DOWNERS GROVE – When Downers Grove South setter Addy Karmik verbally committed to Wisconsin-Green Bay last December, she did so because it felt like home.
“I really love the environment of the team,” Karmik said. “The girls there talk about growth mindset and being comfortable making mistakes, like pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.
“That was something that really attracted me. And the campus feels really homey, so I feel like I’m still in Downers Grove.”
It’s fitting that Karmik is going to a program where she feels at home, considering she has made her teammates feel comfortable playing for the Mustangs. The 5-foot-9 senior is a four-year varsity player and three-year captain, having been chosen unanimously by her peers as the team leader.
“The girls look up to her drive and commitment to the game,” Downers South coach Kristee Conrad said. “She’s someone who is easy to talk to when things are going on, on or off the court.”
Karmik’s leadership skills have never been more vital than they are this season. While the Mustangs (8-5) have two other returning veterans in senior middle blocker Rose Dumford and junior libero Holly Kaczmarek, their roster is dotted with six sophomores and several starters are varsity rookies.
“They look for Addy to maintain that calm and get them into where they need to go," ”Conrad said. “She can really do everything and she understands the game inside and out and she understands her teammates inside and out.”
Indeed, Karmik has a good handle on what each of her teammates can do and excels at making them better. Senior middle Jess Juerke had one of her best games Thursday when she racked up five kills and five blocks in a 25-20, 25-16 victory over Metea Valley.
“[Karmik] brings a lot leadership,” Juerke said. “I’ve always looked up to her since freshman year.
“I think she’s a really good leader and role model. She brings good qualities to the team like getting us together and getting us hyped and pumped.”
Beyond the physical aspects of the game, Karmik enjoys exhorting the other girls.
“I really like to push my other teammates,” Karmik said. “I think I’m really good at knowing what I can push them with and what I need to coddle them through.
“Especially with the help of the [other] girls, I can be like, ‘I know you can do this,’ so I can encourage them while also pushing them out of their comfort zone a little bit.”
Karmik practices what she preaches. While she has always been a setter, she actually played right side hitter for her first two seasons and didn’t take over the setting chores until she was a junior.
“[The switch] was tough at first because I really enjoyed hitting and I wasn’t super comfortable setting, but I think after my sophomore club season I was like, ‘OK, I can really do this,’” Karmik said. “So that pushed me forward a lot more and I think our past coach, Trisha Kurth, and our current coach, Conrad, helped push me every single day. It makes it easier to lead the team.”
Karmik made it look easy against Metea (9-7) by dishing 22 assists to five different hitters. Junior Alyssa Jones and sophomore Kayden Dempsey each had six kills, while Dumford added four and junior Lily Ross had three as the Mustangs continued a solid start.
“When we’re not doing our best, she brings us together on the court,” Juerke said. “We talk things through and she includes everyone.”
That has been crucial for such a young team.
“I was a bit nervous at the beginning of the season just because everyone was so young in regards to varsity [experience],” Karmik said. “But I think us seniors and the people who have had experience on varsity have been super good to the girls, just having a good sisterly relationship.
“We’re kind of throwing them out of the nest but [having] them knowing that we’re at the bottom to help catch them.”