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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

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The GW Hatchet

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With big shoes to fill, sophomore looks to set volleyball records

Near the end of the women’s volleyball team’s Wednesday morning practice, head coach Amanda Ault pulled libero Maddy Doyle off to the side of the net after the sophomore failed to move her feet during a six-on-six drill.

The third-year head coach gave Doyle pointers about her posture when receiving the ball, demonstrating proper form and discussing how to perfect her stance for the next drill.

It’s that comfortable dialogue between player and coach that has become vital since Doyle took over the starting libero position this season.

“She’s that kind of kid that you want in your gym,” Ault said, pointing to Doyle’s success despite often being one of the shortest players on the court. “She’s super competitive, she finds a way to win and she shows that from being only 5’7 to 5’8 and being the top kid in Michigan.”

Doyle’s height – GW lists her as 5 feet 9 inches – stunted her career as a hitter. After struggling as a hitter in just her first match at GW, Doyle was moved by Ault to the libero position, where she would need to become a defensive specialist.

For Doyle, it was tough to relinquish control with the move to the back line. As an outside hitter in high school, she dominated the pin, earning two all-state selections and being named Miss Volleyball 2011 by the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association, making her the state’s top volleyball talent.

“I love hitting and I loved hitting in high school and travel because you really can control the game a lot, where as defense, you can control it but you mainly contribute to your hitters,” Doyle said. “But I know it has helped my game on defense because I can relate to hitters and tell them where to hit and what to do and everything.”

For the rest of the season, Doyle played behind GW alumnus and Atlantic 10 digs record-holder, Candace Silva-Martin.

“Candace was a really good, structured volleyball player,” Doyle said. “She definitely helped improve my game and [learning from her] helped me be more disciplined in my game. And the fact that she got records and stuff and did all these things, really motivates me to get even better and win those same awards, just so I can have a goal to strive for.”

At the end of the 2012 season, it was clear Doyle would need to fill Silva-Martin’s shoes.
But would she be able to command the floor like her predecessor? Doyle admits she was a little nervous with the assignment early on.

“At first you feel a little bit of pressure like, ‘Oh, I have to be perfect all the time.’ But then you realize you don’t have to, and it actually gives you a lot of positive encouragement and courage,” Doyle said.

But she has already surpassed her freshman totals of 241 digs in 93 sets, with 269 digs in just 60 sets and a dozen matches still left in the regular season.

In 13 out of 16 games, Doyle has recorded double-digit digs – with her season and career high coming against Albany last month, where she tallied 28 digs. She is second in the conference, averaging 4.48 digs per set.

She also brings intangibles to the court, using her strong voice, for example, to keep her team motivated, while also advising them on making small adjustments. Doyle’s voice echoes throughout the Smith Center during any women’s volleyball game, becoming the leader the team needs.

“I think when our court is loud is when we are doing the best,” Doyle said. “So if I have to talk the whole time, that’s perfectly fine with me, because that’s how I’ve always been. I feel like this year I can really have a voice and really help the team out in many different ways.”

But her ability to lead on the court hasn’t come without a few woes this year.

Ault said that Doyle struggled early in the season with being able to balance communication and leadership with her teammates on the floor.

“Early on in the season I think she might have struggled a little bit with that,” Ault said. “I think that it’s definitely shown the last couple of weeks – the changes that’s she really made – and she’s made a conscious effort to do that.”

Ault added that she believes Doyle’s ability to lead on the floor has steadily been on the rise. Take last Sunday’s match against Rhode Island, in which Ault said Doyle really gelled with her teammates, who responded to her vocal direction on the floor.

Doyle, too, believes that the position now feels more natural to her on the court.

“I think she can set records here,” Ault said. “I think that her numbers are very close and very comparable to [Candace’s] from last season and [Candace] is not someone where you can step in and replace very easily, so that speaks to Maddy on what she’s doing, and where she can go.”

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