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Friends turned rivals turned teammates: The story of Bradley volleyball’s Quad Cities duo

Carlee Camlin prepares for a set. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics
Maddie Peterson (#7) celebrates a point with teammates. Photo courtesy of Bradley Athletics

Bradley’s volleyball team is a tight-knit group and a scroll through any of their social media accounts will back that claim up. It’s difficult to imagine that anybody on the roster would have a rivalry with one of their teammates. 

However, before their time on the Hilltop, junior setter Carlee Camlin and sophomore libero Maddie Peterson were on opposite sides of the most historic high school rivalry in the state of Illinois. 

Camlin and Peterson both hail from the Quad Cities area, a metropolitan quartet consisting of two cities in Iowa: Davenport and Bettendorf, and two in Illinois: Rock Island and Moline. 

Two QC high schools, the Rock Island Rocks and Moline Maroons, can claim the oldest rivalry in the Land of Lincoln since their football teams first squared off in 1899. The two cities border each other on the southern side of the Mississippi River and both schools boast historic stadiums, gyms and numerous state championships in various sports. 

Whenever the Rocks and Maroons play, one can compare it to the Bears and Packers in football or the Cardinals and Cubs in baseball. Trash talk between the two schools happens year-round – some of it friendly fire and some of it riddled with obscenities – but students at both schools often know quite a few people at the opposite school.

“It was a friendly rivalry,” Camlin said. “My team knew a lot of the girls on her team outside of volleyball.” 

Camlin started playing volleyball in fifth grade for Rock Island High School’s feeder program before taking her talents to Platform Elite, a club team right across the Mississippi in Davenport, Iowa. Peterson began her volleyball career in third grade for the Moline Park Board before switching over to Platform Elite as well. 

The two did not play on the same club team until the 2018-19 season due to differing age levels. Nevertheless, Camlin and Peterson started to become friends during their middle school years through a mutual friend. 

Camlin’s first year playing for Rock Island resulted in a season split with their neighbors from Moline, but once Peterson joined the Maroons’ varsity squad, Rock Island did not manage a win against Moline during the rest of either’s high school career. 

Maddie Peterson goes for a dig in a volleyball match between Rock Island and Moline. Photo courtesy of QC Online

“We crushed the Rocks, let’s put it that way,” Peterson laughed. “It was competitive but Moline always got the [win].”  

While Camlin never tasted victory against her current Braves teammate in high school, the junior mentioned that the motto for all rivalry games held true: the records can be thrown out the window.

“Every game that we played was good,” Peterson said. “I think it’s just because [the stakes of] that rivalry [were] so high, we were just out to get each other.” 

Not only were the matches competitive, but they electrified the decades-old gymnasiums of both schools. 

“The atmosphere was amazing because the community was so close so a lot of people were there,” Camlin said. “It was still a competitive rivalry, but there was friendly banter and obviously since we were across the nets. It’s not like basketball where you’re touching each other. You can’t talk a lot of smack that way.” 

Despite being on opposite sides of the net for a big rivalry, Camlin and Peterson’s friendship never wavered. After all, they had been friends for a few years and played for the same club team during Camlin’s final high school season. The two weren’t ready to leave each other after Camlin’s graduation, though.

Camlin came to Bradley in the fall of 2019 after receiving interest from Bradley and the University of South Florida. The current junior chose familiarity, proximity and camaraderie over the palm trees of Tampa. The relationships between Camlin and her Bradley teammates stood out to Peterson when she was being recruited too. 

“I [was] either in Peoria or I had the option to go down to Florida,” Camlin said. “So I chose to stay closer to home, just for family to come to the games easier, but I really did connect with the team and the girls here way more, so it felt more like home.” 

Did Camlin’s decision affect Peterson’s? According to her, it was a no-brainer. 

“Definitely, I trust Carlee’s judgment; she’s one of my best friends, so it did,” Peterson said. “If Carlee was going into this program, I knew that [it] was going to be a good program. The recruiting process was crazy … coming here and seeing the girls and seeing how much Carlee loved it, it’s got to mean something good.” 

Peterson had sent highlight tapes of herself to Bradley, but the Braves’ coaching staff took notice of the libero from Moline when former Bradley volleyball assistant coach Jon Wong went to a Platform Elite game, primarily to watch Camlin. Peterson’s play caught Wong’s eye and a few months later, Peterson committed to Bradley, which reunited the high school rivals yet former teammates once again. 

“I think it was March of my junior year and I remember Carlee texted me and was like, ‘Maddie, I can’t wait,’” Peterson said. “I remember during elite camp … Carlee and I were giggling over to the side and [Bradley volleyball head coach Carol Price-Torok] was like, ‘You two are going to be trouble.’” 

“When we actually got here, it still felt a little surreal,” Camlin said. “We were teammates before but now we’re at the collegiate level.”

Camlin and Peterson are anything but trouble on the court though, at least on the side of Price-Torok and the Braves.

Camlin has averaged over five assists per set and recorded two double-doubles this year, rebounding well after a season-ending injury in the spring 2021 season. Peterson has played 46 out of Bradley’s 58 sets so far this season. The sophomore picked up 10 digs against Southeast Missouri State on Aug. 28 and provides an energetic presence for the team, even when she’s not on the floor. 

Although the two went to rival high schools on paper, the Rock Island-Moline difference hasn’t stopped Camlin and Peterson from being friends, club teammates or even college teammates. Now that they’re often seen together on and off the court, the Quad Cities duo would not want it any other way.

“We’re seeing each other more every day,” Peterson said. “It’s been awesome. We love it.” 

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