Kelly Koshuta caught a pass and headed for a breakaway layup during an AAU game in July of 2012, but the 6-foot-2 rising sophomore never made it to the basket.
Koshuta took an awkward step and heard a “pop.” She had torn the ACL in her left knee four months after averaging 19.5 points and 10.8 rebounds as a freshman on the Madison girls’ basketball team, helping the Warhawks reach the Northern Region semifinals.
“There was so much pain,” Koshuta said, “I couldn’t even think.”
After falling one win shy of qualifying for the state tournament during the 2011-12 season, Madison’s hopes of making it to Richmond during the 2012-13 campaign received a devastating blow when Koshuta and rising senior standout Megan Henshaw each suffered a torn ACL during the summer. The Warhawks won the Liberty District championship without two of their stars, but the team lost to Edison by 30 points in the regional quarterfinals.
“Knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to play the sport that I love for a while was really hard," Koshuta said. "The hardest part was sitting on the bench during the season and seeing my team play and not being able to come in and help.”
Koshuta had surgery in August of 2012 and received clearance to start playing basketball in March, shortly after the conclusion of what would have been her sophomore season. She worked hard build muscle in her left leg and get back into basketball shape, and eventually played AAU ball in the summer.
“It was tough. The first month out of surgery is the hardest because you’re kind of immobilized. You can’t really move,” she said. “You’re in a leg brace that’s straight and locked so you can’t bend your knee. Right after you’re cleared to walk, it’s right into rehab and strengthening your muscle to get it back and ready. That’s the hardest part.”
“Knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to play the sport that I love for a while was really hard. The hardest part was sitting on the bench during the season and seeing my team play and not being able to come in and help.”
--- Madison junior Kelly Koshuta
Nine months after returning to the court, Koshuta, now a junior, is ready to lead Madison on a deep playoff run. Henshaw and standout guard Megan LeDuc have graduated, but Koshuta’s skill and presence could make the Warhawks once of the top teams in Conference 6 and the 6A North region.
“They set high expectations for themselves,” Madison head coach Kirsten Stone said. “The returning girls realize what they accomplished without Kelly, and I think now that they’ve added Kelly, they would like to be competing in the regional finals and moving onto states.”
A trip to the state tournament would likely involve many double-doubles from Koshuta, who will now have to deal with a target on her back, unlike when she might have surprised opponents as a freshman.
“She has great hands and she just has the determination to score,” Stone said. “She knows how to use her body. She’s a little bit undersized for a post, but she knows how to position herself in a way that she can score.”
Joining Koshuta in the starting lineup is 5-foot-6 senior guard Katie Kerrigan, a four-year varsity athlete who will play lacrosse at Ohio State. Kerrigan is a defensive presence who was tough enough to match up with opposing post players while Koshuta was out due to injury.
“She’s one of those girls if she decided basketball was her main sport, she would have been a Division I basketball player,” Stone said. “She’s just an athlete and a workhorse.”
Junior guard Jana Tremba, a strong 3-point shooter, sophomore point guard Aiden McWeeney and sophomore guard/forward Alexis Hermes will also start for Madison.
McWeeney started at shooting guard as a freshman, gaining valuable experience.
“I think it’s huge for this year,” Stone said. “She had a lot of time in big games and she’s worked hard this summer. … She’s worked her butt off to be a good ball-handler.”
Madison opens its season tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Oakton. The Warhawks will travel to take on Centreville, which reached the region final four last year, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6. Madison’s first home game is Dec. 13 against Stone Bridge.
While the Warhawks have talent, they also have experience handling adversity.
“Now,” Kerrigan said, “even if Kelly gets hurt or if I get hurt, some girls, they have the confidence that they’ll step up and fill our spots.”