Prep Volleyball

Wisconsin All-American maintains love for volleyball in Payson

Payson assistant coach Courtney Thomas warms up players before a game against QND Wednesday, Sep. 13, 2017. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
Jake Shane 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 11, 2017 12:01 am

NORMAL, Ill. -- To steal a line from Ron Burgundy in the 2004 movie "Anchorman," Courtney Kvitle was kind of a big deal when she was going to school at the University of Wisconsin.

She was known as Courtney Thomas during her four-year career with the Badgers, one of the top volleyball programs in the nation. She was a sophomore on the Wisconsin team that lost to Penn State in the NCAA championship game in 2013. She was a setter for her first two years at Wisconsin, but she became an outside hitter for her junior and senior seasons and was a second-team All-American in 2015.

She chose not to pursue a professional volleyball career overseas, and after she married Quincy native Jason Kvitle (a standout basketball player at Quincy High School) in August 2015, she was ready to start their life together.

Getting used to life without volleyball, however, wasn't easy.

"I'm not going to lie. It took a little while for me to acclimate to the area," Kvitle said. "I had just come off a great college career, and it was a huge transition going from being at Wisconsin. My name was known, and when people saw me in Madison, they said, ‘That's Courtney Thomas, the volleyball player.'

"Now I've moved to a new city. I've got a new name, a new job, and no one knows me. It seems conceited, but for any college player, it's hard to transition. I didn't know what to do."

Kvitle started her job as a case manager for Transition in October 2015, but she's found a new role in volleyball as an assistant coach for Payson Seymour, which will play for the Class 1A state championship on Saturday morning against Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg.

Kvitle grew in DeKalb, playing for the Sports Performance Volleyball Club out of Aurora during her high school days and at the NCAA Division I level in college. She wasn't sure she wanted to coach at a school of 150 students in Adams County.

Indians coach Teresa Loos-Tedrow had to use her sales expertise to talk her into coming to Payson.

"Joni Epperson (mother of Payson Seymour player Riley Epperson) called me one day and said, ‘Do you know a player named Courtney Thomas?' And I said, ‘Courtney Thomas from Wisconsin? Are you sure?'' Loos-Tedrow said. "I had an opening, so I decided I'm going to call her.

"I called her and said, ‘I understand you might be interested in coaching,' and she's like, ‘Uh, no. I wouldn't be interested in that all.' So I said, ‘We have a pretty good team for a Class 1A team,' and she's like, ‘No, I still wouldn't be interested.' So then I told her we just had Sports Performance come in and do a camp at Payson, and I'm getting all of my drills from there.

"Then I knew I had her."

Kvitle admits the Sports Performance relationship helped seal the deal.

"For Teresa to have the same philosophy as where I came from is unbelievable," Kvitle said. "For her to be on the same wavelength and for me to find someone who believes what I believe about volleyball at my level is amazing."

Loos-Tedrow says Kvitle doesn't have a specific coaching role on the team.

"If I see something technical, she'll come in from the rah-rah side," she said. "If I come in on the rah-rah side, she comes in with something technical.

"How could I not trust her? It was more of her learning to trust me. I don't have the sparkling resume that she has."

Kvitle said she attended just three days of practice in the fall of 2016 when she told Loos-Tedrow that Payson Seymour had something special.

"We were at Teresa's house watching film, and I looked at her and said, ‘This team is going to win a state championship,'" Kvitle said. "I thought for sure I would be working from the bottom up with some team. I couldn't believe the talent this team has from a small town.

"Teresa just looked at me and said, ‘I know.'"

Kvitle says she coaching in Payson allows her to share the passion and drive she has for the sport.

"It brings tears to my eyes when I watch this team compete at a high level," she said. "Because I wish I could still do it."