’s enjoyed with her teammates, saying they have “set me up for a lot of my scoring. My teammates have had a big impact on me.”

Whatever the reason, Broski is thrilled some of the responsibilities are being disbursed.

“There’s definitely been a lot less pressure on Morgan and me,” said Broski, who is averaging 11.5 points per game and provides SXU with another proven 3-point threat. “Kara is an awesome shooter and a great addition to this team. She’s taken a load off our backs.

“I think, honestly, of the four years that I’ve been here this has been the most fun. Each game someone else steps up. That’s been the really cool thing about it -- you know your teammates are going to pick you up if you’re having an off day.”

Broski said she’s “excited for nationals” and Krolicki echoed that sentiment, although the latter admitted it’s taken a while for reality to set in.

“The NAIA Tournament is still kind of surreal,” Krolicki said. “My teammates have talked about being down there in previous years. We’ve had a few losses, but you just have to look past those and learn from them. We’re very excited about the challenge that awaits us.”

The tournament is divided into four eight-team brackets with squads seeded 1-8 based on the final NAIA top-25 poll. With a victory tonight the Cougars move on to play the College of the Ozarks-Siena Heights winner on Friday. From there the Cougars could possibly face No. 2 seed Indiana Wesleyan in Saturday’s quarterfinals and perhaps earn a rematch with Morningside in one of Monday’s semifinals.

SXU’s chance to make a deep run seems as strong as ever, but Hallberg sounded a cautionary note.

“It doesn’t even make a difference that we went 29-3,” he said. “We’re all going to be in the same situation -- everybody is going into the tournament with a 0-0 record. One win and you go to the next round; one loss you go home. We have to go down there as if we’re starting a brand-new season.

“We need to come out and play [well] tonight so we can move on to the next round. This is not like the NCAA tournament, however. There’s not a lock for a champion and some teams are not seeded right, but we haven’t been upset this season so that puts us in a favorable position.”

It has indeed been a great year, but the Cougars can make it even better by forcing Hallberg to dig into his luggage.

“It would be nice to use every shirt I’m bringing down,” he said. “[Otherwise] that means I’m just lugging shirts around.”


2014-15 Girls All-Area Basketball Team

  • Written by Ken Karrson


SPORTS-PLAYER-OF-THE-YEAR-BRIANNA2014-15 Girls' All-Area Basketball Team



            * The South Suburban Conference Red Player of the Year was a logical choice to receive that same designation from this paper. Markusic averaged 19.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game for the Spartans while becoming the program’s career scoring leader with 1,345 points. Markusic amassed 617 of those points during the 2014-15 campaign to establish a single-season record for Oak Lawn. She bumped her per-contest numbers up to 21.5 and 10, respectively, against SSC foes and burned Bremen for 40 points, which represented one more team standard. Named to the all-tournament squads at all three holiday events in which the Spartans took part, Markusic complemented her scoring and rebounding stats with 2.2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.

ALEX ABED, Stagg, G, Sr.

            * A reliable outside shooting threat, Abed converted 37 percent of her attempts from behind the 3-point arc while scoring 264 points and finishing as the Chargers' second-best threat at 9.1 points per contest. She also paced Stagg with 69 assists (2.4 per game) and 66 steals (2.3). Abed converted 107-of-127 free throws (84.3 percent) and despite standing just 5-foot-1 led her team in charges taken. She’ll play soccer and possibly basketball next year at Moraine Valley College.

 ABBIE BULTHUIS, Chicago Chrstian, G, Sr.

            * An All-Metro Suburban Conference selection, Bulthuis was part of a solid core that led the Knights to their third league title. Also a valuable member of Chicago Christian’s softball team, Bulthuis averaged nearly nine points per contest – the second-highest mark among Knights players -- and pulled down 95 rebounds (3.4 per game). And she delivered at crunch time -- Bulthuis scored 17 points in Chicago Christian’s 49-41 win over Timothy Christian that clinched the conference title and was also the Knights’ top scorer in their season-ending defeat to Morgan Park at the Class 3A Brooks Regional.


            * A three-year varsity player for the Chargers, DiGiacomo led them in points (333; 11. 5 per game) and rebounds (222; 7.7 per game) as a senior. She posted eight double-doubles. DiGiacomo also registered 47 blocked shots, giving her 92 for her career and making her Stagg’s all-time leader in that statistical category. She was nominated for the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-State team after being selected as an All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue performer and tabbed as a member of the all-tourney contingent at the Hillcrest Holiday Classic. Chargers coach Bill Turner called DiGiacomo “a player that every coach would love to have, [who] always gave her best effort and had a great attitude.” She’s been offered to play basketball at Elmhurst College.

