Fenwick girls volleyball coach Kathleen O’Laughlin (far left) joined her daughter, senior Shannon O’Laughlin, and her husband, J.J. O’Laughlin, during a ceremony marking her upcoming retirement after 19 seasons before a match against Providence Catholic on Oct. 5. (Carol Dunning/Contributor)

After serving two stints totaling 19 seasons with Fenwick High School as girls volleyball coach – from 2001-07 as an assistant and from 2011-22 as head coach — Kathleen O’Laughlin announced on Sept. 28 she will retire at the end of the season.

“I think it’s the right time because my daughter [Shannon] is exiting the program,” said O’Laughlin after the Friars (10-16) defeated visiting Providence Catholic 25-19, 25-21 Oct. 5. 

“We’ve got some great younger coaches and I think it’s time for them to take over,” she added. “ It’s been a great run, and now it’s time to hang it up and enjoy the fall for once.”

Fenwick has won 13 IHSA regional titles and two sectional titles, in 2003 and 2015, in O’Laughlin’s career. She was an assistant in 2003 under her older sister, Eileen, and led the Friars to a 2015 sectional championship.

O’Laughlin comes from the Shannon family, which has a rich athletic background. Her three brothers played sports at Fenwick — Pat (Class of 1986, basketball), Dan (‘88, football) and Mike (‘98, basketball).

O’Laughlin and her two sisters were stellar athletes at Immaculate Conception (now IC College Prep) in Elmhurst. Older sister Eileen, who’s been one of Kathleen’s assistants and is also retiring, was the Illinois High School Player of the Year in 1988 and is in IC Prep’s Hall of Fame. She went on to play basketball at the University of Nebraska. Her younger sister, Maureen, played volleyball at DePaul University.

Fenwick girls volleyball coach Kathleen O’Laughlin (center) gives instructions to her team during the Friars’ 25-29, 25-21 win over Providence Catholic on Oct. 5. (Carol Dunning/Contributor)

Kathleen spent two seasons (1991-92) playing volleyball at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she met J.J. O’Laughlin, a quarterback on the football team. When J.J. transferred to Cal State-Northridge, Kathleen followed him there. 

The couple have three children, all of whom have graduated or will graduate soon from Fenwick — Casey (Class of 2017, played baseball at Northwestern University), Michael (Class of 2018, currently playing football at West Virginia University) and Shannon, who will graduate this coming spring.

Shannon O’Laughlin said playing for her mother is one of the best experiences she’s had and will always remember. 

“I really wanted to play my hardest for her tonight,” she said. “She’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had and she’s an ever better mom.”

In the victory over the Celtics, Erin East had nine kills, Shannon O’Laughlin five kills and two aces and Lola Tortorello seven assists and an ace for Fenwick.

Even with a home loss Oct. 6 against Whitney Young (17-25, 23-25) on Senior Night, the Friars have won five of their last seven matches after eight consecutive losses. Both Kathleen and Shannon O’Laughlin feel things are on the right track with the IHSA state tournament starting soon.

“We just got healthy in the last couple of weeks,” Kathleen said. “We’re reworking our rotations and lineup and trying to get our timing down. I hope we’ll be sharp by the end of October.”

“We’ve been saying all season that we’re going to be that October team that comes out and surprises everyone at the end,” Shannon said. “Our record doesn’t show we have a team that’s capable and hopefully we’ll get to prove that come the playoffs.”

Fenwick is the second seed in the upcoming IHSA Class 3A Little Village Sectional and a regional host. The Friars wrap up the regular season Oct. 17 at St. Ignatius and at Lake Park on Oct. 22.

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