Josh Whitman's open letter: 'This has been a journey none of us will soon forget'

Josh Whitman's open letter: 'This has been a journey none of us will soon forget'

Dear Friends and Fighting Illini Family:

I write this letter from 30,000 feet, en route Tuesday night with our volleyball team to Minneapolis for the NCAA Final Four. In the darkened cabin, surrounded by our players, our coaches, our staff and other members of our Illini Volleyball family, I am struck by the road this team has traveled and excited about the final steps that remain on their journey.

In my career, few things have been more rewarding than watching the growth and development of this program. Watching a team fight through the adversity of losing a beloved leader. Watching players rally around each other, stand together and rise stronger than ever, galvanized by their care for each other and their dream of doing something never before accomplished. Watching a first-time head coach progress from the very first team meeting to earn, through his vision, leadership and humility, the respect, trust and affection of a veteran squad. Watching the assembly of a remarkably talented and dedicated collection of coaches and support staffers who have moved quickly from simple colleagues to a caring family. And watching this new family, players and staff together, emerge from the embers of what existed before, more connected, committed and competitive than perhaps any program I have had the pleasure of seeing. Their journey may remain unfinished, but their success was cemented long ago.

Along the way, this Illini volleyball family has ignited a fire in the hearts of our fans, the likes of which we have not seen in some time. This team has captured our imaginations and lifted our spirits. And the Illini Nation has responded with enthusiasm, as evidenced by the run of capacity crowds in the friendly confines of Huff Hall and the energy we feel around this team. For that, all of us offer our sincerest appreciation.

Obviously, I know not how this journey will end. A national championship is within reach, and we are traveling to Minneapolis with every intention of bringing home the hardware. But I do know this: win or lose, this team is a champion. And it has been a privilege, for me and for all of us, to share in their success. This has been a journey none of us will soon forget.

Let's go finish it!

Josh Whitman