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updated: 7/28/2011 11:29 PM

Wisniewski ready to make some noise at Libertyville

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Screaming line drives hit off Libertyville softball pitchers won't elicit screams from the Wildcats' new head coach. Nor will botched plays or missed signs by her players.

It's too physically pounding on Elissa Wisniewski's voice.

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Then again, try keeping her quiet during a game. Her right vocal chord may be totally paralyzed and her left one wounded, too, but her voice will command attention.

Wayne Gretzky, ol' No. 99, is The Great One.

"Wiz" was The Great One when she whizzed pitches for Stevenson a decade ago, winning 99 games.

She was named co-captain of the Daily Herald Lake County All-Area team in 2002 along with fellow pitcher Rachel Cleaveland of Mundelein, graduating with single-season school records for strikeouts (315), ERA (0.16), shutouts (17) and innings pitched (221). Wisniewski led Stevenson to the sectional final that spring. She pitched the Patriots downstate her freshman year.

Lend an ear, Libertyville softball girls. Your new coach has plenty to say and much wisdom to share. And listen closely, as her voice is slightly scratchy after six surgeries.

"My friends will say it sounds like I've been yelling for a little bit," said Wisniewski, whose vocal chords suddenly became paralyzed during the second semester of her sophomore year at Winona State University seven years ago. She's slowly gotten most of her voice back. "I just have to be careful not to project too much or talk too much."

She then turned comedian.

"But that really doesn't stop me with softball," she added, laughing.

What Wisniewski overcame with her voice is no laughing matter. (Her mysterious ordeal caused her to lose her voice entirely and eventually led to a trip to the Mayo Clinic, where a doctor discovered scar tissue under her vocal chords).

Her selection by Libertyville this week as Mary Tiegs' replacement as softball coach speaks to her work ethic and perseverance.

During the day, Wisniewski works full-time in the finance department for Pactiv Corporation, a huge consumer and food service/food packaging company in Lake Forest. She works a 7 a.m.-to-3:30 p.m. shift.

"They're very, very supportive and help make (coaching) work," said Wisniewski, who earned a degree in business administration from Winona State.

When not working her day job, Wisniewski gives private and team softball lessons at Home Run Sports and Fitness in Lake Zurich. For the last five years, she's coached softball during the spring at her high school alma mater, and for the last three summers, she's coached the U18 Northern Illinois Lightning travel team.

Her travel-league coaching ends this year, however -- so she can resume playing softball next summer.

The 27-year-old and some other "old grandmas," as she put it, will play for the over-18 Lightning. She last played competitively four years ago.

Coaching, however, is her new joy.

Before starting her employment at Pactiv, she served as a volunteer assistant JV coach at Stevenson. The next spring, she took over the Patriots' JV team.

"Ever since then, I've fallen in love with coaching," she said, "and then it exploded."

Five years later, her passion for softball and coaching has led her to rival Libertyville. She leaves behind her job as Stevenson's varsity pitching coach -- and assistant coach to her old coach, Larry Friedrichs -- to take over a program that might benefit from a new voice, even if that voice isn't robust.

"I'm really excited and grateful for the opportunity (Libertyville) is giving me," Wisniewski said. "I'm excited to start working on it and start working with the other coaches. I've heard a lot of great things about the program. They definitely have some talent there."

If the Wildcats make noise, rest assured, their new coach will be happy to scream.

jaguilar@dailyherald.com

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