Volleyball connects Stevenson coach with Lake Zurich daughter

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On the morning of Sept. 23, Kylie Dykgraaf shook hands with her mom, Vicky Nordhem, and said, “Good luck, coach.”

Dykgraaf, a freshman setter on Lake Zurich’s varsity girls volleyball team, and Nordhem, an assistant varsity and sophomore coach at Stevenson, faced off later that day. Mother and daughter, who share a special bond and mutual love of volleyball, said they couldn’t wait for the school day to be over so they could meet on the court.

“We’ve been anticipating that match since the beginning of the school year,” Nordhem said.

“[Lake Zurich coach Matt] Aiello knows that I’ve been waiting for this game for as long as I can remember,” Dykgraaf added.

Stevenson came out on top, winning 26-14, 23-25, 25-18.

“We kind of have a lot of fun with it,” Dykgraaf said of Lake Zurich’s rivalry with Stevenson.

Nordhem, who teaches physical education at Stevenson, has been coaching volleyball for 35 years. She’s also coached her daughter in club volleyball, which Dykgraaf has been playing since fifth grade.

“She’s always played above her level,” Nordhem said.

Dykgraaf, nicknamed “Smiley Kylie” for her ever-present grin, has been in the gym since she was in a stroller, Nordhem said. As she grew up, Dykgraaf could be found on Stevenson’s bench keeping stats.

“She was like a Stevenson player,” Nordhem said. “So to be on the opposite side was a totally different experience for us.”

Nordhem said the game brought on some anxiety. She cheered on her team but couldn’t help watching and rooting for her daughter. Dykgraaf said she didn’t expect it but she, too, had mixed emotions, hoping Lake Zurich would do well but also wanting to support her mom and friends.

Stevenson coach Tim Crow said in an email the game had to be a proud yet odd moment for Nordhem, and that it served as a sign that Dykgraaf is growing up.Because she knows her daughter well, Nordhem could tell when Dykgraaf was going to dump the ball, but she doesn’t think that insight was much of a factor in the game. Stevenson blocked the ball well, and it was a close match.

“A lot of similarities to the teams, so I think it was pretty evenly matched,” she said.

If anything, Dykgraaf probably had more inside knowledge of the Stevenson team because she’s friends and club teammates with many of the girls. Dykgraaf admitted she did give her team the scoop on Stevenson’s style of play and liked having that inside perspective.

After the game, mother and daughter shared a kiss through the net. The two said they’re especially close, partly because Nordhem was a single mom for five years of Dykgraaf’s life.

“It was just the two of us. We’re very tight. I don’t think we’ve ever been mad at each other,” Nordhem said.

Aiello said it’s obvious Dykgraaf and Nordhem share a love of the sport.

“It seems like it’s a great bond for the two of them,” he said. “She was just so looking forward to playing against her mom.”

There’s a chance the two teams might face each other again in the postseason. But because Nordhem wants to be able to watch Dykgraaf play in the future, she may not coach for Stevenson much longer.

“Really, this is probably a one-time thing,” Nordhem said of their face-off. “That’s why it was like we were so excited for that night.”

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