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Geneva volleyball coach a fiery competitor

Published: Monday, June 23, 2014 9:51 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 8:51 a.m. CDT
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(Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Annie Seitelman, a former girls sophomore and assistant varsity coach, has been named head coach of the girls varsity volleyball team at Geneva, taking over for veteran coach K.C. Johnsen.

Annie Seitelman missed a few sporadic points during the Geneva girls volleyball team's banner 2013 season.

The excitable approach Vikings players and fans will see as she takes the reins this fall isn't an act to make up for lost time. It's simply Seitelman.

The former Indiana middle blocker traded in her Hoosiers crimson years ago, yet she still can't seem to curb her enthusiasm.

"Yeah, I'm a competitor," Seitelman said. "I mean, having been a Division I athlete and stuff, I don't know if that ever really goes away. But yeah, that's the thing. As a player, I've fed off of coaches' energy and things like that, and I feel that that's something – especially with kids at this age – that kids need that."

Seitelman, who takes over for longtime program staple K.C. Johnsen, gathered as much as the Vikings' sophomore coach and varsity assistant last fall.

Sometimes, she scurried to the bench from an adjacent court if the sophomore match ran long, but her observation truly clicked as she worked full-time with the varsity during the postseason.

A young core – including then-freshmen right-side hitters Ally Barrett and Grace Loberg – blended quickly with veterans such as Maryland-bound libero Kelsey Wicinski and middle Maddie Courter, both juniors. The Vikings stormed to the program's first sectional title, winning 29 matches along the way.

With 11 players potentially back from last season, Seitelman figures the Vikings should be ready to shout alongside her come the team's Aug. 26 season opener against Rosary.

"Seeing kind of the growing pains that every team has, and I was trying to figure out chemistry and who works best with who and communication-wise with our passing [last season]," Seitelman said. "I think every team kind of goes through that a little bit, but with so many kids returning, hopefully we can bypass some of those growing pains at the beginning of the season and hopefully start off the season pretty successful and hopefully that'll be a predictor of how well the season will go."

Seitelman, the former Annie Moddrell, shined at downstate Freeburg in her prep career. After college, the physical education teacher remained in the midwest, coaching lower-level girls at Indianapolis' Bishop Chatard High in the falls of 2010 and 2011.

She dabbled in college coaching in 2012, assisting now-husband James Seitelman at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. The couple moved to Illinois a few months later, as James Seitelman was named Aurora University women's volleyball coach in the winter of 2013.

That's when Annie Seitelman's path to Geneva began to unfurl. Her ties to Johnsen's daughter, Coley Pawlikowski – "through kind of the volleyball world," Seitelman said – led her to Johnsen and the Kane County Jrs. club led by his wife, Phyllis.

A spot with the Jrs. staff soon dovetailed with Johnsen asking Seitelman to serve as Geneva's boys JV coach. She accepted, balancing that role with substitute teaching in Geneva District 304. By the time Seitelman joined Geneva's faculty full-time in the fall, a spot with the girls program was elementary.

Geneva girls basketball coach Sarah Meadows, whose desk is next to Seitelman's in the school's PE office, noticed her new colleague's energy and diligence right away.

"Great, great person and a great addition to Geneva volleyball," Meadows said. "She'll do great with that program because everyone respects her."

Loberg, who starred for both Johnsen and Meadows during a dazzling debut sports season, also formed a bond with Seitelman, her PE teacher.

Loberg's mother, Colleen, discovered a tie, too. Colleen Loberg was a Hoosiers middle hitter in the early 1990s, providing an easy, early talking point with Seitelman.

"What a small world, huh?" Colleen Loberg said. "First time I met her, she came up. I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' So that is very exciting for her. Coach K.C. was great to Grace, so supportive, and it's nice having Annie. She's excited. So it will be fun. She's ready to work them. A great group of girls."

Johnsen's departure also creates a void atop the boys program, but a replacement has yet to be determined.

Until further notice, Seitelman isn't worried about that matter as she juggles closing on a house with preparing for the upcoming girls season. She has held a handful of open gyms this month for any players looking to shake off rust or get touches before camp and summer league ramps up in July.

"I'm excited to take over with the amount of potential that we have … only graduating three seniors last year," Seitelman said. "I look for, you know, some really good things, but as always, one of the tough things is, too, it's a competitive program."

Just a few years removed from her own playing days, Seitelman would know more than most.

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