As recently as five years ago, Madison Smeathers remained convinced her athletics future was as a basketball point guard.
Then came the growth spurt — one foot in about two years — responsible for pushing Smeathers beyond 6-foot and toward a different sport altogether.
A 6-foot-4 middle blocker for Center Grove’s volleyball program, the senior led her team in kills (539), blocks (140) and pre-match intimidation this past season as the Trojans marched all the way to the title match of the Class 4A Seymour Semistate.
Signed to play volleyball at Ohio State University, Smeathers is the Player of the Year for the Daily Journal’s All-County Team.
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“Madison was our go-to to put the ball away, but at the same time stayed in the game through all six rotations. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid,” said fourth-year Center Grove coach Dana Matis, whose squad finished with a 32-6 record.
“Almost every time this season Madison was the one who put the ball away on match point. Traditionally, Center Grove volleyball is loaded with some good middle blockers. Madison is right up there at the top and maybe the best.”
During her three seasons on varsity (she opted not to play as a sophomore), Smeathers proved much more than a long-limbed tall girl standing at the net. Extremely agile for her height, she put that coordination and quickness to good use this season in producing 36 service aces and 230 digs — both third-best on the Trojans — and nine assists.
By the time Center Grove’s season ended with a grueling five-set loss to eventual 4A state champion Cathedral, Smeathers’ career numbers read 1,137 kills and 346 blocks.
Though the conclusion to her high school career didn’t feature a state championship, Smeathers said she wouldn’t trade any moment of the three seasons she played.
“My career went really fast. I think I grew a lot as a person and as an athlete. I owe it all to coach Matis and both my brothers (former Center Grove basketball players Jason and Andrew Smeathers) never letting me win anything and being so competitive,” Smeathers said.
“It’s obviously sad because I’m never going to get to play with these girls again. It would have been nice to go out with a win, but I can’t dwell on that.”
Smeathers is one of three Center Grove players to earn All-County status.
Senior setter Taylor Hammill, a 5-11 four-year starter, made it after leading the Trojans in assists (1,087) to go along with 27 aces and 166 digs. Outside hitter Malea Howie, also a senior, finished with 289 kills and 66 blocks to finish second in both categories behind Smeathers.
Representing Franklin, which finished with a 30-6 record, were 5-8 freshman Brooke Phillips (153 kills, 74 aces, 179 digs) and 5-10 sophomore outside hitter Rachel Kinney (338 kills, 242 digs).
Six-foot senior middle blocker Olivia Stilley led Greenwood to an 18-13 season with team-highs in kills (268) and blocks (40) also made it.
Mara Cox of Edinburgh, a 5-9 junior middle blocker who led the Lancers to a 24-10 record with her 483 kills, 37 blocks and 28 aces, also earned a place on the All-County Team.
Smeathers, Hammill and Kinney are repeat selections from the 2014 All-County Volleyball Team, with Hammill also making it in 2013.
2015 ALL-COUNTY VOLLEYBALL TEAM
Madison Smeathers;Center Grove;Senior
Taylor Hammill;Center Grove;Senior
Malea Howie;Center Grove;Senior
Center Grove: Devynn Merriman, Macy Carrabine
Edinburgh: Megan Rooks, Lillie Parmer, Brianna Howard
Franklin: Morgan Hash, Kaylee Phillips
Greenwood: Hanna Anderson, Camryn LaMonaca, Emily Struewing
Greenwood Christian Academy: Sierra Gilson, Delanie Kent
Indian Creek: Lucy Kieweg, Baylee Wilson
Whiteland: Kylie Glover, Elaina Robards, Mackenzie Blazek