Friday, 20 April 2018 07:54

Madelyn Chappell "blessed" to be a part of Salem College volleyball's record-breaking turnaround

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Left to right: Caitlyn Stallings (3), Madelyn Chappell (6) and Alexis Sunderland (19), all of whom are rising juniors at Salem College. Left to right: Caitlyn Stallings (3), Madelyn Chappell (6) and Alexis Sunderland (19), all of whom are rising juniors at Salem College. Photo courtesy of Madelyn Chappell.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Each year, a few fortunate high school senior athletes sign their letters of intent to continue playing their favorite sports at the collegiate level.   At Richmond Senior High School, those college-bound athletes often come in the form of football, baseball, or softball players. 

As current Lady Raider senior Altman Griffin recently proved when she signed a LOI to play college volleyball at UNCW, some Raiders go on to play sports that may be a little more rare to Richmond alumni. Like Griffin, 2016 Richmond graduate Madelyn Chappell was one such person.

Chappell was a member of the 2014 and 2015 Richmond Senior volleyball teams that helped to turn the program around.  Season after season, Richmond sat near the bottom of the conference standings and typically only managed a single digit in the win column.  That changed when Chappell and her fellow Lady Raiders finished in third place in the Southeastern Conference with a 6-4 record in 2014, and then finished in second place a year later with a 7-3 record.

In 2014, the Lady Raiders ended a five-year drought to rival Scotland.  In 2015, they beat the Lady Scots twice in a single season, something that the Lady Raiders had not done in over a decade.

After graduating in 2016, Chappell became a music major in piano performance at Salem College in Winston-Salem, N.C.  There, she also became a member of the Salem Spirits Volleyball team, a struggling program that had recently joined a new conference and was under the leadership of a new head coach.  Chappell acclimated well to life at Salem College, but her transition from being a Richmond Lady Raider to a Salem Spirit had one major hurdle.

“When I came to Salem my freshman year, I was recruited as a middle hitter which was the position I played in high school,” Chappell recalled. “Changing to a right side hitter was a big adjustment, especially at the college level.”

A strong work ethic, combined with support from her teammates and coaches, helped Chappell to adjust to her new role and become an asset to her team.

“Madelyn Chappell is every coach’s dream player,” stated Salem College volleyball head coach Kevin Troup in an email to the Richmond Observer.  “She works extremely hard in practice, takes instruction well and always has a smile on her face.

“Maddy wants to improve, and is willing to put in the work outside of practice in our fitness center or in the gym with the AccuSpike,” Troup added. “She has become one of our most consistent right sides and is someone our setters feel comfortable getting the ball to when we need it.”

How well a player in any sport progresses weighs heavily on how quickly the athlete develops trust and respect in his/her coaches.  Chappell found the leadership she needed to become a skilled volleyball player both as a high school freshmen and then again as a college freshmen.

“I would like to give a special thanks to Richmond Senior High School’s assistant volleyball coach Ashleigh Larsen, ‘Scully’,” Chappell said.  “When I came to RSHS in ninth grade, I had never played volleyball a day in my life. She has invested so much time and support to help me achieve my dream of playing volleyball at the next level.

“Coach Troup has helped me tremendously on improving my skills,” Chappell continued.  “He has done an outstanding job in making Salem Volleyball what it is today.”

Chappell is referencing the huge transformation that the program has gone through since Troup took over as head coach for the Spirits in 2015.  In the eight seasons prior to his arrival, the Spirits were only averaging about nine wins per season.  The only year that Salem managed to avoid a losing record was in the fall of 2012 when they finished 14-14.  The 2017 squad finished 21-12 – the first winning season in over a decade.

“My staff and I have seen tremendous growth in the program in our three short years at the helm,” Troup shared about their progress.  “Our first season we went 4-16, and last season we finished 21-12. It was a record-breaking season, where we won the highest number of games in Salem history and many student-athletes broke records in several different categories. It marked the biggest turnaround of an NCAA DIII program in the same time period.”

Chappell mirrored her coach’s remarks.  “I am so proud of my team’s hard work and dedication,” she said.  “We are blessed with great coaches who have really turned Salem College Volleyball around for the better.

“Three years ago, Salem Volleyball was seen as the pushover team of the conference,” she continued. Thanks to my teammates and coaches, Salem Volleyball is now one of the top competitors in the USA South Conference.”

One of their biggest adversaries in the USA South Conference is Meredith College.  The volleyball program at the Raleigh-based women’s college had finished in the top two of the USA South East Division standings for five-straight years heading into the 2017 season.  Salem shocked Meredith last fall, and Chappell identifies that win as the highlight of her career as a Spirit.

“My favorite memory as a Salem College volleyball player would have to be when we beat Meredith College towards the end of my sophomore season.  They were the No. 2 seed in our conference. We fought hard for four sets and it was a huge upset in our conference.”

In the 3-1 victory over Meredith, Chappell recorded 12 kills on 29 attempts.  That wasn’t her only 12-kill performance of the 2017 season.  The other occurrence was Coach Troup’s selection for Chappell’s highpoint as a Spirit.  “She had a career match this season, against Greensboro College, where she had 12 kills on 20 attempts and no hitting errors,” Troup recounted.

Outside of the gym, Chappell’s commitment to her music has left her very little time to do much else.  “I am a music major in piano performance,” she said.  “Because volleyball, performances and practicing the piano take up so much of my time, I do not have much time to participate in any other on campus activities.

“I really enjoy my classes, and have been playing the piano since I was seven years old. I plan on furthering my music education in graduate school.”

Music and volleyball have found a way to merge for Chappell.  “Maddy is a great musician, but hates to be in the spotlight in front of the team,” Troup said.  “I am always trying to get her to sing or play the piano for us with no luck.  However, I did prank her once and was able to get her to play the piano in the Refectory against her wishes.”

As the spring semester comes to an end, so does Chappell’s sophomore year at Salem College.  The success of the 2017 volleyball season is now in the past and the Spirits will go to work to make 2018 even better.  Chappell is looking forward to the opportunity. 

“I am so excited for this upcoming 2018 season,” Chappell concluded.  “We lost five really talented seniors this year, but we are excited for our incoming freshman class.  In my freshman year, we finished eighth in the conference, sophomore year we finished fourth, and my junior season is right around the corner. I have been so blessed to be a part of such a record breaking season.”

Last modified on Friday, 20 April 2018 07:59