NICOLE LARKIN, Evergreen Park, F, Sr.

* A four-year starter for the Mustangs, Larkin served as a cornerstone for a program that enjoyed a resurgence over the past three seasons. During that span Evergreen Park captured three straight regional titles, this year’s being part of a 21-win campaign. Making her first appearance on the all-area squad, Larkin averaged 10 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest in her final prep go-around. She scored a team-high 13 point in the Mustangs’ regional-semifinal victory over Goode Academy and added 12 in the championship-game triumph over DuSable.

 EMILY LEMMENES, Chicago Christian, G, Sr.

* Lemmenes was another of the Knights’ four All-Metro Suburban Conference athletes after playing a pivotal part in Chicago Christian’s turnaround from a 9-17 season in 2013-14 and its winning of the East Division title. She was perhaps its best all-around performer as she finished as the team’s top scorer (276 points; 9.6 per game) and made significant contributions as a rebounder (108; 3.9 average), defender (93 steals; 3.3) and assist person (72; 2.8). Lemmenes, who also is a valued member of the Knights’ soccer team, went 53-of-85 at the free-throw line.

LEAH KAMP, Chicago Christian, G, Sr.

* The third member of the Knights’ main quartet, Kamp earned her all-conference and all-area status by producing 246 points (8.8 per game) and pulling down 137 rebounds (4.5). Her scoring total ranked as third-best on the team. Kamp is best known as a soccer player at Chicago Christian but decided to give basketball a try as a senior – with some highly favorable results.

JESSICA MERINO, Sandburg, G, Jr.

* A two-year starter and co-captain for the 24-8 Eagles, Merino averaged 11 points and seven rebounds per game while helping her team secure the program’s first regional championship in a decade. Sandburg coach Chris Hellrung boasts that Merino can play -- and guard -- any position on the floor. Her presence was definitely felt in Eagles victories and her importance to Sandburg was perhaps most vividly illustrated in a season-ending loss to Homewood-Flossmoor in a sectional semifinal. While the Vikings would have been a handful under any circumstances, beating them became an impossible task for the Eagles when a sprained ankle limited Merino’s effectiveness in that contest.

ABBIE NEWSOME, Shepard, G, Jr.

* An All-South Suburban Conference Red performer, Newsome proved to be the Astros’ most consistent player. Coach Jenna McCormick defined Newsome as a true leader, knew what to expect from her and stated the squad would have struggled without her. Newsome averaged 12 points, six rebounds and four assists per contest. She led Shepard with 13 points in a late-season loss to Chicago Christian.

MOLLY O’MALLEY, Mother McAuley, G, Sr.

* The Mighty Macs’ most durable player, O’Malley led Mother McAuley in scoring at 12.2 points per game while sinking 48 3s and 82 percent of her free throws (47-of-57). Her 15 points led the way in the Macs’ season-ending 46-36 loss to Crete-Monee in the Class 4A Marian Catholic Regional. O’Malley scored 18 points on six 3-point baskets in a big road win against Kokomo, one of the better teams in Indiana.

MEGAN PFISTER, Evergreen Park, G, Sr.

* Named an All-South Suburban Conference Red member for the third season in a row, Pfister once again led the Mustangs in scoring (14.1 ppg) and assists (4.5). She included 58 3s among her baskets and participated in the state’s 3-point-shooting contest for the second straight year. A four-year starter and big contributor to Evergreen Park’s 21-9 season and regional championship this winter, Pfister once again provided a vital inside presence as she pulled down 6.4 rebounds per contest. Her defense was sharp too as she made off with an average of 2.5 steals per game.

KARA SHIMKO, Queen of Peace, G, So.

* Shimko made an immediate impact on a young and rebuilding Pride program that went from two wins in 2013-14 to eight this season and lost seven other encounters by four points or less. An honor-roll student and All-Girls Catholic Athletic Conference pick, Shimko was Queen of Peace’s most consistent offensive threat as her 390 points accounted for almost one-third of the Pride’s output. The daughter of Peace coach George Shimko also paced the team in assists and steals, shot 91 percent from the free-throw line (80-of-88) and a sizzling 62 percent from 3-point land (72-of-118).


* A two-year starter for the Eagles, Stavropolous was both an inside and outside threat who played a significant role in Sandburg’s regional championship. The co-captain averaged 12 points and six rebounds per game for the 24-8 Eagles. She scored that number in Sandburg’s

20th win of the season, a 15-point decision over Joliet West, and poured in a team-high 19 in the Eagles’ 19th win, a 49-28 verdict over Lockport.

