Baranek: Heady times for Marist alums Colleen Biebel, Lauren Niemiera
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org July 6, 2014 8:24PM
Marist graduate and first-year RedHawks softball coach Colleen Biebel (middle) talks with athletic director Bob Lim (left) and sophomore coach Claire Badke during their softball summer camp at the school. | Tony Baranek/Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 13, 2014 3:56PM
Catching up with former Marist ace pitcher Colleen Biebel isn’t easy.
She was a pretty fast mover during a visit last week to her first summer softball camp as the first-year coach of the RedHawks.
Biebel went from one station to another, working with outfielders, teaching batting techniques and instructing pitchers from first-graders through incoming freshmen. With Biebel patrolling the grounds, no kid went unnoticed.
Denise Bromberek would have been pleased. Her protege has hit the ground running.
“I’m very excited,” Biebel said. “Denise has been a great mentor. She built a great program over here. I’m looking forward to continuing a great tradition.”
Bromberek resigned after 12 seasons as Marist’s only varsity coach with a 336-116 career record. During that time Marist won 10 regional and two sectional titles, one supersectional and the 2012 Class 4A state title.
Biebel pitched for Bromberek from 2004 through ’07, twice winning conference player of the year honors and getting four All-Area nods from the SouthtownStar. She was an outfielder at Western Illinois, where she earned several accolades.
“After I graduated from Western I knew I wanted to get back into coaching,” Biebel said. “Denise called me that summer and asked if I wanted to be on her staff. I was excited to come on board at Marist where I was an alum.”
Biebel has gained plenty of coaching experience since then, working with the Palos Rippit program and the Beverly Bandits.
Marist athletic director Bob Lim said it wasn’t difficult choosing her for more reasons than her resume.
“When I started here Colleen was a senior,” Lim said. “She pitched a no-hitter on Senior Day against Bishop Mac. I’ve always remembered that. When the job came open and she applied, that’s all I could really think of was how great a player she was and how great a kid she was.
“We had good candidates. It wasn’t a done deal. We always say, ‘Let’s go through the process and the cream will rise to the top.’ And it did.”
Another Marist grad doing well is Lauren Niemiera, who’s the media and communications coordinator for the WNBA’s Sky.
Niemiera capped an illustrious career as a basketball player at Marist by leading the RedHawks to state. They finished fourth in Class 4A, and Niemiera was named the SouthtownStar 2007-08 Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Niemiera was a four-year letter-winner at Bradley. In 2011 she was named the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts Intern of the Year after a golf outing she established raised $10,000 for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Niemiera started as an intern with the Sky in 2011, and for three years performed a variety of tasks from working in the youth basketball department, putting on clinics in the communities to community relations.
It wasn’t playing, but she was in her element.
“Growing up I dreamed of being a professional basketball player,” Niemiera said. “What I never realized is that there are so many ways to achieve your dreams. Physically, I reached my plateau playing Division I college basketball. After college, I’ve been able to use my basketball IQ and sports communication degree to enter the professional basketball world in a different role.”
She jumped when a full-time position was offered to her in 2013.
“Oh, yes. I’m very happy,” Niemiera said. “It’s not by any means a forced effort. They ask me to go to practice. I talk basketball with the coach. I still eat, drink and sleep basketball and am fortunate enough to work with a great organization. There is nothing more rewarding than waking up eager to go to work every day because you have an endless passion for your job.”