DECATUR (WCIA) — St. Teresa junior Valerie Nutakor has always believed in signs.
“I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t really play at the best of my abilities right now,'” says Nutakor. “Is this some kind of sign that I shouldn’t be playing volleyball?”
While playing basketball and club volleyball at the same time, Nutakor developed compartment syndrome her freshman year. It’s a rare condition, that affected blood flow to her legs.
“It’s just brutal. You can’t really jump, sometimes it’s even hard to walk because the pain is just so bad,” says Nutakor. “Having that injury kind of made me scared for what my future could look like.”
But there were plenty of other signs that kept her playing volleyball. After taking the summer off to do physical therapy, Nutakor was able to bounce back her sophomore year, helping the Bulldogs to their first State Championship.
“That’s what even solidified it even more, that I wanted to play college volleyball,” says Nutakor.
“The drive kicked in where she wanted to be great,” says head coach Brad Dalton. “She was always a great hitter and a great blocker, but you could just see it in practice that she wanted to be a great all-around player.”
This season, Nutakor led St. Teresa to an undefeated conference record with a 48.6 hitting percentage. With only 36 errors, more than half of her swings were kills. She had interest from multiple Division I schools, but knew she wanted to go to an Ivy League school all along.
“I had to realize, ‘What are my beliefs, what are my values as a person?’ I put that first, and that’s when I was like, ‘I want good academics,'” says Nutakor.
After a trip to Princeton last fall, she committed in December. The Tigers have won four of the last five conference titles, an important part of her decision. But the junior also has sights set on a purposeful career off the court.
“My dad’s an emergency room doctor, and my mom is a labor and delivery nurse,” says Nutakor. “There was aspects of their job that I liked so much. I still love math so much that I want to major in math, but still go down a pre-med track when I get to Princeton.”
But the WCIA 3 Player of the Year still has more to achieve heading into her senior year, including what she hopes is another trip to the State Title Game.
PAST WCIA 3 VOLLEYBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR WINNERS:
2020(21): Valerie Nutakor, St. Teresa
2019: Allie Trame, St. Thomas More
2018: Allie Trame, St. Thomas More
2017: Mica Allison, St. Thomas More
2016: Kylie Michael, St. Joseph-Ogden
2015: Dana Westfield, Central
2014: Taylor Bauer, Watseka
2013: Marie Less, St. Teresa