SYDNI TEARS, Richards, G, Jr.

* Tears continued to be an offensive force for the Bulldogs in her third varsity season and is in good position to conclude her career as the program’s all-time leading scorer. A three-time All-South Suburban Conference Red choice and two-time all-area selection of this paper, Tears averaged 16.9 points, eight rebounds, 2.6 steals and 1.8 assists per game. She recorded a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds in Richards’ 60-54 regional win over Shepard.  

SAM YOUNGWRITH, Sandburg, G, Sr.

* Youngwirth, a two-time All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue selection, finished as the Eagles’ leading scorer and had a huge impact on their drive to the first regional title in 10 years. The co-captain, who boasts a glossy 4.8 grade-point average, tallied at a 17-points-per-game clip while nailing 80 3-point buckets and was staunch defensively with an average of three steals per contest. Youngwirth exploded for 27 points in Sandburg’s regional-semifinal win over TF South and notched 24 in the championship-clinching 51-47 victory over Marist.


LEXI VANRYN, Chicago Christian

MADDIE VOJACEK, Evergreen Park



ERIN DRYNAN, Mother McAuley

TARA O’MALLEY, Mother McAuley






Hellrung led the Eagles to their first regional championship in a decade, compliments of a thrilling 51-47 victory over Marist. Sandburg finished the 2014-15 season with an impressive 24-8 record and an 11-3 mark in the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue.


Only 16 is sweet

  • Written by Ken Karrson


HEADLINE: Only 16 is sweet

SUBHEAD: Strong second half can’t prevent RedHawks loss


By Ken Karrson

Sports Editor


Sweet 16 is fine when it refers to a birthday.

When it describes the amount of time a basketball team excels in a game, that’s not so good. That, however, was how it went for Marist in its regular-season finale last Wednesday in Mount Greenwood.

Coming off a lopsided loss to Notre Dame in their previous outing, the RedHawks found themselves in a similar offensive torpor versus visiting St. Viator and trailed 34-20 at halftime. They had been down to the Dons by 20.

“In the first half, we did not bring it to the level Marist teams need to bring it,” RedHawks coach Gene Nolan said. “It was very similar to the previous Friday. At this time of year, it’s hard to shake that.”

Nolan worried about how his athletes would react to a second straight drubbing and the degree to which it could affect Marist’s entry into the Class 4A tournament. But that feeling passed by evening’s end.

No, the RedHawks didn’t manage to make up all the early lost ground, but their ability to put heat on the Lions almost until the final buzzer gave everyone a much-needed emotional boost. Although Marist suffered a 59-51 East Suburban Catholic Conference setback, Nolan said he was “as proud as I’ve ever been of a Marist team” during the second half.

“Our kids fought, rebounded well and executed [the game plan],” he said. “It was a good ending. We had talked [at halftime] about why they came to school here and who we really want to be as a team. It’s about how we respond to adversity.

“The biggest thing is that you do get better, and we played very hard and together. [Coming back strong] -- that was the win. We’re going to be confident going into the playoffs now.”

The RedHawks (20-9, 5-4) were still chasing 11 points heading into the fourth stanza, but Maurice Commander lit a fire beneath Marist. The freshman guard deposited four 3-pointers and Brian Barry hit a fifth to give the RedHawks some juice. The hosts were within six at the three-minute mark and had possession of the ball.

Along with the long balls, Marist benefited from improved defense. With Kevin Lerma and Justin Brown doing a good deal of the dirty work, the RedHawks limited St. Viator stars Patrick McNamara and Sal Cannella to a combined 11 points in the last 16 minutes after the duo had poured in 27 prior to intermission.

“Our issue in the first half was on the defensive end,” Nolan said. “We always talk about how we want to make unknowns beat us, but we weren’t doing that. It was two totally different [stretches of] 16 minutes.”

Nolan said Marist’s complete switch to a man-to-man scheme helped it control the Lions better, but even more important in the coach’s opinion was the RedHawks’ “overall energy and effort.” He also liked his team’s “best offensive half of the season” as Marist wound up shooting 47 percent from the floor, an exhibition that included an 8-of-18 performance from beyond the arc.

The locals also kept their turnovers to a respectable 10.

What impressed Nolan was the RedHawks recovered against a foe that had flexed some defensive muscle during the season. St. Viator held Loyola Academy to 21 points in a nonconference contest and surrendered only 34 St. Patrick in an ESCC clash.

“They’re a team that can really guard,” Nolan said of the Lions. “In a year of [greater] parity [in the ESCC] they probably would have been picked to finish first -- deservedly so. St. Viator’s good.”

