(From left) Max Sellers and Josh Whittenburg pose together at the Beach Nationals in Milwaukee in July. They played in two national volleyball tournaments over the summer. The Edwardsville High freshmen plan on trying out for the boys’ volleyball team in the spring.
The summer of 2016 was pretty memorable for Josh Whittenburg and Max Sellers.
In the span of a month, the Edwardsville residents competed in national volleyball tournaments in Dallas and Milwaukee.
Sellers and Whittenburg, members of the High Performance St. Louis Royal 14U club team, played in the USA Volleyball Boys’ Junior Indoor National Championships in Dallas from June 30-July 3 and the USA Volleyball Junior Beach Tour National Championships in Milwaukee three weeks later.
“It’s an amazing experience,” the 14-year-old Sellers said. “In Dallas, we’ve been waiting for it since the tryouts because if I was going to make (the team), I was going to go to nationals. It was an amazing experience for indoors. For outdoors, me and Josh got really excited and we decided to sign up for it.”
Sellers, a libero, and Whittenburg, an outside hitter, helped the High Performance team finish 17th in the indoor national tournament in Dallas. The squad competed against teams from California, Florida and Wisconsin.
At the outdoor national tournament at Bradford Beach in Milwaukee on July 21-22, the duo helped High Performance place ninth and receive a bronze medal in the silver bracket.
“It was really exciting being able to do that, especially since it was our first year going to the beach volleyball nationals,” the 14-year-old Whittenburg said. “It was our second year going for indoor volleyball.”
Now, they are focusing on making the High Performance St. Louis Royal 15U club team. Tryouts are scheduled in late September.
“That will be amazing,” Sellers said. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”
Sellers and Whittenburg are both freshmen at Edwardsville High School. Sellers works as a manager of the Liberty Middle School boys’ volleyball team and is a member of the EHS marching band. Whittenburg plays for the EHS freshman football team.
Whittenburg said he’s upset summer has come to an end.
“It’s a really slow time right now because there’s no volleyball,” he said.
Sellers said he enjoyed competing in indoor and outdoor volleyball nationals with Whittenburg. The two have been playing together since they were in elementary school.
“We have really good chemistry because we’ve been playing together for a long time,” Sellers said. “We were the only kids from Illinois on the indoor team, so we worked together a lot and we know each other’s weaknesses.”
Sellers and Whittenburg began playing volleyball in a grade school camp run by EHS head volleyball coach Andy Bersett. They played at the YMCA program run by Nate Tingley and the Glen Ed volleyball program run by Brenda and Doug Saye.
When they were 11, the pair made the High Performance Illinois 14U team, formed by Bersett. The two also played with the Liberty Middle School volleyball team.
Also this summer, Whittenburg attended Bersett’s camp and worked with several former EHS players such as Eric Fitterer — who is now playing professionally in Europe — and John Pranger, who played at Quincy University. Sellers attended a USA volleyball camp in Vernon Hills, too.
Sellers said he’s enjoyed volleyball since he started playing it in elementary school.
“It’s an amazing sport,” he said. “It has probably the most teamwork than any other sport because you have to communicate in order to hit every single ball, especially in serve receive where it’s kind of tricky because there are three other people and you don’t know where your position is. That’s why me and Josh work really good together because he’s an outside hitter and I pass to him because I’m a libero. That’s how it’s really good and fun.”
When they were in Dallas, the two shared a hotel with the USA, Australia, Bulgaria and Russia national teams. They also attended a USA-Australia match on July 2 and got autographs from the USA team.
“We’ve already been to nationals in Dallas once, so we already knew what it was going to be like,” Whittenburg said. “It was a little bit of farther distance this time because last year it was in Columbus. We had played against some teams that were at indoor volleyball nationals. But it was really fun to experience other types of styles from different parts of the country because you can determine sometimes where a team is from because they play a little differently than other regions do.”
At the outdoor tournament in Milwaukee, they were trained by Joe Diemeke, director of outdoor volleyball for High Performance. The squad played against teams from Chicago, Ohio, Virginia, Texas and Wisconsin.
Whittenburg said he was happy he got to play volleyball at the beach.
“It was really nice,” he said. “They had really nice sand there, too.”
The duo plans to try out for the EHS volleyball team next spring.
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