Cary-Grove becoming a cradle of coaches

  • Cary-Grove's Patty Langanis has five former players now coaching high school varsity volleyball teams.

      Cary-Grove's Patty Langanis has five former players now coaching high school varsity volleyball teams. JOHN STARKS | Staff Photographer

  • Huntley's Karen Naymola is one of Patty Langanis's five former players at Cary-Grove who have become varsity volleyball coaches.

      Huntley's Karen Naymola is one of Patty Langanis's five former players at Cary-Grove who have become varsity volleyball coaches. John Starks | Staff Photographer

Updated 6/24/2020 4:05 PM

For all the wins, banners and trophies the Cary-Grove volleyball program has compiled in 25 years under Patty Langanis, it's her ever growing coaching tree that might be the most impressive number.

What Langanis has taught her players -- discipline, team-first mentality and love of the sport -- will now be passed on to the next generation by her former players.


When Jacobs and Burlington Central recently hired two more of Langanis's former players, there's now five who are varsity volleyball coaches. Sam Mainzer at Burlington Central and Colleen Smith at Jacobs join Huntley's Karen Naymola, Kayla Klinger who is a head coach in North Carolina and Lauren Lamberti, a high school coach in Ohio.

"I am pretty proud of all these girls," Langanis said.

Langanis is 678-147 at Cary-Grove. The Trojans won the 2009 Class 4A state championship, finished second in 2010 and 2011 and third in 2015.

Naymola, who coached Hampshire to state in 2007 before taking over at Huntley, was Langanis's first former player to become a coach.

And she might have been the biggest surprise.

"Karen was that classic multisport athlete and she was the one who tried to balance having fun, working hard, and I wasn't quite sure she would go into coaching. She had so many things on her plate. She was always the one pressing the rules, push the boundary," said Langanis, remembering the team's no sugar rule and Naymola sneaking a Coke.

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"I hear she is so strict now but loving with those girls," Langanis said. "They really respect her. It's neat to see that transition."

Naymola isn't surprised so many former Trojans are now head coaches.

"I think Patty instills a love for the game into her players that goes beyond just playing in high school," Naymola said. "It becomes a part of you and you make the game you love that you're passionate about a job. It's not work. I enjoy every minute of coaching. It is really neat to see the Cary-Grove graduates in the Fox Valley."

Langanis called herself a pretty stern coach, and she's found a long line of players who have thrived.

"I love the sport and I've never been able to give it up," Langanis said. "It's such a joy to play the sport and coach it. If you can create that environment where we work really hard at being a team first before an individual. We have little or no drama. I can't remember the last time we had a parent issue. It's just a safe place for them to come. We're here to win, we're here to be the best we can and work hard. And I think they miss it when they leave. Once they started buying in it has become a special place to be."

Both Smith and Mainzer played on that 2009 state championship team.

"Sam was always the boss," Langanis said. "In practice really serious, a strong leader. She became a greater player than most around her thought she would be because of her belief in herself she could do something special. If she brings that perseverance to Burlington Central I think she can take the program to a different level because she'll identify those players that have more to give than they know."


Smith coached as an assistant with Langanis before taking the Jacobs job.

"I have learned so much from her and she's a phenomenal coach," Smith said. "She's really shaped me into the player and person I am today. It will be super fun playing against her but also hard."

Langanis and Naymola know all about coaching against each other. They used to go out for dinner after the Cary-Grove/Huntley matches until they both realized the losing coach was too upset to enjoy the meal.

After being on the same side of the net, it's a new dynamic to compete against each other.

"I would see Karen's mom and dad in the stands at Cary-Grove and in your mind you want them cheering for Cary-Grove but I know they want Karen to beat me," Langanis said.

While Langanis is quite proud of the five players, she said there were many more through the years she thought would make great coaches.

Ashley Rosch, a 2011 graduate who stared at Illinois State, jumped to mind. She ended up going into a successful career in science.

Mainzer, the libero on the 2009 team who played college volleyball at Northern Illinois, said she's going to incorporate her knowledge and experiences of playing for Langanis into her program at Burlington Central.

That's music to her former coach's ears.

"Some of them you knew they had that love and passion for that game," Langanis said. "It makes you feel nice (seeing them become a coach). Everything I learned I learned from my mom who coached me. It's neat to know that part of that is still getting spread for the next generation."

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