Etobicoke volleyball star Maddie Hills will be heading to South Carolina this fall to play for the College of Charleston Cougars on a full scholarship.
The Martingrove Collegiate senior, 17, didn’t even start playing the game until she was 12, but quickly her coaches with the Etobicoke Titans, and later with the Burlington-based Defensa volleyball club, recognized her potential.
“Maddie is very hard-working, very determined. She put a lot of pressure on herself last year, not only to improve but to perform. She’s incredibly competitive and she’s got that little bit of a mean-streak to her,” said Defensa’s head coach Rob Fernley, who’s worked with Maddie for the last two years. “She’s just a very intense athlete when she’s playing, but then she’s the opposite when she’s not playing. So she’s got that great mix of dual personalities that is very beneficial for an athlete.”
As a three-year starter for Defensa Volleyball, Maddie and her team won the Canadian U16 National Championship in 2011 and placed second in the Canadian U18 National Championship this year. And as captain of the Martingrove Collegiate team, she also led the Bears to the Toronto City Volleyball Championship last year.
In announcing that he’d signed Maddie as the team’s first ever Canadian player earlier this month, College of Charleston Cougar volleyball coach Jason Kepner lauded her for her “high level of playing experience, speed, and a very competitive edge” as well as her “team-first mentality.”
“Maddie is an extremely hard working middle that is always up fast in serve receive and transition,” Kepner said in a statement. “She does a great job of providing a consistent option for the setters and forces her opponent to worry about her at all times. She has good instincts and hands as a blocker which will really help her see playing time next fall.”
As for Maddie, she’s just happy that she finally found the right fit – especially with a university ranked 45th out of the 330 schools in its division for women’s volleyball.
“I’m really excited. I never thought this would happen,” she said, noting that she plans to study kinesiology. “I’ve been in the recruiting process for a couple of years and there were tons of schools that I was, like, ‘yeah I’m going to go here, I’m going to go there,’ but none of them ever really worked out. Then I got an email from (the College of Charleston) asking me to come visit for a weekend. They flew me out there (in late October) and I loved it. All the girls on the team were amazing and I just loved everything about it. The coach offered me a spot the next weekend and I accepted it. It was really sudden.”
Fernley believes the College of Charleston is the perfect fit for Maddie, who he describes as a “late-bloomer.”
“She’s as good as she is, but she’s got a lot more room to grow,” he said. “It’s great, because she’s going to a fantastic program, they’ve got a great coaching staff and they’re very, very consistent. She’s going into a team that just made it to the NCAA tournament, which is pretty tough to do...so I’m very excited for her.”