MALTA — The emotions were hard for Jackee Ohlinger to hold back Tuesday evening, when the Flagg-Rochelle Community Park District executive director was honored as the newest member of the Kishwaukee College Athletic Hall of Fame for her achievements with the Kougars.
Many familiar faces helped celebrate Ohlinger’s special moment including her former volleyball coach and athletic director Jodi Lord, who introduced Ohlinger to the home crowd during the induction ceremony Tuesday evening. Ohlinger played volleyball for three years at Kishwaukee College, helping lead the Kougars to a 40-10 record in 1993 and finishing her career as a two-time All-Arrowhead Conference and two-time All-Region IV selection at middle blocker.
“It was quite a surprise,” Ohlinger said. “It was emotional and it brought back a lot of great memories. I feel like Kishwaukee College was a great decision I made as a teenager and the school provided me with a lot of opportunities I’m thankful for. Being on the court and seeing my family and friends supporting me, and having Jodi there to introduce me was very special.”
Ohlinger took home Arrowhead Conference MVP honors in 1994, and she remains on the Kishwaukee College all-time season and career records list in kills, blocks, aces and hitting percentage. She returned to coach the Kougars after graduating, coaching from 1998-2001 and assisting the team to its fifth-place finish at the NJCAA National Championship in 2000.
“Kishwaukee College was my home away from home,” Ohlinger said. “It wasn’t very far from Mendota, which was where I was from, and I was able to be a part of a small campus, which was important to me… I thought Kishwaukee College provided a great opportunity for me.”
Ohlinger was on the staff that guided Kishwaukee College to its first-ever NJCAA title in women’s volleyball during the 2001 season. After completing her education at Kishwaukee College, Ohlinger studied at Northern Illinois University and started coaching volleyball at Rochelle Township High School, where she met Wayne King, the man Ohlinger said was most influential in motivating her to continue coaching.
“We had several summer camps and programs we participated in when I was in college,” Ohlinger said. “When I coached at RTHS and met Wayne, he introduced me to club volleyball, which was a whole new world for me, and I fell in love with the sport all over again. We coached at Kishwaukee College together and built the program up to be very successful. I’ve been involved in club volleyball ever since.”
Ohlinger has been involved with several volleyball clubs since her Kishwaukee College days including Sky High and Club Fusion. She currently leads the Rochelle Juniors, a volleyball program run through the park district that provides both fundamental camps and club volleyball experiences for local youth players.
“I think I’ve learned something new every year,” Ohlinger said. “I’ve learned from both coaches and players. I’ve tried to take what I see and learn from other people and incorporate those experiences into the programs we have… The wins and losses at Kishwaukee College are remembered, but it’s the bonding with teammates that’s most memorable, and those relationships can last a lifetime.”