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Thu. November 5, 2009 | Keith Niebuhr

Lakewood volleyball standout Berkley Whaley is only a sophomore, but when it comes to picking a college one school already has jumped out in front.

Florida.

“I love everything about them,” Whaley said.

That’s certainly understandable.

The Gators have, without question, had the top program in the South for the past two decades. Entering the 2009 season, Florida had won an NCAA Division-I record 18 consecutive Southeastern Conference titles.

The Gators offered the 6-foot-1 Whaley, an outside hitter, when she was a ninth-grader.

In Lakewood’s dramatic five-set win at Steinbrenner in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs Wednesday, Whaley produced 43 kills and had several clutch digs and spikes down the stretch.

Afterward, Steinbrenner coach Staci Elias noted there were at least three college coaches in the stands, “and I don’t think they were here for us.”

--KEITH NIEBUHR (kniebuhr@sptimes.com)

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