Four years ago, Maddie Whitfield began playing volleyball for the first time. On Wednesday, just a couple weeks after completing one of the most successful volleyball careers in Saline High School history, the 6’3 middle hitter signed a letter of intent to play at Central Michigan University.
Whitfield, the daughter of Eric and Kelly Whitfield, picked up the sport just before her freshman year. By her sophomore year, she was a starter on one of the top teams in the state.
Central Michigan University felt like the best place to continue her career.
“It just felt like a perfect fit more me. The coaches really liked me and I liked all the girls when I went up and visited,” said Whitfield. “It’s close to home and a good choice for me.”
Whitfield led the Hornets with 339 kills, 3.5 kills per set, a 54.6 percent kill percentage, 621 attempts and a .417 hit percentage. She also led the team with 115 blocks and 1.2 blocks per set.
That play at the net caught the eye of the coaches at CMU.
“I think they like my height and how I use it. A lot of people who are my height don’t really use it and I’m a very athletic player. They’re looking forward to using me as a weapon when I get up there,” Whitfield said.
Whitfield has not yet decided where she’ll focus her studies.
Asked about a career highlight, Whitfield remembered last year’s district tournament.
“Last year, winning districts, that hadn’t happened in awhile, so it felt good to accomplish something,” Whitfield said.
It was Saline’s first district trophy since 2005, when Lauren Paolini led the Hornets to the quarterfinals. Paolini went on to play at Texas and with the US National Team.
Whitfield and Paolini have another honor in common. They are the only two Saline volleyball players nominated to win Michigan’s Miss Volleyball. Paolini was runner up in 2005.
“I was just really honored (to be nominated),” Whitfield said. “I’m going up against some of the top girls in the state.”
Saline volleyball coach Kenny Seiler said Whitfield is one of the most dominant players he’s seen in high school volleyball.
“Bedford coach Jody Manore has been coaching a long time. When she game plans to try to stop Maddie, that means you are a pretty special player. Even as a junior, Bedford’s defense was set to try and stop Maddie,” Seiler said. “When she’s on point, her energy brings up the entire team. She does everything right. She knows what her keys on. With a little strength she’s going to be even more dominant than she already is.”
Whitfield’s height and natural athleticism are huge advantages. But Whitfield takes her game to the next level with a willingness to learn and work. He believes CMU has found a great player.
“She’s a tireless worker. If she doesn’t do something perfect she wants to keep doing it. They’ve got an ideal student athlete,” Seiler said. “They’re getting someone who is going to continue to get better. She hasn’t peaked yet. I can’t wait to see her when she’s even stronger. She’s already a great player, and then you add college weight training.”
He expects Whitfield to quickly enjoy success at CMU.
“Offensively, Maddie can hit any of the hits you need at the college level – anything quick, anything slower, in front of the setter, behind the setter, with a triple block up, she’s smart enough to make the tip shot. She’s got the complete package already,” Seiler said.