By Marty Farmer
Riverside-Brookfield High School hired one of its own to take over the girls varsity volleyball team.
Mary Pakosta, who graduated from RBHS in 2004, replaces Aubrey Dondlinger as the team's varsity head coach. Previously, Pakosta coached the girls freshman team for six years and then the girls junior varsity at RBHS the past three seasons.
While any new head coach needs a period of adjustment, the transition could be relatively seamless for Pakosta.
"Coaching a lot of these girls at the lower levels obviously should help," she said. "Not every girl makes it up to varsity, but I've been working with many of these girls the last few years. I'm looking forward to the future of the program, which will hopefully include a lot of success."
Sports has been an integral part of Pakosta's life dating back her to childhood days.
"I've been on some kind of organized team since fifth grade," Pakosta said. "At RB, I played volleyball and basketball. I played basketball with Maggie McCloskey on some really good teams. We went 22-2 my junior year. Playing for coaches at RB like Larry Rocco [basketball] and Mark Gouwens [volleyball] are part of the reason I've stuck with coaching."
After playing Division III college volleyball at Dominican University in River Forest, Parosta embarked on her professional career as a teacher and coach. She teaches social studies at Freedom Middle School in Berwyn. Two small children and her husband occupy much of her free time.
On the volleyball court, the Bulldogs are Pakosta's priority.
"I have a passion for volleyball," Pakosta said. "I want the girls to develop good sportsmanship but also a competitive edge. Reflective of one of the pillars at RB, character counts with my players. No matter what they are pursuing in life, they need to persevere. I hope to be a role model, encouraging them not only to be good volleyball players but really good people as well."
RBHS finished 10-21 last season. In the Class 4A state playoffs, the Bulldogs won their opener 25-20, 25-15 over West Chicago before losing to Downers Grove North 25-16, 25-10 in a regional semifinal at Maine South.
Pakosta estimates six players with varsity experience will return next spring.
Senior middle blocker Julia Brown and sophomore opposite hitter Colette Brown will be relied on for both leadership and production. Junior middle blocker Annalisa Cinkay and junior CJ Twomey are other notable returners.
Defensive specialist Taylor Jurgens, setter Marlena Barrido, outside hitter Mazzy Marcucci and libero/defensive specialist McKenna Sloan also played on the varsity last season. They possibly could fit into next season's lineup.
Jen Lyon will be the varsity assistant coach next season.
"Initially, it was never really in my sights to take over the program," Pakosta said. "Once the opportunity came about to be the varsity head coach, I decided to go for it. I'm excited to see what we can do at the varsity level.
"I was talking with [RBHS Athletic Director/fellow alum] Brendan Curtin and we agree RB is a special place," she added. "The camaraderie among the teachers and student population is great. I had so many positive experiences as a student-athlete at RB. It's nice to be here now as a coach and see a lot of familiar faces."
Pakosta is conducting volleyball camps for youth players and the varsity this month, in part to foster familiarity among the players during the offseason. Tryouts for the varsity and junior varsity teams will take place on Monday, Aug. 12 and Tuesday, Aug. 13 (both days between 4:30-6:30 p.m.) at RBHS.