Crystal Lake Central's Lisa Brunstrum went to state with Crystal Lake South as a player in the late 1990s. This year, the seventh-year Tigers coach and her team enjoyed the trip downstate, advancing to the Class 4A state tournament at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena for the first time in program history.
Central placed third in Normal, defeating St. Charles North, 25-19, 9-25, 25-23, to finish a spectacular 34-4 season.
Brunstrum has led the Tigers to four 30-win seasons, going 210-49 in seven years since 2011. This season's team won its first Class 4A sectional title and first 4A supersectional championship. They also captured the outright Fox Valley Conference title with a near perfect record at 15-1.
For the Tigers' accomplishments, Brunstrum was selected the 2017 Northwest Herald Girls Volleyball Coach of the Year by the sports staff with input from area coaches. Johnsburg's Jackie Barnette also received consideration after a 29-9 season and the program's first regional title since 2014.
Brunstrum also earned the honor in 2014 after leading Central to a 30-0 start in her fourth year.
Sports writer Alex Kantecki asked Brunstrum about her biggest pet peeves, her many coaching influences, what she'll remember most about Central's historic season and state run, and more.
What are your three favorite movies?
Brunstrum: I probably really only have two ... and they're "Mary Poppins" and "Pollyanna."
Who was an unheralded player on your team that you’ll remember for a long time?
Brunstrum: I would have to say our fifth senior, Emma Gruper. She played in about half of our varsity matches. She stepped up for us and played JV for half of the season and was a sub on varsity. Her personality made everyone feel welcome. Not being one of the key starters, she didn't get a ton of credit. But in practices, she pushed the most. She kept everybody on their toes, and she always had a smile on her face.
What is one of your biggest pet peeves?
Brunstrum: One of my biggest pet peeves as a coach is excuses. I don't like to hear a lot of excuses.
What will you remember most about this season?
Brunstrum: One of the biggest things I'll remember is how well this team got along. And from the middle of the season on, they really played for each other, selflessly. They played for their school and this team. One of my favorite moments was when we walked into the press conference (after the Class 4A state third-place match), I was the last one to walk in, and I saw all 19 of those girls with their arms around each other, standing together as a team. I will always have that etched in my memory.
What was the biggest challenge you faced this year?
Brunstrum: Because we didn't lose any of our starters, one of the biggest challenges was trying to see every player for what they were this year, how much they improved, and the differences between last year and this year. ... Putting them in different spots where we can jell, mesh and click. How can I use the same personnel and change it to make it a little more successful?
If you could coach volleyball at any college, where would it be?
Brunstrum: If I'm being completely honest, I don't think I want to coach at the collegiate level. I'm really happy coaching at Central. Taking over the program seven years ago for Doug Blundy, who had it established and was there for 38 years. Collegiate volleyball is a different ballgame with recruiting and all of that. This is kind of my dream job. Especially when you have seasons like this.
What are some words of wisdom you often share with your team?
Brunstrum: I talk a lot with my team about working to get better every time they take the court. Playing every point like it's their last point, because you never know when your season is going to end. They don't what's going to happen the next point, what's going to happen the next play, and they certainly don't know what's going to happen if they don't try.
Which player on your team made you laugh the most?
Brunstrum: Madeline Timmerman. She came in quite shy this summer and the beginning of the season. Every once in awhile in practice or during a drill, you'd hear kind of a sarcastic comment and I would turn around and go, "Who said that?" And it was Madeline. By the end of the season, we joked around with her, "You can't play like a freshman anymore. That's not how this goes."
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Brunstrum: I don't know that my team knows, but I am very much a worrier. I worry about anything and everything and all the "what if?" situations. I want to be prepared, and I want to plan, and obviously life doesn't always work that way ... but I try to make it work that way as much as I can.
Who made the biggest impression on you as a coach?
Brunstrum: I played for Pete Kottra at Crystal Lake South in the 1990s, when South had all of their big state runs. I was fortunate enough to go down as a player. I kind of saw how he worked a little bit, his planning and preparation. He might not have known the ins and outs of volleyball, but he definitely knew the ins and outs of coaching.
When I was first hired in District 155, I worked with (Cary-Grove's) Patty Langanis, who is very competitive, and she runs a phenomenal program over there. She let me work with her for two years. I give Patty a ton of credit.
When the opening came at Central to coach their sophomores, Doug Blundy actually sought me out and talked to Patty. Doug was really good at remembering it's high school volleyball. As competitive as it is, it's still volleyball.
I took a lot I learned from Patty, Doug and Pete Kottra, and I'm hoping eventually I can put together a good mix of every coach I've worked with, especially in the FVC.