Last year, on a team with powerful outside hitters and a solid middle blocker, Maddie Busch played a supporting role for the Boyd Lady Yellowjackets as they made it to the second round of the playoffs.
But with the graduation of several of those offensive leaders, Busch, one of only three returning players, is no longer in the background.
She’s front and center for this year’s Lady Yellowjackets.
“I knew there would be a lot on my shoulders,” Busch said.
Fifteen matches into the season, the senior middle blocker is stepping up to the challenge and becoming a force at the net. She leads the Lady Yellowjackets with 107 kills.
“I wasn’t a go-to hitter last year,” she said. “This year I wanted to be that go-to hitter. I’ve felt like I’m getting more accustomed to the role and more consistent.
“It makes you feel really good when your team knows you can put the ball down.”
With each match, Busch is getting more comfortable in her new role as an offensive threat. She’s put down 40 kills in the Lady Yellowjackets’ last four matches – three of which were wins.
“Last year, she was really raw,” said coach Dusty Crafton. “This year, she’s realized that she was going to have to step up and be a key hitter. She’s had that moment where she’s realized she can do this and has to for the team.
“It’s amazing what a little confidence will do for a player.”
Busch says the growth in her game has not come overnight. She spent hours in the gym over the summer, preparing for her senior year.
“People wish they were good, and some people make it a mission,” Busch said. “When you make it a mission, you achieve it.”
She also credits Crafton with helping her and her young teammates improve rapidly since the start of the season.
“That’d be coach – and a lot of hard practice,” Busch said. “She’s hard on us, but it only makes us better.”
Crafton, who played middle blocker in college, knows Busch has a tough task.
“Middle hitting is very difficult. You have to be extremely quick there,” Crafton said. “You also have to be the first line of defense.”
Along with leading the team in kills, Busch also has a team-high 32 blocks.
With a pair of matches and a tournament left before the Lady Yellowjackets start 9-3A play Sept. 13 at City View, Busch hopes to get even better and help Boyd on a push for a second straight playoff trip.
“Coach says we need to be more consistent,” Busch said.
And with every hit, Busch feels better in her new role.
“Every time, I know [my teammates] know I can do it. It’s just giving me more confidence,” Busch said.