By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– For her freshman and sophomore years, Salem Academy’s Kirsten Koehnke was a part of two Regis High School Girls basketball teams that went an combined 35-21 with two 2A Elite Eight’s before transferring from the Lady Rams program to the Salem Academy Lady Crusaders program.
During her two-years prior to her arrival, Salem Academy was a 52-5 program with two Elite Eight appearances themselves at the 3A-level.
With going from one solid program to another is no easy task, especially to a Crusaders program that his been thinking ‘State Title’ the past few years with a core group of seniors that have been playing together for years, the intimidation factor to a new face has been off-the-charts.
But, this isn’t no normal team-power as they welcomed Koehnke into their tight-knit family as they have to one another that would be new to the program.
“It’s been a lot of fun, they made it very easy to transition over here, they’ve made it easy from the start and they’re just really fun people to be around,” said Koehnke. “Just make it a fun team.”
During the year, waiting for their games as the Salem Academy guys played, in games with one-another, even during practice you see everyone light-hearted and joking around with one another in the tight-ship that Head Coach Ben Brown runs of being yourselves but when it comes down to business, it’s business time.
And taking over as the ‘quarterback’ of the offense, a position that Aimee Smith had the year before and would occasionally step in as the Crusaders sit 17-2, learning the complex plays and any adjustments of those plays for a game can be just as intimating as preparing for a big game against a Dayton or Blanchet Catholic.
But, it’s a learning experience all together as Koehnke was working through reads on plays as she enters their side of the court.
“We all kind of learned it together,” said Koehnke. “A bunch of our teammates helped me out and there really patient with me on them because I didn’t get them at first all the time and they’re really patient.
“I just focus on how well our team does and try to contribute to the team and stuff.”
With her and Grace Brown being the big-name starters who are juniors and are going to be returning beyond this season’s run, learning from this season’s seniors like a Smith, like a Sydney Brown, etc. will serve them well come next year when they take those leader reigns as seniors themselves. (305)
“I definitely think they have a very high basketball-IQ and great leaders on-and-off the court, so we can learn lots from them,” said Koehnke on the seniors. “They’re really nice people too.”
Those leaderships traits that those seniors are teaching them, leading by example off the court with joking and hanging out with teammates as you would with your best friends away from the sport to show them how to treat others. Leading by example on the court with that ‘this is how you take of business’-mindset is what these seniors are leaving behind for Koehnke and company after this season.
But hey, the season isn’t over today or even after Colton on February 8, it’s the team with the mindset of ‘We want that State Title’ and taking it one-game at a time in order to try to achieve that goal.
For Koehnke, making the transition from one good program to another was a difficult one, but it’s been a memorable one as well as the journey continues for her and the Lady Crusaders.
“Oh I don’t know, we’ve had a lot,” smiled and laughed Koehnke. “I don’t know, this has been a memorable season so far and we’re not even close being done. I don’t know, everything…I like about the practices together, just something to look forward to and coming and hangout with the team and stuff and have fun with them.”
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Practice Photos By Jeremy McDonald