Bradley Hill had 14 points and two steals to pace the RedHawks in both categories while Commander added 13 points and a team-best four assists. No one else tallied in double figures, but Lerma and Jeremiah Ferguson both had six points and the former tied Brown for the rebounding lead as each player grabbed six.

The RedHawks met fellow ESCC member Marian Catholic this past Tuesday in a Bloom Regional matchup. Marist beat the Spartans during the regular season but not without a bit of a struggle.

St. Viator        59

Marist             51

Marist Scoring: Hill 14, Commander 13, Ferguson 6, Lerma 6, Brown 4, Barry 3, Hawkins 3, Weaver 2. Rebounds: Brown 6, Lerma 6. Assists: Commander 4. Steals: Hill 2.


Eagles topped one step shy of team title

  • Written by Ken Karrson


KICKER: State wrestling

HEADLINE: Eagles stopped one step shy of team title


By Anthony Nasella

The word “dynasty” gets tossed around a lot in sports when it comes to programs that dominate over an extended period of time.

But when considering the past decade of wrestling achievements at Sandburg, calling it dynastic is apt. It’s difficult to argue with the Eagles’ year-in, year-out success, which was at the forefront again at Saturday’s team state final in Bloomington.

Sandburg reached the championship match at U.S. Cellular Coliseum against the nation’s No. 1 team, Oak Park-River Forest. And while the Eagles dropped a 39-16 verdict in the finale, their runner-up showing gave the program its eighth top-three finish in the past 11 years.

And with only two senior starters on this year’s 23-man roster, the Sandburg dynasty should continue into 2015-16 and beyond.

“I’m really proud of our kids and the way they performed.” Eagles coach Eric Siebert said. “They did exactly what we were hoping they would do -- go out there and lay it on the line. They really battled and it’s really gratifying.  It was a great weekend overall.

“I’m so proud to be associated with the program -- the coaches, the kids and the families. In 11 years there’s definitely a lot to proud of with this program. If you want to be successful, you have to have quality people -- we have four coaches on varsity and nine on staff [and] i’s really a team effort.

“Everybody is invested in this program. We have a common philosophy and the coaches, kids and parents all buy into it. It makes for one big movement going forward.”

Sandburg defeated Mt. Carmel 39-27 last Tuesday night at Shepard to advance to the quarterfinals. On Saturday it defeated Lincoln-Way Central 55-12 in the quarters and Glenbard North 34-24 in the semifinals.

The Eagles used major decisions from state placers Brian Krasowski (36-9 at 170 pounds) and Patrick Brucki (39-4 at 182) to jump out to an 8-0 lead over the Caravan. Mt. Carme pulled within 14-12, but Sandburg rolled off victories in six of its next seven matches to seal the victory.

Winners for the Eagles during that pivotal span included Louie Hayes (106), Robbie Precin (113), Kevin Stearns (120), state singles champion Rudy Yates (132), Christian Robertson (138) and Ben Schneider (145). Matt Frostman (220) triumphed later in the match.

Logging wins for Sandburg versus the Knights were Hayes, Precin, Stearns, Ben Kirby (126), Yates, Robertson, Schneider, John Prieto (152), Tom Slattery (160), Krasowski, Ameer Barbour (182) and Cole Bateman (195). Bateman, Brucki, Frostman, Hayes, Krasowski, Robertson, Slattery, Stearns and Yates led the way versus Glenbard.

Garnering the Eagles’ victories against Oak Park-River Forest were Yates, Hayes, Brucki and Slattery. Hayes was runner-up at his weight at the individual state meet, Brucki took third and Slattery was also a medalist.

Although the Huskies’ winning margin was rather wide, beating Sandburg wasn’t easy. Oak Park-River Forest’s Maxwell Metzger, Allen Stallings and Savonne Bennette all triumphed by one point. Metzger did so by a 3-2 count over Krasowski while Stallings and Bennette recorded 4-3 decisions over Bateman and Robertson, respectively.

Other close matches were Precin’s against Jason Renteria (3-0) and Frostman’s versus Adam Lemke-Bell (6-3).

“Oak Park is ranked No. 1 in the nation,” Siebert said. “You have to give them their due. There’s a good reason why they’re ranked where they’re ranked.

“They’re the most talented team that I’ve ever seen from top to bottom. They’re nationally ranked in seven weight classes -- that’s half their starters.

“We tried our best to manipulate our lineup the best we could to be competitive, but you feel like you’re going up against the 1985 Chicago Bears. I thought we really battled -- five of the losses were in matches that we could have potentially won.”

Only Slattery and Frostman have wrestled their last matches for Sandburg, which was ranked 19th entering the state finals. The Eagles will likely finish among the top 15 nationally.

