A typical freshman on the Elon University volleyball team doesn’t get much playing time in her first season. But libero Maddie Jaudon is not a typical freshman.
Jaudon, who hails from Batavia, Illinois, has made a big impact in a short time in her first year at Elon. Through 16 matches, she leads the team in digs with 236 — the next closest player trails her by more than 100.
She’s also played in 61 of the team’s 63 sets so far this season, placing her second on the team (sophomore outside hitter Sydney Busa is first, playing all 63 sets).
“[Jaudon] pursues balls, she’s very aggressive,” said head coach Mary Tendler. “She doesn’t want any ball to hit the ground. The whole team kind of follows her.”
For Jaudon, the transition to college was aided by her high school club team, Sports Performance. Her coaches stressed technique, and the team played up to three tournaments a month. The extra practice paid off — Jaudon tallied 26 digs against Radford University Aug. 29 in her third-ever college match.
“She sets the tone, she’s intense,” Tendler said. “She’s confident, she doesn’t look like a freshman on the court. She looks like she’s ready to go and [she’s] looking at the other team saying, ‘Serve it at me.’ Even in tight matches, she’s ready to make the play.”
There have been adjustments, though. Jaudon had to learn how to position herself on the court to be effective in Elon’s system. Then there’s the level of competition, which is a big difference from high school volleyball. At 5 feet, 6 inches, Jaudon is the shortest player on Elon’s roster, and she had to acclimate herself to the taller and stronger players of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
“My club program was big on preparing us for college, but there’s nothing that can prepare you for playing against girls that are 22 years old,” Jaudon said. “We worked on a lot of things. We’re still working out a lot of kinks.”
Her teammates helped in the process. Before the Phoenix started the preseason, Jaudon recalls senior outside hitter Megan Gravley and junior outside hitter Kayla Agae serving the ball. Returning her teammates’ serves and spikes in practice has helped in ways that no amount of high school preparation could.
Jaudon grew up playing both volleyball and soccer, but as a freshman in high school, she knew she’d have to pick one. She chose volleyball and started on Batavia High School’s varsity team for three years, winning team MVP as a senior.
When she chose a college, she looked to her parents for advice. Her father is a passionate University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill fan, while her mother is an avid Duke University supporter. They advised her to look at schools in North Carolina. Despite never visiting North Carolina before her college visits, she felt she found a home at Elon immediately.
“Once I came here, there was nowhere else I wanted to go,” she said. “After seeing campus and spending time with the team and being with the coaches, I came and I knew.”
Her enthusiasm about Elon has been evident on the court this season. In the first 16 matches of the season, Jaudon has recorded double-digit digs in 11 matches, including five matches with more than 20 digs.
She finished four games in a row with more than 10 kills against Virginia Tech, Radford, High Point University and Charleston Southern University. She also leads the team with 11 service aces.
Tendler believes Jaudon will only improve over time as she adjusts to the changes of playing in college.
“For her, it’s about positioning, because every team does something a little bit different,” Tendler said. “She’s learning to be disciplined and be in the right spot on different plays, and that’s something she’ll get better at.”
Volleyball has yet to lose its luster for Jaudon. Since she began playing, the sport’s competitiveness and constant scoring has fueled her passion.
“[There’s] not many sports where you can say you’re scoring points every 30 seconds,” she said. “There’s this speed about it and the natural enthusiasm that comes with it. Just getting out there and knowing that even if the other team gets a great kill, you start over.”