Thursday, July 21, 2011

Old school coach uses girl kicker


York's Bruesewitz gets her kicks The right girl for the job helps Dukes earn another playoff berth.(Sports Extra (High School))

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
October 24, 1997 | Bush, Joe
Byline: Joe Bush Daily Herald Sports Writer
If you've got the idea that York coach Gary Grouwinkel is the Man of the Year for letting a girl kick his team's extra points, it's the wrong idea.
Grouwinkel's gruff on the surface, but that's mostly his voice. You should see him with his granddaughter, the one who saves him from further post-game media questions with a tug on his trousers.
He's a soft touch, alright, but his sensitivity doesn't stand a chance when it competes with his responsibility to give the Dukes every chance to win.
Rachel Bruesewitz kicks the club's extra points because no Duke does it better.
"Hell, we wanna win," Grouwinkel says. "I don't care who helps us win. If she's not the best, she's not gonna do it."
Bruesewitz is York's best, and she proved it in a competition with field-goal kicker Jim Callahan. The pair traded chances during the season's first two weeks, and Bruesewitz was more consistent.
"The kids have a lot of confidence in her," Grouwinkel says. "It's worked out very well."
Believed to be the first girl in DuPage County to score points in a varsity football game, Bruesewitz has nailed 14 of 16 attempts for the 7-1 Dukes. That includes all 4 of her tries in the Dukes' closest game, a 34-32 win over Glenbard West two weeks ago.
She's performed like a veteran, but not a football veteran. An athletic veteran.
"I knew nothing about (football)," Bruesewitz says. "Nothing at all. I never knew what the game was about. Didn't know any of the rules, any of the calls.
"Now I'm like into it. Now I like watching it. I love it."
All Bruesewitz had to know was that one team wins and one loses. Tell her how she can help her team win, and turn her loose.
The past two years, the 5-foot-8, 130-pound junior played volleyball, basketball and soccer. Especially soccer. She earned all-sectional status last season as a sweeper, an anonymous position which may be a team's most important.
"I'm the last defender," Bruesewitz says. "I'm the one that's slide-tackling everybody."
If Grouwinkel and Bruesewitz -who says she became disinterested with volleyball - have anything to do with it, that's the only tackling she'll ever do.
Though Grouwinkel sought out girls soccer coach Amy Lorentsen last spring to ask if she had any place-kicking prospects, he says he'd never allow a girl to be anything but a placekicker.
"The Supreme Court judge could tell me to play her and I wouldn't put her on the field," Grouwinkel says. "I don't wanna take a chance on anyone getting hurt."
He's not denying Bruesewitz of any dream. She may dig sending girls soccer players flying, but she's more than happy to follow the instructions given her in the event of a bad PAT snap.
"Run away," she says brightly. "Like last week."
In the Dukes' 27-7 win over Hinsdale Central last Friday, the snap went awry and Bruesewitz sprinted to the sidelines.
"She just got out of the road," Grouwinkel says.
"I was so scared," Bruesewitz says with a laugh. "All the guys were making fun of me."
Grouwinkel needed a placekicker after Kevin O'Shea - who filled that role in 1996 - decided after last season to return to soccer this fall. Grouwinkel hadn't groomed anyone for the job so after Lorentsen agreed to help, he gave her a tee and some footballs.
Though a few of Lorentsen's charges expressed interest and had strong enough legs, Lorentsen figured Bruesewitz would be the one most likely to ...
"I felt she would be the most likely to rise to the challenge," Lorentsen says. "She's not afraid to do the untypical thing."
Anyway, being the only girl on a boys team was old hat for Bruesewitz. From age five to seventh grade she played on boys soccer teams, including a traveling squad.
With safety her biggest concern, Bruesewitz mulled the decision with her parents and Lorentsen, finally deciding to join the team in the summer.
"Oh, it was a big deal," Bruesewitz says. "It was interesting. It wasn't the whole boy factor, it was 'Wow, I'm gonna play football.' "
The ball was strange, the helmet was more strange, the pads were strangest. While some girls would rather wear last week's fashion than be seen in a clunky football uniform, Bruesewitz thinks the extra gear will improve her soccer playing.
"When you wear the girdle and the leg pads, you're restricted in the way you move," she says. "I'm sure my leg's gotten so much stronger. I know for a fact it has."
Bruesewitz overcame any technical difficulties through repetition, just like any other football player, or athlete, for that matter.
After the daily session with the extra-point crew, Bruesewitz and holder (and standout quarterback) Vince Lucca go off by themselves for at least 30 more kicks.
"When I first came out my steps were all wrong, and (the coaches) corrected that for me," Bruesewitz says. "Vince helps me a lot. He can tell if I'm not pointing my toe or if I'm not following through. Usually I can recognize it."
Of course Lucca is not just being a nice guy, either. The playoffs are at hand, and the seniors suffered through a first-round playoff loss last year mostly because he had been injured in Week 8.
The Dukes have everything a team needs to do some damage in November, the cold month when a game can be decided by a point. Maybe one of Bruesewitz's points.
Lorentsen knows Bruesewitz has the nerves for the job. Remember, she's the last defender on the soccer field.
"She's the type who can hold the game together," Lorentsen says. "You see her best performances in our biggest games."
So far, so good. Bruesewitz hasn't encountered any negativity - from Callahan, from the Dukes, from opponents, from anyone.
She says she's been impressed with the leadership she's seen from her new teammates. It's an example she hopes to tap into next spring.
After next spring? Bruesewitz says she'd like to be back placekicking. This adventure wasn't just for kicks.
"I'm out here because I love to play and I love to kick," she says. "It's helping me along with everything that I do. My whole vision on everything is just a lot different than it was. It expanded my horizons on a lot of things."
Lucca has the last words on a situation which many probably snickered at in August.
"She's part of the team."

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