Fox girls basketball notes: St. Charles East alum Claussner enjoying life on other side as Geneva coach
As a high school player, Katie Claussner excelled at the point guard position for St. Charles East, helping lead the Saints to a Class 4A regional championship during her senior season in 2014-2015.
Upon graduation, Claussner attended Washington University (St. Louis), where she lettered all 4 seasons for the Bears' women's basketball squad (2015-2019), which compiled an impressive 90-24 record during her collegiate career.
Claussner also excelled in the classroom, earning a Bachelor's degree as a double major in Accounting and Finance, and is currently employed as a Tax Manager at Andersen.
She hasn't lost her love for basketball, either.
After serving as an assistant sophomore girls basketball coach at St. Charles East last season, including a brief stint as sophomore head coach, Claussner traded her orange and black colors for the Royal blue and white of her longtime rival -- Geneva.
Two weeks ago, Claussner wore her new colors during a pregame (Geneva vs. St. Charles East) presentation honoring the memory of Saints' Super Fan, Lloyd Jones, who passed away in 2021 at the age of 87.
"He was a great family friend," Claussner said of Jones.
"That was the first time I ever wore blue in that gym."
Claussner is currently enjoying herself as Geneva's sophomore girls basketball head coach.
"This is my true passion," said Claussner, whose team is 14-4. "I love the game of basketball, and I hope to incite the same love with my team."
Geneva varsity coach Sarah Meadows, who guided the Vikings to back-to-back Class 4A state titles in 2017 and 2018, and whose current team is 21-3, is pleased to have Claussner on her side.
"I absolutely love having Katie as part of our staff," said Meadows. "She brings maturity, and she is a positive role model for our kids to look up to. I have had so much respect for her over the years. She is a special person and we are thrilled to have her."
The feeling is mutual.
"Coach Meadows is just a fantastic person," said Claussner. "I have the utmost respect for her. The opportunity to coach under her has been great.
"I guess if you can't beat them -- join them."
The 5-foot-5 backcourt standout averaged 16.9 points and 4.2 assists per game as a senior, highlighted by a career-high 30-point performance during the Saints' 66-54 regular-season win over Geneva.
"I'm still undefeated in the Mack Olson Gym both as a player and coach," said Claussner. "For some reason, we played our game there that year."
A month later, the Vikings enacted revenge in the sectional finals, beating the Saints, 64-39.
"The hardest part at first was being in the main gym again," she said. "That's where my high school career ended."
"What I remember about her as a player was that she was tough," Meadows said. "She was a winner who worked hard and was positive. I call that a baller."
Claussner has found a new 'home' in Geneva.
"She (Meadows) runs the program completely different from any coach I've been around," said Claussner. "She's such a fun person to be around. She brings out a joy in all her girls and has made me love basketball even more than I already did."
Admittedly, there have been a few 'rookie' mistakes.
"I called a timeout when the other team had the ball," joked Claussner, who played at Washington U. for a pair of head coaches -- Nancy Fahey and Randi Henderson.
"My goal is to be a varsity coach somewhere someday."
North Stars rolling:
Heading into the final week of regular-season action, St. Charles North (21-5) has already surpassed last year's victory total (18).
The North Stars, who defeated Plainfield East (19-4), 70-64, on Monday night, have enjoyed a breakout campaign, thanks in large part to senior guard Alyssa Hughes and junior forward Reagan Sipla.
"I think it started for us in the summer," said North Stars coach Mike Tomczak. "This was the first time in three years that we've been able to do the things we like to do over the summer -- taking team trips and bonding. Doing those extra things that we've always done but have gotten away from that because of COVID.
"We were able to spend some time together outside of basketball. You can see those connections off the floor translate to on the floor."
Hughes, who scored 31 points against Plainfield East, agreed.
"The relationships we've built outside the court definitely help us a lot on the court," she said. "We didn't necessarily play a ton of games (last summer), but we were always doing team bonding things to build those relationships."
Supported by senior Julia Larson and juniors Katrina Stack and Laney Stark, the North Stars have also benefited from an added wrinkle implemented during the summer.
"We've never played defense like this before," said Tomczak. "It's high energy and intensity. The kids have really taken to that style.
"Any time you do something new, you want to have success early so people buy into it in any organization -- sports, business, whatever the case may be. We were fortunate over the summer to have some success, and the kids were excited to get better. They bought in, and we've been able to keep it going."