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MOD Staff: Karen Sonders

Co-Owner, Executive Director

Welcome, MOD athletes and families! I first began my coaching career 19 years ago, and have been fortunate to experience a very exciting journey through the world of sports.  My favorite quote has always been "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care" - I believe, with what we are building together at MOD, I have the opportunity to live out that mantra every day.  With my focus being on development and training, I am able to connect with our athletes and coaches to share my passion. I am so grateful for all of the formative experiences I've shared with teammates, friends, and co-workers through club volleyball, and providing those same opportunities to the next generation of young volleyball players remains one of the main driving factors towards bettering our own club and community. 

I grew up in Crystal Lake, IL where I competed for Sky High volleyball club and Crystal Lake Central High School. I was a three-year varsity starter on a team ranked in the top ten in the state all three years. In my time at Crystal Lake Central, I set a school record for most kills in a season, was an FVC all-conference selection, all-area selection, and Chicago Tribune all-state special mention as a setter and outside hitter. During my club career as a player, I have won the Northern Lights Qualifier in the 16 Open division and placed 2nd in the Northeast Qualifier in the 18 Open. My team finished in 8th in the 18 Open of USA Jr. Nationals her senior season. I went on to accept a full-scholarship to play for Michigan Tech University (1998-2001), where I completed my BS in biomedical engineering. I played both outside and right side hitter, and was named MVP during my sophomore year. A 3-time All-GLIAC selection, I finished my tenure as the school’s season and career leader in digs.

I founded Wildcat Jrs. VBC in 2007, beginning with five teams ages U12-U14. Through it’s continued success, the club grew to twenty seven teams between U11-U18 and became established as a premier club of the North Shore and Chicagoland area. Now MOD, our program continues a strong tradition of developing well-rounded volleyball student athletes who are community-minded. 

I currently reside in North Carolina with my husband Dave and our two young daughters, Quinn and Macie. 


Coaching Experience

  • 2000-2002: Head Varsity Coach at Chassell Township High School in Michigan, Conference Coach of the Year honors
  • 2003-2006: Director of Operations, University of Wisconsin Madison Women's Volleyball staff, 2 NCAA Elite Eight appearances
  • Development Director with Wisconsin Power Volleyball
  • 2003: Club Director at the Fusion Volleyball Academy in Crystal Lake, IL
  • 2006: Asst. Coach at Northwestern University. 
  • 2007: Founded Wildcat Jrs. VBC
  • 2008-2020: Director of Wildcat Jrs. & a slew of additional administrative roles

Notable Achievements

  • The 2012 season marked several firsts for Wildcat Juniors. The club graduated its first class of seniors, sending more than half to play D1 volleyball in college. There were several seniors, juniors, and even a few sophomores who accepted full scholarships to top volleyball programs. And two of our athletes were selected to play on the USA Junior National Team — the only two players selected from Illinois.
  • In 2013, after taking a break to finish a Masters degree in Nursing from DePaul University and having a baby, Karen jumped back into coaching as the head coach of 18 Black. The team finished the Great Lakes Power League with a record of 18-6. At the AAU National Championships, Karen led 18 Black to a 9-3 record, winning the Silver Division and taking 16th place in the 18 Open.
  • In 2014, Karen coached 18 Black to a 5th place finish in the 18 Open at the AAU National Championships in Orlando, FL. The team played a whopping 15 matches in 4 days, with a record of 11-4 including the team's crossover match against Peru in the International Division. Karen also guided the team to a 1st place championship and an 8-0 record at the JVA Midwest Challenge in Des Moines, IA with a huge wins over Nebraska Jrs and Iowa Rockets in the semis and finals.
  • As a Lead Trainer, Karen oversaw the development of the juniors and seniors that made up the club's 18's age group. Karen prepared all ten seniors for their college volleyball careers: six of which were on full scholarships to DI schools, one on full scholarship at a DII university and three will be continuing on to play at DIII universities. In that senior group, Karen also coached 2013 USA National Team player, Taylor Tashima, who was chosen as a 2014 All-American after her performance at AAU Nationals. 
  • Starting in 2015, Karen focused solely on the day-to-day duties of managing and directing the club.  It’s continued growth, has led to an amazing staff of 37 coaches - aka the dream team!  Karen takes great pride in maintaining great relationships with her coaching staff, including continuing professional development and constantly striving for improvement. 
  • Karen implemented the annual community service team event, which put over 250 youth players into our surrounding community in various respects - giving back and growing as young leaders. All the while deepening the team’s bonding and understanding how to work with one another.