TENNIS

Jim Hunstein led the LCCC in the national standings in his previous tenure

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GODFREY — Jim Hunstein is back at the LCCC, where he’s developed a nationally ranked volleyball program.

And he wants to start all over again.

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Hunstein was hired this week to lead Lewis and Clark Community College’s volleyball program, as well as the men’s and women’s tennis programs, following the departure last month of Bron Wilkerson.

“I didn’t know it was open, but I got a call asking if I would be interested,” Hunstein said. “I loved my time (at LCCC) before. It’s a lot of work with three sports, but I’ve always been a believer in the idea of ​​college education and what we can do for students- athletes.”

Hunstein’s first stint at the LCCC was from 2012 to 2015, when he held the same position he just signed for.

The LCCC volleyball team went 6-16 last season.

“I’ve only been officially at work for about 24 hours,” he said, “but I got a chance to meet the team and we had some practice on the court. The recruiting part of volleyball- ball for this season is already done, of course. I’ll be digging through the tennis records to see what we have and what we’ll give when we come back in the spring. One thing about spring sports is to wait and see who is still registered and who introduces himself.”

Wilkerson resigned at the end of June in order to spend more time with his family and his business.

When Hunstein previously coached volleyball at the LCCC, he led the program to 23 wins in its final season, when the Trailblazers were ranked 17th in the nation at the start of the season. He also coached the LCCC women’s tennis team in the NJCAA tournament in each of his three seasons with the school.

While at the LCCC, Hunstein also ran the former USTA Futures tournament held each summer at the school. This tournament is no longer taking place.

Hunstein’s trip back to LCCC involved a few stops, including training at Blackburn College, the now-closed Lindenwood University Belleville campus, then Illinois College, Saint Louis Community College, and as a recruiter. for a national volleyball scouting service.

Lindenwood-Belleville dropped out of the sport in 2019.

“They ditched volleyball and they ditched me,” he said.

Illinois College then hired Hunstein to create a men’s volleyball team. But the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Part of the effect of the pandemic closure of college campuses was that recruitment was nearly non-existent. Coaches could not contact players directly, and they were unable to arrange campus visits. Eventually, IC suspended plans to launch men’s volleyball.

From there, Hunstein spent time as an assistant volleyball coach at Saint Louis Community College under Geoff Davis, who was hired earlier this week as a volleyball coach at Principia College.

Hunstein has already started shaping his LCCC volleyball team.

“There’s a ton of potential,” he said. “We had some training on the pitch and we did team building activities. This team has a lot of heart, I can already tell that.”

Since Wilkerson’s departure, various people have stepped in to help organize pre-season training, which began on August 1.

“A group of people stepped up to help,” Hunstein said. “Brady Trask was the interim assistant coach and will likely remain on the assist. Additionally, Lori Artis (LCCC Administrative Vice President) also stepped in to assist.”

Artis is a former college and prep volleyball player.

Hunstein, the biggest challenge is finding the right team chemistry.

“Getting the players to play together as a team,” he said. “I didn’t recruit them and they don’t know me either, so we’ll take it step by step.”

One of the keys to his previous success at the LCCC, Hunstein said, was developing a relationship with area high school and club volleyball teams, players and coaches and hosting high-level camps. level and a high school summer league.

“We held open gymnasiums for volleyball,” he said.

When open gyms started, numbers were low, Hunstein said, but they increased dramatically so that by the time he left the LCCC, large numbers of players were packed into the River Bend Arena for volleyball- ball.

“Being involved in the community has always been important to me,” he said, “and I think the athletic department leadership here feels that.”

Hunstein said that while his recruiting work for the 2022-23 volleyball season is taken care of, he will remain busy on that front for next season.

“I believe that you always try to recruit yourself every year,” he said. “That is, you always want to get a better recruiting class than the previous one.”

Hunstein said on the field, his previous teams found themselves in regular contact with two of the top teams in the country, Parkland and Lincoln Land.

“They were No. 1 and No. 2 in the country,” he said. “The year we were ranked 17th in the nation, we played Parkland and Lincoln Land the next two weeks. We dropped out of the ballot after that.

“The pecking order has changed a bit since then,” he said, “but Parkland is still one of the best and they have the same coach as when I was here before. Other than that, all the coaches of region 24 are different.

“I think we have a good group of players who want to work and compete,” Hunstein said.

The Trailblazers begin their regular season on August 24 when they host Kaskaskia and Saint Louis Community College. From then on, they will play their next 10 on the road before returning home on September 21 to face Lincoln Land.

The LCCC has only six home dates this season.

As a tennis coach, Hunstein led the Trailblazers’ women’s team to the NJCAA National Tournament in each of the three seasons he coached them. He is now the coach of the women’s and men’s teams.

“If you’re on the other side of the net from someone else,” he said, “it’s largely the same whether it’s volleyball or tennis. The keys are the same: ball control, pitch management and figuring out your opponent’s play and adapting to it.”

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