In a sports culture where young athletes often specialize in one sport, Mary Clare “MC” Brusek is an outlier.
A basketball and volleyball player in her three years at Marist, Brusek grew up as a multi-sport athlete.
But, when the pandemic forced the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) to rearrange its normal seasonal sport calendar, Brusek took that multi-sport status to another level in her junior year.
Brusek went out for the golf team in fall 2020 and then played basketball, volleyball and lacrosse in back-to-back-to-back seasons in winter and spring 2021.
For Brusek, the chance to be a true four-sport athlete was too much to pass up.
“I love being on a team. That team atmosphere is indescribable,” Brusek said. “It was super-special to play four sports, especially because with golf I have a connection with my grandpa. He’d text me after a match, tell me I was the only kid doing this, the only kid playing four sports.”
Brusek, an Evergreen Park resident and Queen of Martyrs Elementary School graduate, has been on the varsity basketball team since she was a freshman and on the varsity volleyball team since she was a sophomore.
Volleyball is normally a fall sport but was moved to the spring during the 2020-21 academic/athletic year, opening up Brusek’s fall schedule.
First, she went out for golf.
“I’ve known most of the girls, and I played golf with Devin Guest in grammar school,” Brusek said. “We won the Gold Ball championship at Martyrs, so I wanted to take a trip back to that. The girls were super-fun and welcoming. We had a blast and made the most of it. That’s all you could do.”
After a fun fall golf season, Brusek readied herself for a unique remainder of the year with basketball and volleyball both pushed back to condensed seasons in the late winter and into spring.
It was during those winter and spring months that she started seriously thinking about potentially adding a fourth sport to her resume.
Brusek had some encouragement from a classmate and future teammate in Maddie Drebing, the standout goalie on the lacrosse team and a Duke University recruit.
“Maddie was in my physics class, and we’d always talk about lacrosse. I always wanted to play since my freshman year, but I was playing club volleyball,” Brusek said. “[Coach Jose Colon] got word of this and reached out. I started working out with him at workouts, and soon enough, I jumped right on the field after volleyball to lacrosse.”
However, she first had to convince her parents, Sean and Megan. Their first instinct was to nix the idea.
“We were a little bit apprehensive just because of the wear and tear on her body without any rest,” Sean Brusek said. “Once she started lacrosse though, she absolutely loved it. To see her out there competing with all these great athletes, it was pretty amazing. We were incredibly proud of her.”
Although MC had previous experience playing golf, lacrosse was an entirely new sport for her.
New sport or not, she took to lacrosse quickly.
“I liked the contact. It was new, so there was no pressure,” Brusek said. “Everyone helped me along the way. I was able to let loose and play rough.”
Brusek earned her way into the lineup early in the season as a defender and played consistently throughout the spring for the RedHawks.
Brusek’s basketball teammate and fellow Martyrs grad, Le’Lani Harris, also went out for the lacrosse team.
Looking to grow the sport, Colon was pleased to have Brusek join the team.
“MC is such a good athlete and competitor, we just needed to work on her stick skills, which were average by the end of the year,” Colon said. “She is a very coachable player and open minded, so it made things easier in teaching her the game. If she had started earlier, she could play in college at a high level.”
Heading into her senior season, Brusek is figuring out where to continue her academic-athletic career and in what sport.
She’s got plenty to decide in the coming months, but for now, Brusek is looking forward to her senior seasons, especially with volleyball just around the corner.
“I’m super-excited to get back into the swing of things with the team,” Brusek said. “As soon as junior year ended, I felt like I had to step up as a senior. I have a completely different mindset as a leader on the court.”
And while the schedule won’t allow for a four-sport senior year, she’ll always have her uniquely busy junior season to remember.
“I was at basketball camp, and [Coach Mary Pat Connolly] introduced me as a basketball and volleyball player,” Brusek said. “My teammates said “No! She plays lacrosse and golf, too!’ That cracked me up.”