Former Kaneland outside hitter Kelsey Drendel coaches the Normal West girls volleyball team these days, so her return home for Saturday’s Kaneland Spikefest will be both business and pleasure.
First, there’s the business side: “Boom, boom. Get it done with at the end of the season and get some playing in before regionals,” Drendel said.
Then there’s its complement, pleasure: “I’m excited to come and play at Kaneland again,” Drendel said. “I feel like it’s going to be bittersweet going back when maybe even a year or two ago it was like, ‘Wow, I wish I had a job closer to home.’ “
Drendel finds herself far more attached to central Illinois than when she joined Normal West as a physical education, health and driver’s education teacher three years ago. Now in her second season at the helm of the Wildcats, who on Tuesday clinched the Big 12 Conference title, Drendel has emerged from the early adulthood anxiety of settling away from home with newfound friends and perspective.
Still, it was only natural to jump at the chance to head north again when a Spikefest vacancy opened last winter. Normal West will take on the host Knights and Geneva among other teams in the one-day, round-robin format, completing a recent flirtation with Chronicle Country.
Normal West met St. Charles North in the Minooka Invitational finals this past weekend, with the North Stars winning, 25-17, 25-16.
A 2005 Kaneland graduate, Drendel played under Kris Weiss and later was a freshman coach when Todd Weimer led the program. Drendel is not as familiar with first-year Knights coach Kerri McCastland, but knows McCastland won’t have to give her players a history lesson.
Drendel’s twin brother, Andy, coaches Kaneland’s pole vaulters and serves as public address announcer during home boys basketball games. Their father, Ralph, was a longtime Kaneland teacher and coach who gained induction into the athletic wing of the school’s hall of fame in May.
What’s more, older sister Kimmi coaches freshman volleyball at Rolling Meadows. Drendel’s mother, Paula, is a former coach, too, making shop talk quite comfortable among the family.
“They don’t even need to know volleyball,” Drendel said. “They’re natural coaches. Just give different ideas that I feel like I have a very good sounding board at home, that they’re going to give me honest advice and not only what I want to hear.”
Drendel still remembers watching her dad coach Knights track athletes at the state meet as a young girl. There are many other snapshots she holds dear.
“It will be fun to be back in the gym,” Drendel said.
That might as well be her family’s motto.
FV Hawks fight roadblocks: Early-season scoring struggles haven’t been the only uphill numbers game for the Fox Valley Hawks high school hockey club.
Just 18 players registered for the 2013-14 season, meaning the program is fielding only a varsity team. The co-op of players from St. Charles East, St. Charles North, Batavia, Geneva and Kaneland also had a JV team in its inaugural season of 2012-13.
“It wasn’t that they decided to go to another team, it’s just that some of our seniors got senioritis and decided to sit out this year,” club president Judy Bondarowicz said. “We’re encouraged that we’ll be back to having two teams next year.”
Fox Valley is 0-3 entering a home game against the AWFG Renegades at Geneva’s Fox Valley Ice Arena, 1996 S. Kirk Road, at 4:10 p.m. Sunday.
Brothers Dan and Chris Bednarek, former St. Charles East athletes who guided the JV last season, are serving as co-coaches.
Former coach Jim Quinn, who also led the St. Charles North club and St. Charles co-op before the Hawks, stepped down at the end of last season to take a break from hockey.
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.