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Bettendorf's Alli Whitaker kicks the ball in front of Assumption's Molly Gervase during a game in May. Whitaker committed to play at Northern Illinois University on Thursday.

Alli Whitaker has developed into a versatile player for the Bettendorf Bulldogs in her first three seasons.

When the Bulldogs need to shore up their defense, Whitaker is there. When Bettendorf needs an offensive spark, Whitaker is there.

"I think an open mind really helps with versatility," Whitaker said. "Soccer is a unique game. You have to be able to defend and be an offensive player. You've got to be able to attack because you want to score goals. So I think with my open mind and being willing to step into any position has really helped me be the player I am."

Whitaker will take that versatility to the next level, committing to play at Northern Illinois University on Thursday.

"She has such good vision on the field, and she’s so strong and her touch is amazing," Bettendorf head coach Todd Hornaday said. "She’s hugely creative on the ball, but I think any coach would quickly realize that she’s just fantastic at winning balls out of the air. Her timing is just so good, her vision is fantastic. She’ll be a huge asset."

Whitaker started playing soccer at the age of 3 and has played with the Olympic Development Program. She tore her ACL prior to her freshman year but still made an impact once the soccer season came, scoring two goals and adding an assist her first year.

Fully healthy, Whitaker has continued to grow, scoring six goals her sophomore year and four her junior year.

In three seasons, Whitaker has scored 12 goals and added eight assists as well as being named an all-stater by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association the last two seasons.

"I think as a role model for anybody that gets hurt, especially their first or second year in high school, not only can you come back but you can contribute and be a leader," Hornaday said. "If your goals are there and you work hard enough, you can get them."

Whitaker had offers from North Dakota State and Western Michigan as well as interest from other schools, but the Huskies left an impact.

"I really liked how it felt like a family," Whitaker said. "The coaches were super welcoming, the players were welcoming. It just felt like I was going to be part of something special if I joined the team."

The Huskies went 8-10-1 last year and finished fourth in the MAC West but have a new head coach in Julie Colhoff.

Getting a chance to be a part of Colhoff's first recruiting class is an opportunity Whitaker is excited about.

"I'm starting her look at the program, what she wants," Whitaker said. "I kind of feel honored to be picked for the beginning of her team. I guess I'm what she's looking for."

Whitaker said she expects to be mainly used as a center back for the Huskies and is ready to continue to hone her skills in her senior year.

"It's one of my favorite positions," she said. "Everyone loves to go score goals, but you have to have the people to stop goals. It's a good role for a leader because you direct in the back, and I think with my vocal ability, it suits me well."

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Sports reporter for the Quad-City Times