Gibbons finds good fit at Fairleigh Dickinson
A trip to Baltimore for a club volleyball tournament turned out to be so much more for Maddie Gibbons.
The 2012 graduate of Grandview Heights High School not only played with her Zenith Volleyball Academy team in the tournament that ran from April 17-19, but she also made a strong enough impression to continue her playing career this fall at Fairleigh Dickinson University, a Division I school in Teaneck, N.J.
"Zenith director Steven Hinds and coach Jackie Helms put together an all-star team to take to Baltimore to play in a national qualifier," said Gibbons, a 6-foot-3 middle and right-side hitter. "We had a 6-2 record and didn't advance, but I got four e-mails from coaches who saw me play there."
Two of the contacts were from her final two choices: Fairleigh Dickinson and Delaware State. Gibbons made her selection after she visited Fairleigh Dickinson.
"I fell in love with the school and really liked the coach and the players on the team," she said. "They have a successful program and it's something that I want to be a part of."
Gibbons was a four-year letterwinner at Grandview. She was a captain as a senior, when she was named second-team all-district and first-team all-league.
The Bobcats finished 8-16 overall last fall, losing to second-seeded Bloom-Carroll 25-21, 25-11, 25-9 in a second-round Division III district tournament match at Olentangy Liberty. They defeated Mount Gilead 25-18, 23-25, 9-25, 27-25, 15-13 in the first round at Liberty.
The Bobcats finished 5-9 in the MSL-Cardinal Division, behind co-champions Harvest Prep and Licking Heights (both 13-1).
Coach Stacey Recanati, who has led the Fairleigh Dickinson program for 21 seasons, is happy to have found Gibbons.
"I was impressed with Maddie's net play," said Recanati, whose team was 17-13 overall last fall and finished sixth (7-9) in the nine-team Northeast Conference behind champion Sacred Heart (14-2).
"For a girl of her height, she has good mobility and is able to move with speed. I liked her jumping ability and her core strength. Maddie has size, power and strength at the net."
Gibbons received a full scholarship, with half based on academic performance. She plans to major in nursing and had a 4.1 GPA at Grandview.
The transition to the college game is a concern for Gibbons.
"I'm kind of nervous because I know I have to work a lot. At Grandview, most people play multiple sports," said Gibbons, who also competed in bowling for the Bobcats. "In college, you usually have one sport and I believe it will be a lot more competitive. Being as tall as I am, when people play me I sometimes can intimidate them, but that won't happen in college. I know being tall won't get me playing time. I'll have to work for playing time."
Recanati said the pace of the game likely will be the biggest transition for Gibbons.
"The speed and the pace of the game are faster in college," she said. "Whether Maddie is playing in the middle or on the right side, catching up to the speed of the game is tough for any freshman."
To prepare for playing with the Knights, Gibbons was given a workout regimen to guide her through the summer.
"They sent me a strength and conditioning packet that was 30 pages long, which was pretty intimidating at first," she said. "I have been training with J.L. Holdsworth at The Spot Athletics (in Columbus). We have pretty intense workouts and I added five inches to my vertical (leap) and I've gotten in really good shape."
Aside from the workouts, Gibbons has turned to a change of pace to help her prepare for collegiate competition.
"I'm playing sand volleyball for the first time this summer because I want to work on my passing," she said. "Up until my senior year (at Grandview), I was always replaced in the back row to bring in someone to pass the ball. Passing is something I definitely need to work on."