Huntley girls volleyball coach Karen Naymola directed the Red Raiders to 22 consecutive wins and their third straight regional championship before Huntley’s season ended in the sectional finals.
Under Naymola, the Raiders were 35-4 and earned their most wins since going 36-7 in 1997. Huntley placed second in the Fox Valley Conference at 14-2 and knocked off many nationally ranked teams along the way.
One of the Raiders’ biggest wins was a 27-25, 25-23 victory over Benet in the Glenbard East Autumnfest Tournament championship. Benet went on to the state tournament and beat FVC champion Prairie Ridge in the Class 4A third-place match.
For leading Huntley to a breakthrough season, Naymola was chosen Northwest Herald Girls Volleyball Coach of the Year by the sports staff with input from area coaches. Prairie Ridge’s Stefanie Otto and Woodstock North’s Eric Schulze also received consideration for the award.
Sports writer Alex Kantecki asked Naymola about her biggest pet peeves, her pregame rituals and superstitions, and what she’ll remember most about Huntley’s postseason run and winning streak.
What will you remember most about this season?
Naymola: My favorite moment was the Comcast Game of the Week and winning the Glenbard East Autumnfest Tournament. That was really exciting, having seven solid seniors get to experience that.
Do you have a favorite match?
Naymola: My favorite match was the
first round of sectionals (a 23-25, 25-21, 25-21 win over St. Charles North). That was just a great game. Both teams played such a hard game and it was a fun game to be a part of, coming back from seven points down in Game 2. That was one of the most exciting games this year.
Which one of your players do you find really inspiring?
Naymola: Taylor Jakubowski, just watching how she leads the team. She’s a role model to kids of all ages. I have three little kids, and two of them are such big fans of Taylor.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Naymola: Being late. I think my team will vouch for that. I hate tardiness. If you’re not early, you’re late. That’s what I always tell them.
If you could go anywhere, any level, what team would you coach?
Naymola: I think I would stay right with high school. I love coaching high school. High school volleyball is probably one of the best experiences. For the girls going on, it prepares them for college and gets them ready for the next level.
If you could change one thing about volleyball, what would it be?
Naymola: I would have the season go a little longer. It’s such a short season. I feel like each year goes by so fast. This year’s team was such a joy to be around. I would have loved to be around them for a couple of more months.
Which player on your team made you laugh the most?
Naymola: Marissa Deem. Marissa has a sense of humor unlike anyone. She’s just a comical kid. There were times when you’re trying to be serious in practice, and you couldn’t help but giggle at her comments or facial expressions.
If you were to have a sandwich named in your honor, what would be on it, and what would it be called?
Naymola: It would have turkey, cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, banana peppers, olives, lettuce. ... I think it’s already called something at Subway, so I’d have to rename it the “Naymola Delight.”
What sport that you didn’t play in high school would you have been good at?
Naymola: That’s tough because I played soccer, softball and basketball in high school. I’ll say track, even though I hate running.
Do you have any rituals or superstitions on game day?
Naymola: My team will tell you that I’m probably one of the most superstitious coaches. There were only certain pairs of shoes that I was allowed to wear this season. If I didn’t have on my favorite necklace I always wore, it was like a panic. Before every game, (assistant coach) Chrissy Pfaff and I would always get Starbucks. We’d take turns getting it. It was an expensive season for us.
Who was the biggest influence on you as a coach?
Naymola: I’d have to go with my dad. He came to almost every one of our home games, and he was my coach growing up. I feel blessed to have had tremendous coaches throughout my entire life. I’ve learned from all of them.
What will your miss most about the senior class?
Naymola: The positive attitude they brought every day to practice. I’m going to miss them as athletes. Those seniors were such solid athletes and really did everything you asked of them. They set the tone and raised the bar for Huntley volleyball, so I should be thanking them.