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Academy of Notre Dame libero Maddie Donaphon is Main Line Girls Athlete of the Week
By Bruce Adams - October 1, 2018
The junior libero was a defensive standout as the Irish went 12-0 at the recent Spiketacular VB Tournament Championship in Marlton, N.J., recording 83 digs, excelling on serve receive, and passing on target to the Notre Dame setters. According to ND head coach Mike Sheridan, she is one of the team’s best spot servers and the most reliable short server on the team. “The keys to her success are her high volleyball IQ which allows her to anticipate plays and attacks; her relentless and fearless style of play; and her being the consummate teammate, always encouraging and supportive to all,” said Sheridan. “The energy and spirit she brings to each and every match and practice is infectious to her teammates, lifting up their level of play.” Off the court, Donaphon participates in Mathletes, Science Club, Ski Club, Meals for Many, Student Council, Student Ambassador, I Can Shine, and National Honors Society.
Q: Can you tell us a little about how you anticipate plays – a couple of the keys that you look for?
A: I believe I anticipate plays by looking at the hitter’s shoulder and tendencies. Even before the game starts, I watch the hitters on the other team to find their tendencies during warm ups. More often than not, they will carry over to the game. In addition, when digging up a hard driven ball, I find it helpful to line my feet up with the hitter’s feet because in that line, the hitter is able to hit the hardest.
Q: What originally attracted you to the libero position? What do you think are the most important attributes of a libero?
A: My original position was not the libero position, it was the setter position. As I grew older, I realized that the back row was the best place for a player that is only 5’1”. I have always been a defensive minded player when I played other sports such as basketball, soccer, and lacrosse, so in that regard, playing a position called “defensive specialist” is the perfect place for me to be. I think the most important attributes of a libero is to lead the defense through communication, energy, and encouragement on and off the court.
Q: Coach Sheridan mentioned that your stellar passing on target to the setters allowed your team’s offense to continually run in system. What has been the biggest key to your pinpoint passing?
A: The biggest key to pinpoint passing is to be focused mentally.
Q: What do you think is the strongest part of your game? What part of your game are you currently working on the most currently?
A: I think the strongest part of my game is my defense. It is the best feeling in the world to dig a hitter’s hard-driven hit. Preventing an opponent from winning a point after they had a hard hit can really swing the momentum in a match. I enjoy running all over the gym to make sure the ball does not hit the ground. I am currently working on my serve receive passing to make it more consistently accurate.
Q: Coach Sheridan mentioned that you are one of the team’s best spot servers. What do you think has been the biggest key to your success in this area?
A: I think the biggest key to my success in spot servers is trusting in my ability and believing in myself.
Q: Who have been your top volleyball mentors, and what was the most important thing you learned from each of them?
A: Every coach has had some impact on my volleyball career, specifically Mike Sheridan, Brenda Collins, Bill Collins and the staff at East Coast Power. Being one of the first two freshmen on varsity in school history, Coach Sheridan, made sure that myself and Riley Shaak, also a freshman at the time, felt welcomed. Mr. and Mrs. Collins coached me for several years leading up to Junior year and taught me so much about the sport.
Q: Tell us a little about your pre-game preparation on the day of a game.
A: On game day, I make sure to stay hydrated throughout the whole day. While warming up, I try to stay relaxed and loose. As soon it is my team’s time to warm up, my mindset is 100 percent focused on my task at hand, which is helping my team win by keeping every ball hit my way from hitting the ground.
Q: You wear uniform jersey No. 2 for Academy of Notre Dame. Is there a reason you chose that number?
A: Since I can remember, I have always worn No. 2, my favorite number, for every sport.
Q: What do you think you’d like to major in at college? Is there a career path that particularly appeals to you?
A: I would like to major in a STEM related field at college. At Notre Dame, I have been given the opportunity to be apart of the STEM Scholars Program to try to figure out exactly what part in the STEM field fits me the best.
Fun facts – Maddie Donaphon
Favorite book: I Am Malala.
Favorite TV show: Atypical.
Favorite movie: “Any movie with Adam Sandler.”
Favorite athlete: Kobe Bryant.
Favorite pre-game pump-up song: Never Say Never.
Favorite team: “I love all Philly teams!”
Favorite place to visit: Avalon, N.J.
Favorite pre-game meal: Almonds or O’s cereal.
Person I most admire: “My Mom. She has always been there for me and my brothers. She even stepped in and coached my seventh grade CYO volleyball team when we needed a coach, despite having never coached volleyball before. She is my best friend who I am so grateful for.”
Family members: Parents Joanie and Mark, older brother Luke (freshman at University of Delaware), younger brother Kyle (freshman at St Joe’s Prep).
(To be selected as Main Line Girls Athlete of the Week, a student-athlete must first be nominated by her coach.)