Hart’s Madi Maxwell becomes star player and star teammate 

Madi Maxwell (11) of Hart puts a shot over the net against Golden Valley defender Marina Miranda (18) at Hart High School on Tuesday, 092022. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Hart alumna Madi Maxwell has left her mark all over Santa Clarita volleyball. Maxwell broke numerous school records, brought the Foothill League title back to Hart while also winning a club volleyball national championship with Legacy.  

Maxwell’s skill and work ethic have earned her a scholarship to continue her volleyball career at Long Beach State.  

However, to some of her coaches and family, her self-work and improvements as a teammate and leader deserve the most praise. 

“If there’s one thing I’m most proud of her for, it’s for becoming a better emotional leader and teammate,” said Legacy Volleyball Club coach Jamey Ker. “It’s common that an athlete needs to change but it’s not common for them to change. It’s a hard sell. You have to find a balance between praising the kids, saying how great they are, but there’s the subtext of how they could be better.” 

Maxwell grew up in the Legacy club, founded by Jamey and his father Walt Ker. The Kers’ first club hires were volleyball coaches and new parents, Wendy and Gerrit Maxwell. 

“My coaches and parents, they’ve all taught me that it’s more than a sport,” Madi said. “I’ve struggled a lot with being a good teammate because I get so frustrated with myself. I learned about the mental side of it and learned how to be a good person as well as a good volleyball player.” 

It took time for the future star to really commit to volleyball. As a child, Madi played numerous sports, including her other favorite, soccer. 

“Gerrit and I exposed them to a lot of sports,” Wendy said. “She was passing a balloon like a volleyball at 18 months old. She was in soccer and basketball. We were really good collectively at making sure they were exposed to multiple sports out of the gate. We know the importance of sports, being ex-college athletes ourselves.” 

Wendy, like her daughter, is a former setter-opposite hitter and played collegiately at the California State University of Los Angeles. Gerrit’s collegiate football career was cut short due to injuries at Los Angeles Valley College. However, a natural athlete, he picked up volleyball later on and became a AAA-ranked beach player in a couple of months. 

Photo Courtesy of the Maxwell family.

Wendy recalls peppering with Madi when her daughter was just 5 years old. The two had over 25 clean passes to one another, showing her mom early on, the raw talent was there.  

However, being around the sport so much, Madi initially wasn’t interested in pursuing competitive volleyball, mainly because of her growing passion for soccer. 

“I never wanted to do it,” Madi said, “but I went to a volleyball camp and fell in love with it when I was 7 years old … I’d play it and do beach tournaments with my dad and loved it but I never wanted to play on a team because I loved soccer so much. They never forced me to play, but they were always supportive because they knew I’d be very good at it.” 

Madi kept playing both soccer and volleyball up until high school, when she chose to specialize in the latter. At Legacy, the future Long Beach commit would play at least one year up, due to her ability and size. She eventually found herself starting on the 15U team as a 14-year-old. 

While her skill makes her stand out on the court, Ker was always in awe of Madi’s volleyball IQ. 

“She’s built like a D1 athlete, but what stands out about her is her volleyball IQ,” Ker said. “I don’t think I’ve coached a player with a higher volleyball IQ. I’d be coaching her on new things and she’d be nodding her head understanding one-fourth of the way through and I’d need to shut my mouth.” 

Photo Courtesy of the Maxwell family.

As she continued to blossom and become one of the team’s most talented players, Madi kept putting in the work to become a better teammate and leader. 

“She put in a lot of hard work to be a great teammate,” Ker said. “It’s not easy being the best player on every team you’re on. There’s a learning curve with working with others.” 

Ker watched Madi grow in the program, whether the two were working well together or bumping heads. 

“(Madi) had some unbelievable blossoming moments,” Ker said. “I’ve known her for a long time but I told her at 13 that she needed an attitude change. I felt like she needed some growing. She still talks about how she definitely remembers that, but there’s no hard feelings. That’s a person who could easily say, ‘I’m the best player, let me do my thing,’ but she realized a rising tide raises all ships. Being a leader and emotional hub for the team would not only raise her but bring up her team.” 

Whether it was finding ways to separate outside noise and her teammates during tough matches, positive words spoken to other players or just showing better body language, Madi was invested in becoming a better teammate and leader. 

As a freshman, Madi started her high school career at Hart for coach Mary Irilian. Their first season together was shortened and hindered by COVID-19. Even in a curveball season, Madi led the team with 134 kills. 

“I first met her in summer camp her freshman year,” Irilian said. “She was sweet. Sometimes talented young players can be cocky, but she was easygoing. She had a little freshman feel. You could sense a little nervousness, but the girls welcomed her.” 

McKenna Edwards (32) of West Ranch goes up to block a shot by Madison Maxwell (11) of Hart at West Ranch on Thursday, 100721. Dan Watson/The Signal

In an odd way, Irilian thinks the COVID-19 season was good for Madi, as it slowly eased her into high school play with little expectations.  

“COVID helped in a way,” Irilian said. “We didn’t play until spring, everything was very casual, we had just one practice a week and we just wore T-shirts. I think it was good for her to transition in with no expectations at all. It just allowed her to play … She started the COVID year, and from the start, she already stepped into a leadership role, not just because of her skill, but because she matured really young. Even though she had growth still happening as a ninth grader, she was stepping into the role of guiding a team.” 

The setter-opposite hitter committed to Long Beach State University in October 2022 and officially signed her letter about a year later.  

