Maddie Bryant was in need of a confidence boost.
Then a freshman playing on North Forsyth’s varsity volleyball team, Bryant was just two years removed from switching counties and sports almost at the same time. She’d grown up playing softball in McDonough. Now, she was one of the Lady Raiders’ young players competing in one of the state’s toughest volleyball areas.
After tallying 119 kills, 87 digs, 27 aces and 25 blocks, Bryant got serious consideration for the all-area team.
Just what she needed to hear.
“I guess I’m pretty good to get nominated for this,” Bryant said. “It kind of motivated me to get in the gym and be the best I could be and get better.”
Bryant has since emerged as one of the county’s top players and a budding Division I prospect with a developing all-around game. She was all-area and all-county last season after almost doubling her kills (201), digs (140) and aces (46) as a sophomore outside hitter. This season, she’s second on the team in both kills (22) and assists (31) through three matches.
And at 6-foot-1, she’s getting the attention of colleges. With guidance from her dad, Jason, an assistant coach on North’s football team, Bryant has already started to juggle the many facets of the recruiting process, visiting colleges and managing contact with coaches. Gardner-Webb, Troy and West Florida are her favorites at the moment.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Bryant said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities to meet great coaches and players on teams, visit a lot of campuses. I’m just having a lot of fun with it now. I’m not anywhere close to making a decision.”
All of which is making the moment she gave up softball seem prescient.
Bryant had played softball forever in McDonough, growing into a promising pitcher and first baseman. But she had a friend start to play volleyball, and Bryant figured she should give a try too.
“I did, and I ended up loving it,” Bryant said. “I like being aggressive. I liked hitting the ball. I didn’t really know what anything was. I just wanted to be in the front and hit the ball.
“I just thought it was really cool, and then I just kind of fell in love with it.”
Bryant just had to convince her parents she should make the switch. Mom was pretty easy. Dad was tougher. But both got on board, and Bryant got to work.
After moving to north Forsyth, she tried out for and made a 14-Under team with the A5 Volleyball Club. After getting all-area consideration, she started doing even more, attending supplemental two-on-one practices at A5 on Sundays for as long as two and a half hours.
She, and the rest of the Lady Raiders, has also had to get used to new head coaches Kelly and Drew Cecil, learning a new offense and defense, and getting through “ladders” at the end of every practice.
“They’re honestly the worst thing ever,” Bryant jokes.
Even more, she’s had to start getting used to being a leader.
“I want to be able to pick up my teammates when they’re down,” Bryant said, “and not get in my head so much when I make a mistake, because everyone makes mistakes on the court.”
Like a few years ago, Bryant was uneasy at first.
Now, she’s a natural.
“At first I didn’t want all the attention toward me, but it’s kind of easy,” Bryant said. “We all get along really well. Everyone kinds of knows each other’s strengths and weaknesses and knows how to pick each other up.”