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Carlee Camlin: Fierce competitor and undisputed leader

Senior Carlee Camlin poses with her family and Head Coach Alicia Williams. Photo by Jenna Zeise.

Senior Night is always tough for a departing college athlete, but last Saturday was particularly emotional for senior volleyball player Carlee Camlin.

As mentioned in the PinkOut video from earlier this season, Camlin’s father passed away from esophageal cancer. With Senior Night being an opportunity for the seniors to celebrate their accomplishments with their family in their last home game of the season, head coach Alicia Williams knew how poignant the night was for the setter.

“Everyone had their parents come and she’s missing one,” Williams said. “That was really difficult for her. She’s just a really strong person to be able to overcome those things.”

In her last-ever game at Renaissance Coliseum, a loss to top-ranked Northern Iowa, Camlin recorded two kills and 31 assists in a quick three-set match. This season, she has broken almost all of her career records, highlighted by a standout 61 assists on Oct. 29 against Missouri State. She currently leads the team with 790 assists this season and is one assist away from totaling 1,800 in her Bradley career. With 104 sets played this season, she is tied for first on the team with fellow senior Serena Sparks.. 

Looking away from the stat sheet, Camlin is a gamer that puts everything on the line to get to a ball. Her ability to set up and lead the team, as well as her competitive drive, are some qualities that have really impressed Williams.

“She’s gotten a lot better at understanding what her teammates need,” Williams said. “As a setter, you’re the facilitator. You’re owning the offense. For her to naturally facilitate with her words is her biggest asset.”

Camlin has grown as a player and a leader in her four years at Bradley, especially with her starting role in 2022. This is by far her best year on the court, even with a few more games to go, and the type of success Camlin is experiencing this season is something she has looked forward to her entire college career.

“It’s been a very fun and different challenge from the past few years,” Camlin said. “It’s something I’ve been working towards [and] I finally have it. I give a lot of credit to the pass[ers] and the hitters. We’re all working together which helps me do my job.”

Before Bradley, Camlin went to Rock Island High School in Rock Island, Ill., where she earned first-team all-conference honors three times. She found the Hilltop through a volleyball phenom camp where she connected with coaches.

Even after all this, Camlin was in discussion with a college in Florida, but ultimately decided to stay closer to home. Playing at the same club and even on the same team as Camlin, junior libero Maddie Peterson knew her before either of them even arrived on campus.

Carlee Camlin prepares for a set. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics

“She is one of those people that makes others she is playing with better,” Peterson said. “Whether it’s through her energy or her intensity, she affects others in a positive way. That is how she impacted the program, through impacting us.”

Impacting the team specifically for the underclassmen is extremely important to cycling leadership through the program. Camlin and the other seniors on the team have led the Braves this entire season with a new head coach.

The transition of a head coach is never easy, especially for the upperclassmen who were under a different coach their entire collegiate career. Williams came to a brand new school that plays at a much higher level than Iowa Western Community College, so Camlin has been the voice of the players to Williams.

“She’s been in my office more than any other player just wanting to pick my brain, give me information about how she’s doing, ask questions about what’s gonna happen,” Williams said.  “She’s the spokesperson for the team.”

Filling that role, especially under a new head coach, is not easy. Even in her final few games as a Brave, Camlin still tries to improve her game to help her team. Peterson mentioned her unmatched energy on the court and how she leads the team in-game. 

Carlee Camlin prepares to serve. Photo by Jenna Zeise

“Carlee is like our quarterback,” Peterson said. “She handles all the play calling [and] is a great setter, but her energy shines on the court. That energy fuels us to get that next point.”

Sitting in ninth place at 9-18 overall and 5-10 in the conference, Bradley is just one game outside of the eight teams that make up the conference tournament They own the tiebreaker over Missouri State, the No. 8 seed in the Valley.

After graduation in the spring, Camlin plans to stay in Peoria and seek a teaching job in the area. With only three guaranteed games in her collegiate career, she encourages the underclassmen to enjoy every moment. 

“Don’t take anything for granted,” Camlin said. “It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day grind of it. In the end, I’m very thankful for the process that I’ve had and it’s shaped me into the person I am now.”

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