Ashley Berggren, who has directed the Schaumburg girls basketball team to back-to-back winning seasons, will not be returning to her post of head coach.
The former all-state basketball player said that with the numbers for special education students declining significantly at the high school, her teaching position is no longer available.
"That is the nature of education, it is constantly changing," said Berggren, who starred at Barrington High School and the University of Illinois, where she was the Big Ten Player of the Year in 1997. "Things happen for a reason, and I'm thankful for my time at Schaumburg."
It was time of five years in which Berggren's Saxons were always competitive in the Mid-Suburban West. Each season, the Saxons improved their record and they won their first regional since 2008 this season.
"I'm thankful to have been given the opportunity to teach and coach at Schaumburg," she said. "I am very proud of both the individual player accomplishments as well as the team success. But more importantly, I enjoyed coming to practice every day, the girls and coaching staff always gave me a reason to smile."
Berggren is in her 15th year conducting her own youth camps called the 'Berggren Hoop Camp.'
"I am interested in igniting a love for basketball for girls at a younger age, starting at age seven," she said.
Berggren now plans to conduct three separate weeks of youth camps (two girls sessions and one coed) in the area, focused on delivering instruction in a fun-filled atmosphere.
More information is available at www.berggrenhoopcamp.org.
Berggren also enjoys another sport. She has played wide receiver and defensive end for the Chicago Force women's professional football team the past three years.
Fittingly, she has been selected to play for the USA women's national football team in the 2013 world championship in Finland.
"When I was eleven years old I wrote a fictional story about a girl who fought the critics to have the opportunity to play for the Chicago Bears," she said. "She made the team and went on to win a Super Bowl championship. Every athlete at some point aspires to represent his or her country, but never in my wildest dreams, did I think it would be in football. I'm just living out my dream."
Berggren is also excited about the future of a nonprofit organization she has begun.
"Six years ago, I wrote a business plan and now, through a series of unexpected events, I'm being given the opportunity to focus my efforts on starting Youth Onbelay (www.youth-onbelay.org)," she said.
The program centers on providing experiential learning and mentorship opportunities for at-risk Chicago youth.
Berggren is an alumnus of Teach For America (TFA), an American nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals to teach for at least two years in low-income communities throughout the United States.
"As a 'Teach for America' alumni, I have experienced first-hand the inequalities in education, having taught on the west side of Chicago and Schaumburg," Berggren said. "My passion lies in providing at-risk youth a myriad of experiential learning opportunities that may help expand the lens from which they see the world."
The motto of Youth Onbelay is "Reaching new heights, one experience at a time."
And Berggren now finds herself ready for new experiences.
"It's interesting how life presents us with opportunities when we least expect it," she said.
Sports Notes trivia
In addition to basketball, what was the other sport that above-mentioned Ashley Berggren played in which she also earned all-state honors?
Barrington senior Maggie Del Vecchio has made a commitment to play lacrosse at Augustana for coach Sara Tisdale.
The 6-foot midfielder will serve as a team captain for Barrington and coach Suzanne Rich this season.
A three-year letter winner, she was the Fillies' Defensive MVP as a junior when she had 14 ground balls, 3 interceptions, 9 caused turnovers and 10 draw controls. She contributed offensively as well, with 11 goals and 8 assists.
Del Vecchio joins a Viking program that completed its first season of intercollegiate competition in 2012 with a 15-3 record and leading the nation in both scoring offense and scoring margin.
Palatine senior Jeremy Velinski, the Mid-Suburban League West Player of the Year, has committed to play soccer for Carthage College.
He was the Pirates' leading scorer (8 goals, 13 assists) earned all-Mid-Suburban league and all-sectional honors while serving as a co-captain.
"Jeremy's long throws were impressive and obvious to anyone we played, but what his presence in the middle really did for us was give us immediate credibility while helping impress our type of game to achieve the results against so many quality opponents in and out of the league," said Pirates coach Willie Filian after last season.
Monmouth senior Mitch Comstock (Hoffman Estates) has been named one of four captains for the Fighting Scots.
Comstock led the team in hitting his freshman year when he started about half the games and had a walk-off single while playing in Arizona.
After breaking his leg as a sophomore, he has played the last two seasons with a rod in his leg.
While struggling at times last season he never gave up and has started this season with a .455 batting average in eight games.
•Knox College junior outfielder Erik Smoy (Hoffman Estates) was named the Midwest Conference Performer of the Week for his efforts against Beloit in a twin bill.
Smoy smacked a 3-run home run in the Prairie Fire's 16-9 win in Game 1. He finished 4-for-5 at the plate with 5 RBI, 3 runs and a stolen base.
Smoy added 3 hits in Game 2, which the Prairie Fire won 6-5 with 4 runs in the bottom of the ninth.
Smoy's big day raised his batting average to .441, which is ninth in the Midwest Conference. He's also tied for fifth among the league leaders with 11 RBIs.
• Former Oakton Community College baseball infielder Ryan Tuntland (Maine West) recently committed to play the 2013 season for the Mankato MoonDogs Baseball Club, a member of the Northwoods League. His sophomore season at Oakton, Tuntland finished the 2012 campaign with a .352 batting average, tallying 10 home runs and 48 RBI.
• Carthage's Kyle Pusateri (Schaumburg) went 3-for-5 with 3 RBI in an 11-3 win at North Central in game two of a doubleheader.
Whitewater scholar athletes
Softball player Amanda Mertes (Elk Grove) is among 39 Wisconsin-Whitewater student athletes who received the Chancellor's Scholar Athlete Award.
Mertes owns a cumulative GPA of 3.697 and is majoring in physical education with a minor in health and adapted physical education. She has been on the dean's list all of her semesters, member of the UW-Whitewater Honors Program, on the WIAC Scholastic Honor Roll in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and an NFCA Scholar-Athlete in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Amanda was named to NFCA Great Lakes First Team All Region in 2012, WIAC 1st Team All-Conference in 2011 and 2012, is second in the UW-Whitewater record book for bases stolen in a season and needs six more stolen bases to break the UW-Whitewater career record.
Illinois Wesleyan sophomore Kenny Wienckowski (St. Viator) was named a College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin Co-Men's Golfer of the Week.
Wienckowski, a native of Schaumburg, was the individual co-champion at Monmouth's Fighting Scot Invitational as he shot rounds of 72 and 69 for a one-under par score of 141.
Miami freshman goaltender Ryan McKay of Palatine tallied 20 saves while helping the team earn its first NCAA Tournament shutout in school history with a 4-0 victory over Minnesota State, 4-0, in the first round of the Midwest Regional.
Minnesota's Megan Bozek of Buffalo Grove was named all-tournament after the Golden Gophers completed a 41-0-0 season and won their fourth NCAA title with a 6-3 win over Boston University.
Ashley Berggren was an all-state power hitting first baseman for Barrington's softball team in 1994 that, at the time, won a school-record 31 games and was ranked No. 1 in the Chicago area.
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