Sunday, July 13, 2014

Crusaders unified by more than a letter

November 08. 2013 11:50PM

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WILKES-BARRE — With six starters whose first names begin with “K” and a seventh coming off the bench as a key contributor, you’d expect Coughlin’s field hockey team to have a nickname for the group.

If their parents had planned it, they couldn’t have done any better providing an opportunity for some alliterative announcing of the pregame lineups.

“We’ve got two Kyras (Castano and Wozniak — both forwards), two Katies (Lukashewski and Colleran), a Kalie (Reed), a Keighlyn (Oliver),” Colleran said, trying to recall everyone from memory. “And Kelsey (Gabriele).”

“The whole forward line is Ks,” Castano said of herself, Lukashewski, Gabriele and Wozniak.

It can make for some interesting moments on the field, as coaches must be specific when directing players.

“That’s how it is for me with Katie (Colleran) on my side,” Castano said of the left side alignment.

“It actually is really confusing at times,” Oliver added moments after coach Colleen Wood had to specify who she was calling to.

The only one with another monicker is Lukashewski, a forward dangerous with her speed and shot.

“She’s Piglet,” Colleran said of the junior. “Except Coach doesn’t call her that.”

While Ks indicate strikeouts in baseball and softball, they’ve been big in scoring for Coughlin. The K brigade has 31 of Coughlin’s 38 goals this season, and 16 of the team’s 29 assists.

The player who emerged as the starter in goal, M’Kensie Lee, has a unique spelling of her first name. But the apostrophe didn’t get her access to the K club.

“Nah, she’s just Mac to us,” said Colleran, leaving all of the Ks in the field, even after the goalie’s cartwheel in full gear after winning the district title.

While the group doesn’t have a nickname, they have readily embraced their underdog label this season. That’s part of the reason the Crusaders are in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals Saturday against Penn Manor, an honorable mention on’s national top-10 rankings.

“A lot of people doubted us,” Oliver said. “I think we wanted it more this year.”

“Now everyone in school knows about us,” Castano said. “All of a sudden, we’re very popular, and I love it.”

Coughlin’s road to the state tournament featured a handful of important jobs to be filled coming into the season and the maturation of a lineup that’s significantly younger than the one that reached states a year ago.

The Crusaders won eight of their first nine games before hitting what, in the standings, appeared to be a cold stretch. Coughlin finished the season 2-4, but it was in that stretch and right before that the team finally clicked.

“When we beat Sem (1-0 in OT on Sept. 20), that changed everything for us,” Castano said.

“We held Crestwood to two goals (a 2-0 loss on Sept. 27, the start of the 2-4 finish), that was big, too,” Colleran added. “That was the best anyone did against them. Coming into the season, I didn’t think we’d get this far. We scrimmaged (District 4 champ) Selinsgrove before the season and it was pretty ugly.”

“I was afraid we wouldn’t come together,” Oliver said. “I didn’t think we’d mesh, but we did. And we have a lot to prove to other people.”

The seniors have taken the lead with this club, one that sure has come together. Colleran, a defender who had two goals during the regular season, has three in three playoff games. Castano had two goals and an assist to get the Crusaders a win streak after they lost three in a row down the stretch. And Oliver stabilized the lineup as she was moved into the starting 11.

Suddenly, a team that was looking for an identity to open the season is unified and on a ride to end the season.

“Now that we’re at the place we were last year, we need to go on,” Colleran said.

“We don’t want this to end,” Castano said.

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