“Finishing 15th is a great starting point for us,” Siebert said. “The fact that we are returning 12 starters next year [means] we’ll probably be in the top 10 to start next season. With a great group of kids that are talented and experienced, we have a lot of momentum going forward.”


Coyne eager to cash in

  • Written by Ken Karrson


HEADLINE: Coyne eager to cash in

SUBHEAD: Palos Heights hockey player preparing for Women’s World Championship


By Tim Cronin

The loss was a heartbreaker.

The American women’s hockey team led Canada 2-0 with four minutes remaining in the Olympic championship game last February in Sochi, Russia.

And the Americans lost. Canada scored twice late in the third period to tie the game, then in sudden-death overtime to collect a 3-2 victory and the gold medal.

To a lesser person the circumstances of such a defeat in the Olympics, one that mirrored an earlier loss, would have left scars. That wasn’t so with Kendall Coyne of Palos Heights. Yes, the loss hurt in the locker room, but the junior communications major knows there’s a world outside those confines.

“We were there for 25 days and there was a lot to it, but what you remember most is the finish, what you go there for, and the end result,” Coyne said from Northeastern University in Boston last week. “We didn’t come away with the color medal that we wanted. But coming back home and sharing the experience with everyone, we found they didn’t care if we won gold, silver, bronze or no medal.

“They were just so proud of our team and what we did. When we returned home, there was more a sense of reality of what we accomplished.”

For Coyne, the stunner in Sochi was déjà vu. She was also a key member of the U.S. squad that surrendered a two-goal lead and lost in overtime to Canada in the 2010 Women’s World Junior at Seven Bridges in Woodridge -- that coming after Coyne, who had tallied the gold medal-winning goal the previous two years, knocked in a score that was never counted even though everyone saw the puck enter and exit the net.

Coyne said she thought back to that “a little bit. When you’re in that much pain from losing a hockey game ... there’s obviously much worse things in life, but you sit back and remember when you were in that situation before.”

“Seven Bridges went through my mind,” she said, “but I was just really excited to return home because I knew I’d see the support everybody was giving my family and my team. It was bittersweet, but I think the best part was coming back home.

“There’s nothing like living out your dream. Looking back on things, I keep saying I can’t believe it’s been a year.”

Within a few days the focus was on the future. Already planning on a master’s degree, Coyne interned in the Blackhawks’ media department last spring while continuing to work out, and this winter the present and future have collided in playing for Northeastern. Twice this season Coyne’s been tabbed as the Hockey East Player of the Week, including the Feb. 16-22 stretch when she piled up six points in a pair of Huskies wins.

She might win that nod for last week as well. On Sunday Coyne’s hat trick -- the third goal being the game-winner -- led Northeastern to a 4-3 victory over New Hampshire in the deciding game of their first-round Hockey East playoff series. The Huskies play Boston University in Saturday’s second semifinal.

Coyne is the fourth-leading scorer in women’s college hockey with 31 goals and 54 points in 31 games. Those numbers and her tenacious two-way play -- she’s a plus-18 on a team that is 15-16-5 and has allowed three more goals than it has scored -- are why she’s one of 10 nominees for this season’s Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, the sport’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. She was also nominated two years ago.

“It’s a tremendous honor that wouldn’t be possible without great teammates, coaches and, most importantly, the support from my family along the way,” Coyne said of her most recent Kazmaier nomination.

That’s the present. The future is another run with the U.S. team, this time in the Women’s World Championship, which begins March 28 in Malmo, Sweden. Unless there’s a surprise once again it’ll be the U.S. and Canada going for the title.

“Right now I’m focusing on the Hockey East playoffs, but that’s always in the back of your mind,” Coyne said of the world championship. “Every day in practice you either run when you get off the ice or stay on the ice and do a little bit extra -- extra for your college team but also for the experience of what’s coming up in the next few weeks. [I] just focus on the little things day to day. That’s how I never lose sight of what’s at the other end of the tunnel.”

Training camp begins Match 19 on Long Island, but it’s not as if Coyne will see an all-new group in the locker room. There are plenty of holdovers from the 2014 squad, including goaltender Alex Rigsby and forwards Meghan Duggan and Alex Carpenter, who played key roles in Sochi.

Although it’s not the Olympics, Coyne said she is as enthused about this year in Malmo, even though there won’t be nearly as much attention paid to the quest.

“One-hundred percent [as enthused],” Coyne said. “But [if we had won] it would be a little bit sweeter. Now it’s just a little bit bitter.”

The taste may be sweeter than she could imagine come April 4 when the championship game is held.