2019 Northwest Herald Volleyball Coach of the Year: Huntley's Karen Naymola

Huntley graduated seven seniors, including four starters, from its 2018 girls volleyball team that posted an area-best 35 victories and came back even stronger.

The Red Raiders won their fourth straight Class 4A regional championship and won 30-plus matches for the second straight season, going 34-6. Unlike the previous year, however, Huntley claimed the Fox Valley Conference championship at 17-1 and won a sectional title, its first since 2001.

The Raiders were one win short of state with a 26-24, 25-23 loss to Wheaton Warrenville South in the Streamwood Supersectional.

For leading Huntley to an FVC title and a long postseason run, Naymola has been named 2019 Northwest Herald Girls Volleyball Coach of the Year. Woodstock coach Jill Rokosik and Cary-Grove coach Patty Langanis also received strong consideration for the award. Naymola is a two-time winner after winning in 2018.

Naymola recently spoke to the Northwest Herald about the Raiders' run, her coaching influences and love for horror movies.

Is there a particular match or moment from this season you will remember most vividly?

Naymola: The sectional title game. Just the feeling, atmosphere and energy from our fans, and the energy our girls were playing with. It was like, the moment that game started, it was a feeling of nothing was going to stop us.

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

Naymola: Obviously, coaching volleyball. Is that a hobby? That takes up like 90% of my life. I coach the 12s for Club Fusion, and I get to coach two of my three daughters now. They're at that fun age. Just hanging out with family. I enjoy spending time with family and doing different things with them.

What sports moment was so huge that you’ll always remember it?

Naymola: As a player, I think making it to the NCAA Tournament my junior year (at Eastern Illinois) was an unbelievable experience. As a coach, when Hampshire made it downstate (and placed second in 2007), that was such a great experience because I had never gone as a player. As a coach being able to be a part of that with them, it was a really neat experience. And that's kind of what pushes me every year as a coach. You want to get back there, because you know what it's like.

What are some must-see TV programs?

Naymola: "Grey's Anatomy" is my No. 1. I could watch it over and over. It never gets old.

What is the best Christmas present you ever received?

Naymola: I don't know about received, but the best surprise was when we gave Izzy, my middle daughter, a Nintendo Switch. She freaked out.

Which player on your team made you laugh the most?

Naymola: They're such a really close group of girls, and all of them were so enjoyable. I would have to say Josie (Schmitendorf). Josie always made me laugh. She's easy to get along with, and some of the things that came out of her mouth at practice would take away time from our practice because we'd all be giggling. My favorite quote from her was from last year. She said something about eating pressure for dinner. We ripped on her the whole season for that.

What is something most people don't know about you?

Naymola: I love horror movies. The last three weekends we had off, my husband (Michael) and I watched one every weekend, and they were horrible. They were so dumb. The last good one I saw was "The Purge" (television series).

What got you interested in coaching?

Naymola: Just having been a player all my life and playing in college, I was lucky. I had (Cary-Grove coach) Patty (Langanis) as my high school coach. Volleyball has always been such a huge part of my life. I wasn't ready to give it up as a player. Coaching was the next option from there.

What would be your dream coaching job?

Naymola: I've actually had people ask me, 'Do you ever want to coach in college?,' and I don't. I loved being at Hampshire, and the relationships I developed there, I'll never forget those. When I was at Hampshire, I always said the only place I would ever leave Hampshire for was Huntley. When the job opened up, it was a no-brainer for me. I feel like I am at my dream job.

Who on the team is the unsung hero?

Naymola: I would say Ashley Konecki. This year, she really took over in all aspects of her game. She was a natural leader for us. She's probably the best teammate that I've ever coached. She was so good to the lower-level and younger girls, just with helping them out and welcoming them to the program. She became a very reliable player for us; we could always count on her to put a ball down.

What will you remember most about the senior class?

Naymola: There is so much to miss about all of them, but I think I'm going to genuinely miss the friendships we all created. There was a closeness to our team unlike any other team I've been a part of. It's going to be a different atmosphere next year for sure. Those seniors were such a great group of kids. I can't speak highly enough about them.

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