For Voelz, return about 'who struck the first match'

  • Photo courtesy of West Chicago High SchoolChris Voelz meets with West Chicago student Lauren Long and her mother, Lana.

    Photo courtesy of West Chicago High SchoolChris Voelz meets with West Chicago student Lauren Long and her mother, Lana.

  • Photo courtesy of West Chicago High SchoolChris Voelz receives the Distinguished Alumni Award. Presenting the award is retired West Chicago PE teacher Gail George, who was a big inspiration to Chris and served as the Girls Athletic Association sponsor when Chris was student president.

    Photo courtesy of West Chicago High SchoolChris Voelz receives the Distinguished Alumni Award. Presenting the award is retired West Chicago PE teacher Gail George, who was a big inspiration to Chris and served as the Girls Athletic Association sponsor when Chris was student president.

  • Photo courtesy of West Chicago High SchoolChris Voelz poses with her senior photo from 1966.

    Photo courtesy of West Chicago High SchoolChris Voelz poses with her senior photo from 1966.

  • Photo courtesy of West Chicago High SchoolChris Voelz and the rest of the Girls Athletic Association from 1966, along with sponsor, Gail George, who presented the Distinguished Alumni Award to Chris on Nov. 15.

    Photo courtesy of West Chicago High SchoolChris Voelz and the rest of the Girls Athletic Association from 1966, along with sponsor, Gail George, who presented the Distinguished Alumni Award to Chris on Nov. 15.

 
 
Updated 11/23/2016 9:13 PM

Chris Voelz has proved to be inexhaustible in her pursuit of gender equity in competitive sports. And that was during one recent day at West Chicago High School, much less throughout a career spanning five decades.

Voelz, as in "rolls," revisited the alma mater mid-October to receive her first award on campus since she was "Most Athletic" and a Daughters of the American Revolution "Good Citizen" her senior year in 1966. Community High School District 94 and the CHS Educational Foundation presented Voelz with a Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.

 

"If you live long enough and do good work you're going to receive that," Voelz said.

Isn't it funny how high achievers always say those things?

Voelz, who summers in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and winters in Palm Springs, California, started her day at West Chicago in a leadership class, then spoke to a sports marketing class. Two assemblies followed including a question-and-answer bit with activities director Mark Wolfe.

Afterward Voelz met with teachers and coaches, spoke with student-athletes and headed a "women's summit" before the awards reception.

"Then I went to the Board of Education," she said.

"I told them that when you go out to light the world on fire you really ought to remember who struck the first match," Voelz said. "It really was wonderful to go back to West Chicago and thank them for striking the first match."

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A book, not a column item should be written about this woman, whose strident march toward equal footing began in her native Louisiana when she cut her hair, slid on a ball cap and said she was her brother's twin so she could play Little League.

On the ground floor of sports equity issues? Voelz came from the subbasement. The 1964 U.S. Olympic Volleyball Team visited high schools as a promotional tour and held girls clinics. The best players, like Voelz, got recruited for secret practices. They had to be secret; if caught the girls would be banned from competing in their own prep realm at the time, the Girls' Athletic Association.

Voelz played four sports at Illinois State -- she's in its hall of fame, as she is at the University of Minnesota, its former athletic director -- where her academic adviser was one of the original Title IX advocates.

Voelz's path was cemented. She has testified before Congress, joined class action suits, co-authored NCAA gender equity guidelines, co-founded the Illinois Girls Coaches' Association. In 2011 she received the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators lifetime achievement award.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There's much, much more, and these accomplishments were forged in part at West Chicago, where Voelz said girls were "amazed" by her tales.

"Somebody said, 'Is your work done?' I wish it were, but it's not," said Voelz, who continues to advocate for women's sports with her own consulting firm, A+Athletics Plus, and with the Billie Jean King Women's Sports Foundation.

"Fortunately we've made a lot of progress," she said. "It used to be zero out of five girls had an (athletic) opportunity. Now it's up to 2.5 girls have the opportunity. I'm hoping and I'm working that there'll be up to five out of five while I'm still around."

Civil wars

A pair of girls volleyball players from both Benet and St. Francis will line up across from each other in the seventh Illinois High School Girls Volleyball All Star Game presented by SportsTownChicago.com.

