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Whalen, Illini Elite win national title

PERU — The Illini Elite regional volleyball team recently won a national title in Orlando, Fla. One of the team members was St. Bede junior Samantha Whalen.

Whalen is a libero for the Illini Elite, which is comprised of talented volleyball players from southern and central Illinois based out of Bloomington. They competed in a national tournament with nearly 125 other club teams winning a national championship in their age division.

“There were 15 classes and our team won our division,” Whalen said.

The team is now nationally ranked which will determine where the girls will play in next year’s tournament, Whalen added. The Illini are now ranked 57th in the field.

Whalen made the Elite team at tryouts.

“I am so blessed that I got this opportunity. The (other) girls that I have met I know that we’re going to be friends. We all share the same love of the game. And, we all have a drive for working. There’s no words to describe a win because you are on the court and you are not (thinking) about anything but the game and you see that your team got that 25 points first…you know you did a good job.”

Whalen will return to her role defensive specialist for the Lady Bruins this fall along side senior libero Morgan King.

Volleyball is a year-round sport for Whalen as she plays for St. Bede from the mid-summer through the fall and then joins her club for a season that begins in January and runs through December. Whalen hopes to one day play volleyball in college.

“Sam is also an honors student at St. Bede. She’s an excellent student/athlete and a joyful personality with her peers and teachers,” SBA coach Dawn Williams said.

The prep season starts up Aug. 14 for the first day of practice for the Lady Bruins.

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