They say losing develops character more than winning.
Jill Stolzenburg developed character good and fast. It was routinely handed to her, along with her proverbial hat, by her two older brothers.
"I don't remember beating them in anything," she said.
As St. Charles North graduates Greg and Jeff Stolzenburg have grown up, so too has the baby of the family. She's a tad over 6 feet, a senior middle blocker and right-side hitter on the North Stars volleyball team.
From Greg, a 2007 graduate who was an All-American baseball player at Elgin Community College and went on to pitch in the Independent League, Jill learned leadership. From 2009 grad Jeff, a record-setting St. Charles North receiver who just established the North Central College football speed shuttle record, she gained fire.
"They kind of picked on me when I was little," she said. "They kind of taught me how to fight back."
Now she takes her aggression onto the volleyball court.
"It's a very fast game. I like that, and I like how you always have to be thinking. It changes every time and that's why I love it, because it's never the same," Jill said.
"The other team's different, has a different defense, and if you are going up against certain hitters it's different. You have to be quick on your feet and just know what to do."
For awhile the Stolzenburgs' realtor had to act quick. By the time she arrived in St. Charles during the spring of sixth grade, due to her father's employment the family already had moved from Portland, Ore., to Baltimore back to Portland. The last move happened so quickly they got right back into the same yellow house with a view of Mt. Hood they'd left a year before.
"My family loved that house," Jill said.
"It was really sad leaving all my friends behind, but I did love the attention of being the new girl, I'm not going to lie," she said. "I love change, so it was fun -- but also sad that I had to leave everyone."
Up through middle school she was a track athlete. If it had a 400 in front of it, she ran it: 400-meter run, four-by-400, the 400 leg of the 800 medley. As a little kid in Oregon, Stolzenburg set a junior girls javelin record that still stands.
Her parents, Scott and Christina, provided the motivation for that toss.
"We told her to pretend it was her brother running away from her and to throw it as if to hit him," said Scott, himself a former linebacker for the University of Puget Sound Loggers football team.
Introduced to volleyball in the seventh grade, she shortly left the track world behind. Stolzenburg now also plays with Club Fusion out of Marengo. At 15 she helped her club team win a national title, earning an all-tourney selection in the process. She's played with St. Charles North's varsity since her sophomore year.
"I think when I get going my adrenaline starts pumping and I can jump higher and move faster to get that block, or I can swing and be able to put that ball down because I've been able to pump myself up," she said.
Bringing quickness and speed, like her brothers, Stolzenburg has her eye on a college volleyball career. An A-B, honors-class student who "loves little kids," she could see herself as a pediatrician in the future.
Perhaps she loves little kids because she once was one who got whupped on by a pair of older brothers.
Strange how times change. Now she feels as if 25-year-old Greg is "my protector."
"He's just there in case I need him," Jill said. "I know that he'll be there for me."
On the other side of town ...
The St. Charles East Girls Volleyball Booster Club is rounding up former Saints girls spikers for an alumni reunion from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, at the school.
This is the 10th anniversary of the Saints' Class AA state volleyball championship, a 41-2 squad that beat Sandburg in the finals. This also is head coach Jenny Kull's 15th season.
St. Charles East is hosting Hinsdale Central on Sept. 23, and a reception honoring Saints volleyball alumni will be held following the varsity match.
To get in contact, reach Debbie Luczynski at Luczy@aol.com, or booster club president Maureen Niski at firstname.lastname@example.org
Batavia football, basketball and track athlete Cole Gardner and Marmion golfer Matthew Fazio are among 30 Chicago-area student-athletes who are finalists in the Positive Coaching Alliance's Triple-Impact Competitor Scholarship Program. They'll be recognized at a Sept. 7 dinner at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.
The Positive Coaching Alliance is a nonprofit founded within Stanford University's athletic department in 1998. It boosts the potential of athletics as a character builder and salutes athletes who excel in athletics, school and community. Pro basketball coach Phil Jackson is the national spokesman.
Fazio and Gardner have a shot at two of the six $1,000 scholarships that will be awarded that night.
In early August, Augustana College announced that the since-graduated James Wood (St. Charles North) and sophomore Jay Graffagna (Geneva) were named to the 2011 United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Division III All-Academic Team.
Wood, a team captain who graduated with majors in finance and accounting, ran on the Vikings' 1,600-meter relay that placed 16th at the 2011 DIII outdoor national meet. He graduated with a 3.42 grade-point average.
Graffagna entered his sophomore year with a 3.61 GPA, well above the minimum standard of a 3.30 needed to achieve All-American status. Augie's Most Valuable Freshman on the Track ran the lead leg on the Vikings' nationally qualifying 400 relay, which established a new College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin record.