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Madison Lawler’s Fearless Volleyball Journey Began at Young Age

HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Success always favors those who prepare, and when it comes to the Southern Miss volleyball team, senior libero Madison Lawler has lived it her entire life.

But, if you are going to be a three-year starter and climb the school record books (currently eighth with 1,265 career digs), it has to start sooner rather than later.

“I started club volleyball at eight years old and really loved it,” she said. “It’s kind of different because club starts when you’re 12. I told my mom I wanted to get in with the big girls. She’d take me to camps with teenagers and I was this little girl who fell in love with it. My parents supported me through it and paid for all the club tournaments and teams.”

Lawler, who was 9 and 10 when she first started competing against high schoolers, eventually would compete alongside several blue-chip prospects. It all paid off when she signed her National Letter of Intent to Southern Miss.

“It was a nerve-wracking experience (beginning her collegiate career), but I was just happy to be here and hoping to get playing time on the court,” Lawler said. “I had to work for everything, and that really made a difference in my play. The pace of the game was definitely faster. I was lucky to play with a lot of good girls who signed with Houston, St. John’s, Baylor and others in high school. I was really thankful to have the (Southern Miss) upperclassmen I did because they got me used to the game and supported me.”

Lawler is the only one of Southern Miss’ two seniors to spend her whole career at the school. She even recalls one specific instance where she realized she could not only survive but thrive at the Conference USA level.

“I vividly remember winning this serve-receive-pass game my freshman year,” she said. “It was a super big deal because a lot of people were like ‘who is this girl, and where did she come from?’ After that, I started realizing I was doing pretty well. I’ll never forget starting as a libero against Miami and it was the craziest thing that I couldn’t believe until I stepped on the floor.”

Even better, she gets to bring it full circle with her parents making the eight-hour drive to Hattiesburg for every match weekend, as well as to several other schools within the Texas/Louisiana radius.

One of the more significant elements of her career, away from the game itself, is her self-described adaptation to opening up to others and building relationships. Head coach Stephanie Radecki, who was hired following Lawler’s freshman season, has observed it as well. Radecki also went on to describe Lawler as an “eye-contact kid,” something she considers very important to coaches.

“Madi definitely has opened up to our team and our staff,” she said. “Her ability to allow herself to be vulnerable and share her thoughts and feelings will help her be successful in so many other areas in life including her future professional career.  I am so proud of Madi and how she has developed throughout her time with us and how she represents our program.”

Lawler, a psychology major, intends to take her lessons as a Golden Eagle and pay it forward in her post-playing career.

“I want to do counseling and get my master’s in counseling psychology,” she said. “I want to have my emphasis in sports psychology and work with athletes, seeing how their mental state works when they’re playing games and in preparation. I found that interesting and wanted to stay in the athletic realm.”

Southern Miss next hosts UAB on Sunday and Monday at 1 p.m., with Sunday featuring postgame senior recognition of Lawler and Piper Matsumoto.