November 23, 2011 - Ever since libero Maddie Lightfoot could hit a volleyball she has been playing in the backyard with her mom, Kristie.
Surrounded by her teammates and friends, Maddie Lightfoot signs her letter of intent for the University of New Hampshire. Photo by Wendi Reardon (click for larger version)
The game was in her blood and Kristie was able help Maddie along the way since she was a Class A State Champion in 1984 for Flint Kearsley.
"I have always had a passion for it," said Kristie. "Fortunately Maddie did, too."
The passion has led her not only to the MHSAA Class A Semifinals with the Clarkston Girls Volleyball team but to the University of New Hampshire, a Division 1 school.
"It is really exciting," Maddie said after signing her letter of intent on Nov. 16, following the Lady Wolves win in the Quarterfinals against Canton. "It is more exciting we won yesterday making this one of the best days of my life. It is a huge week."
"I couldn't be prouder of her," said Kristie.
"It is definitely a very proud moment as a coach," added Kelly Avenall, head coach for the girls varsity volleyball team. "She has worked very hard for it. It is something she has always dreamed of and has always wanted it."
Maddie is going to major in biology and international relations to become a dermatologist and travel to underdeveloped countries.
"I have always been interested in international affairs," she explained. "A family friend studied it so I got to know the ins and the outs of it. Biology has always been one of my strong classes so I thought the combination would be perfect."
She discovered University of New Hampshire when they watched her play for Legacy Volleyball Club at Nationals.
"I went for a visit on a whim," Maddie added. "I fell in love with the campus, the coaches and the team. It just felt natural to be there. I went to Cleveland State and a few other schools but when I visited New Hampshire I knew."
Maddie played soccer until she became more involved in volleyball when she was in fourth grade. Her mom got her involved in a recreational volleyball team.
"I just started playing it as much as I could," Maddie smiled. "I gave up soccer so I could play volleyball. I started playing more competitively."
She played in leagues. She is now on the Legacy 18-1 team and has played in the Junior Olympics.
"It is a great group of girls from ten different schools," Maddie said.
She has played on the varsity team the last three years as a libero.
Maddie signed her letter in front of three of her youngest fans and had advice for them and all the other volleyball fans.
"Hard work, heart, and genuine passion for what you do can take you far," she said. "I never thought I would play Division 1 volleyball. I set a goal for myself and I worked hard to get there. Even though it sounds corny - you can can accomplish anything if you put your heart and hard work into it."
Kristie could see the hard work, watching Maddie and the team this year.
"The most amazing thing is how all the girls play as a team," she said.
"They all want to work hard for each other. They are the nicest group of girls and they have fun. I think that is what has allowed them to get to the next level."
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.