The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

March 18, 2014

Loyola's Fab Four ready for final run

Senior class has been program's nucleus for 3 seasons

They may not have had quite the affect that John, Paul, George and Ringo did on the music scene back in the day, but when it comes to Loyola girls basketball, Annie, Aunikah and the two Jordyns have certainly had a major impact.

Seniors Annie Nawrocki, Aunikah Bastian, Jordyn Theuninck and Jordyn Strachan will join their teammates for their second straight state tournament appearance on Thursday at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. Considering where the program was before the foursome started playing as sophomores, it's been a remarkable turnaround.

Prior to the 2011-12 season, the Crusaders were struggling to be competitive. The team had not been to state in more than 30 years and a change was needed.

Rick Theuninck took over the head coaching job three years ago and immediately started playing a bunch of underclassmen that he knew would take their lumps at the high school level.

"We knew it would be difficult but I don't think we knew just how hard it would be," coach Theuninck said. "But we all learned a lot that first season.

The Crusaders went 14-14 in 2011-12 as then sophomores Nawrocki, Bastian, Strachan and Theuninck became the backbone of the team. The following year Loyola blossomed. With eighth-grader Lindsey Theuninck and senior Alyssa Mettler playing key roles, the team went 26-4.

The result was a state tournament berth and, perhaps more importantly, fans began coming to their games.

"I thought that was great that people were actually coming out to cheer us on and watch us play," said Strachan, who averages 6.3 points per game. "When parents come to games they bring their kids and when those kids see the success and fun we're having, they think about becoming part of the program, too."

This year, Mettler was gone but Megan Schroeder transferred in from Lake Crystal and has been a key player in the team's 27-2 record. The Fab Four, now seniors, have continued their strong play throughout the season.

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