UIC-bound outside hitter Delaney Malloy of St. Francis and Benet setter Sara Nielsen, headed to Minnesota, are part of Team White. On Team Pink, however, is Benet libero Lauren Barnes, also Minnesota-bound, and St. Francis setter Alexia Byrnes-Hosey, a Louisville recruit.

Also selected are Glenbard East setter Meghan Wozniak, who'll play at Nicholls State; and Marquette recruit Sarah Rose, the York setter.

The match will be held at 3 p.m. Dec. 4 at the College of DuPage -- you'll soon discover COD will be a hotbed that weekend -- with a senior showcase game at 1:30 p.m. Ticket proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.

Cream of the crop

In the final SIMA Fab 50 fall national ratings by Top Drawer Soccer, Class 3A champion Naperville North (21-2-3) claimed the No. 13 position. Jack Barry, Ian Guppy and Will Ritzmann all got shout-outs in Top Drawer's capsule summary of the Huskies.

Though New Jersey high schools had the most top-50 teams with eight, Illinois was next with six, and all in the top 25. Morton, Barrington, Bradley-Bourbonnais, Evanston and Glenbrook North were the others. Top Drawer's No. 1 team in the country was Cleveland's St. Ignatius, the Ohio Division 1 champion at 21-0-2.

The five baritones

It's a matter of genetics, Andy Nussbaum explained.

Naperville Central's girls basketball and softball coach played football at Wheaton College, as did his brothers Tim, Phil, Matt and Tom. Andy and Matt have sons on the team now, and Phil's son, Jack, was a defensive lineman who graduated last May.

The Nussbaums paired that passion with another when all five brothers sang the national anthem before Wheaton College's 45-10 win Nov. 19 over visiting Huntingdon in the first round of the Division III playoffs.

"We've all sang at each other's weddings, we sing quartets at each other's weddings -- the guy getting married doesn't sing," Andy Nussbaum said.

The group, known as The Nuss Boys, does have its limitations. Finding a tenor among them is a stretch. The Nuss Boys warble on the deeper side of the register.

"That's a little bit of a problem because we've all got the same genetics," Andy said.

Super bowls

Wheaton College's victory paired with North Central College's 41-7 win over Rose-Hulman sets the stage for a Division III second-round match between the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin rivals, noon Saturday at Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium in Naperville.

The host Cardinals (11-0) won the regular-season meeting 35-25 to claim the Little Brass Bell. Though it's the 96th meeting between the two -- Wheaton (10-1) leads the series 50-42-3 -- it's only the second time two CCIW teams have met in the Division III playoffs. In 1989 Millikin beat Augustana by this writer's favorite score, 21-12.

There'll be another big local game when College of DuPage coach Matt Foster's Chaparrals (5-5) host 11-0 Central Lake College (Minnesota) in the National Junior College Athletic Association inaugural Red Grange Bowl at Bjarne Ulsvik Stadium, 1 p.m. Dec. 3.

It's the first bowl hosted by COD in 20 years and the first featuring non-scholarship schools among the NJCAA's other national football bowl games. This was a big goal of Wheaton Central graduate and former Wheaton North coach Foster, who's got retired Lake Park coach Andy Livingston on his staff.

"It's old school. The kids aren't getting anything," said Foster, whose fourth-ranked scoring defense takes on the NJCAA's sixth-rated team.

In fact what Foster seemed proudest of, in addition to celebrating the legacy of Wheaton legend Harold "Red" Grange, is giving back. Proceeds from the $10 game ticket, as well as a Dec. 2 banquet ($25) at COD featuring Chicago Bears co-owner and vice president Pat McCaskey, will go to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Foster is all about helping out -- to Ronald McDonald House and to those playing in the Red Grange Bowl.

"This is a great opportunity for our kids and their kids to get exposure for scholarships, for recruiting," he said.

It's a hit

On Oct. 28 the Phil Lawler Batting 4 A Cure Foundation presented a $20,000 check to the Edward Foundation for Edward Cancer Center programs and services. A Naperville Central baseball coach and children's fitness advocate, Lawler died of cancer in 2010. The donation came as a result of the foundation's fourth annual charity golf outing on Sept. 24. There's also a holiday party slated for Dec. 10.

Batting 4 A Cure also recently donated to Justin Wegner, the former Redhawks baseball player stricken with soft-tissue sarcoma. Lawler's daughter, Kimberly Marino, reports that in December Wegner is headed to the University of Texas' MD Anderson Cancer Center for surgery.

For these charitable efforts, we give thanks.

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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