Softball team seeks state title

2021 was an eventful year for OPRF softball. The Huskies finished the season with an overall record of 16-7, good enough for second in conference.

Heading into the new season, the Huskies have undergone a rebuild. The Huskies will have a new coach, JP Coughlin, after head coach of 29 years Mel Kolbusz decided to step down over the summer.

“I think we will adapt well under a new coach, as most of the girls are familiar with JP and his coaching style,” says senior Ella Kuenster. “I’m very excited for (my) senior season and being back out on the field with some of my closest friends.”

Last year’s team was built around veteran talent, with 10 seniors playing key roles. Now after graduation, the Huskies will look to current seniors Cate Barkdoll, Ella Kuenster, and Isabel Richmond to lead a team constructed of young talent.

“I think our leaders balance out each other well in that when one of them brings good energy the other can still enforce what we need to work on. We have a lot of good players on the team and I think individually we each bring something special to the team,” says senior Maggie Brangle.

The Huskies had many exciting moments in their 2021 campaign, such as upsetting conference rival Lyons Township 6-3 and taking down Downers Grove South 11-10 on an Alex Prouty walk-off grand slam. The Huskies will look to build off these thrilling moments heading into the new season.

“I am most excited for game time and being able to enjoy the moments in the game where the hard work pays and we can each feel content with what we can offer to the game,” says Brangle. “I’m excited to spend time with the people around me who I have known for a while now and enjoy bopping to some hype songs.”

Last year, the York Dukes won conference with an 11-1 record, with the Huskies closely following. This year, Lyons Township will be the biggest threat to the Huskies in their quest to win a West Suburban Conference title in the first year of the JP Coughlin regime. Led by four year varsity starter and Bryant commit Ava Paganis, the Lions trounced Argo 16-1 in their first game of the season. The Huskies will meet the Lions twice this season: on the road April 27 and at home May 13.

In their first game of the year, the Huskies took on the Mighty Macs of Mother McAuley March 16.

“That was as nervous as I’ve seen a team play, to start. We had so many kids playing their first innings of varsity softball. A couple seniors were starting for the first time, but they’ll learn,” says Coughlin.

The Huskies went down 1-0 right away, when the mighty Macs pushed a run across in the bottom of the first inning. The score remained 1-0 until the top of the seventh inning when the Huskies brought in two runs to go up 2-1. However, as the spring light faded, the game was called off early, and the score was controversially reverted back to the 1-0 score of the previous inning.

OPRF was scheduled to play a doubleheader against Lane Tech March 19. However, the games were called off due to bad weather. OPRF has another doubleheader scheduled March 26 against Montini Catholic before heading into spring break.

“We have a really awesome group of girls, I just want to see them get better and better as the year goes on. They really seem to get along with each other. I don’t think they realize how good they are yet. I think by the end of the season they could be one of the best teams in the state. We’ll have a hiccup or two along the way, but the potential is really there for us to be a dangerous team come state playoff time,” says Coughlin.