Madi had a ton of college interest, with offers from Colorado State, Oregon, Arizona State, Auburn, California and Arizona State, to name a few. The Hart captain was enticed by Colorado State but once she stepped onto Long Beach’s campus, she knew she was home.  

Hart athlete Madi Maxwell, center, is joined by,from left, her brother Parker, mother, Wendy, father, Gerrit, and Hart High head volleyball coach Mary Irilian on Hart Signing Day at Hart High School on Wednesday, 110823. Dan Watson/the Signal

“The volleyball and lifestyle are amazing,” Madi said. “Getting to play at such a high level, I could have gone out of state but it would’ve been harder. Now, if I get homesick, I can just go home and get a little taste of home.” 

Madi was also able to see Legacy teammate and Foothill League foe, Milani Lee, who currently plays for Long Beach, on campus. Lee, a former CIF and league MVP, goes way back with Maxwell and was another part of swaying the setter-opposite hitter choosing Long Beach. 

One of her biggest accomplishments came just ahead of her senior year with Legacy when the team won gold at the Junior Olympics tournament, the most prestigious title in club volleyball. Most of the players, including Madi, were hot off winning a national AAU title just a year before and then capped off a majority of their club careers with a coveted JO gold medal. 

Madi showcased her dominance as a hitter and setter, and returned home with a Junior Olympics Most Valuable Player Award to add to her already crowded trophy shelf.  

Legacy 18 Elite. Photo Courtesy of Madison Maxwell.

Back at Hart, Irilian was consistently impressed with her star player. Whether it was one of her double-digit ace matches, a ferocious spike that hit an opposing player in the face or one of her single-match kill record performances, Madi always had her coach wow’ed. 

The Hart coach took over the job nearly 20 years ago when the program was struggling. While Irilian has been monumental in the turnaround, she knows Madi herself and even her memory will be a role model for future Indian volleyball players. 

“Eighteen years ago, this program had nothing,” Irilian said. “Back in 2006, girls never showed up to practice. The memory of her is going to last forever, not only in stats, but as a player that so many people are gonna talk about. No one’s ever gonna forget her. 

“There’s kids that love volleyball and are happy to be on the team. Then there’s a small percentage of kids who are true competitors. They train every day, are constantly putting in the time, those are the ones that set those standards for the program. It gives the program momentum and motivation to be the best moving forward. Whether or not we get there, the girls can look at where we were and what we did. Girls next year will know we’re a different team but we know what we can do. She helped with that edge and competitiveness that helped drive us forward.” 

Madi also shined academically, and did so well in the classroom that she was able to graduate a semester early, in December, and head to Long Beach in January.  

She was also the recipient of the Hart 4×4 award, selectively given to four-year varsity athletes, who maintained a 4.0 GPA or higher through all four years. 

“I think (her work ethic) developed over time in maturity,” Wendy said. “She’s always tried to be a little better and her academics are solid. As she matured, she was told you can play at the next level and it started to sync in.” 

Taylor Treahy (29) and Shelby Scott (21) of Saugus go up to block a shot by Madi Maxwell (11) of Hart at Hart High on Wednesday, 092822. Dan Watson/The Signal

Madi finished off her high school career with several records. After breaking the single-season school kill record in her junior season with 363, Madi set the bar even higher with 488 kills in her final season. The captain also finished with 90 aces on the season and a single-match total of 36 kills. Both were program records. 

The now-freshman has started her training and schoolwork at Long Beach. Madi has anything but a short list of people she wanted to thank for supporting her and pushing her to be better. 

Madi’s brother, Parker Maxwell, was her rock and someone she could talk to about anything.  

Madi believed she wouldn’t have been able to get through playing at Hart without setter Morgan Dumlao. 

In club, Grace Witcher and Laurel Barsocchini were huge for getting Madi through tough times. 

As for professional players, Madi looked up to numerous athletes across multiple sports but actually got to meet one of her favorite legends, three-time Olympic gold medalist Misty May-Treanor, a Long Beach alumna. 

Madi may follow in May-Treanor’s sandy footsteps as she also joins the beach volleyball team. 

“I think she wants to pursue beach,” Irilian said. “Whether she does indoor or beach, goes overseas, she has a long road ahead of her. She’ll make the most out of it and work hard to get to where she wants to be. She’s not the one to make the team and sit back. She’ll make the team and make something happen. It’s going to be exciting to see her development over the next few years and beyond that.” 

While Long Beach will bring on challenges through academics, volleyball and even adulthood, Madi is excited for the next chapter of her life. The freshman knows her situation is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and plans to make the most of her time with Beach. 

“I’m so excited and so grateful,” Madi said. “So few people get this opportunity of playing at a high level. I’m a competitive person. I love playing at a high level and love playing with other people. I love that I get to play at Long Beach State and get to go there early. I get to learn the team and system. 

“I have to adjust and do it without my parents, which is gonna be horrible. But I know they’re there. I’m going to miss everyone but I’m excited for a new lifestyle and being an adult.” 

Madi can still be seen helping out at Legacy when she’s around, as she just can’t keep away from the game and the place where she fell in love with it.  

“Even now, she’s not playing club, but she’s coming into my 17’s practice whenever she can,” Ker said. “She comes in on off days to take reps. Madi’s very dedicated to taking the next step and getting to the next level. She could coast on physical abilities, but she aspires to be the best player and teammate she can be.” 

Hart Indians outside hitter Madi Maxwell (11) hits the ball past San Marcos blockers in a game last season. Chris Torres/The Signal

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