Although his team was coming off two straight North Carolina 3A state championships,
Cardinal Gibbons (Raleigh, N.C.)
coach Logan Barber had a problem. He was short on outside hitters and his best option to fill that need was the team's returning setter.
However this player wasn't just any setter. She was Madison Bugg
, a former Gatorade State Player of the Year and a member of Team USA who probably ranked as one of the best setters in the nation.
Would she be comfortable moving to another position so late in her high school career?
Not a problem, according to Barber.
"Madison was definitely the most skilled setter, but she was also the only one that could make the transition to the outside," said Barber. "I wanted to make sure it was something she was comfortable with so I approached her and talked to her and her only response was 'I'll do whatever the team needs me to do.' This is when I knew that she really understood not only how to be physically good on the court but that she really understood how to make her team better, which is all that any coach would want from a player."
So far the move has been a successful one. The Crusaders are undefeated against North Carolina competition (all three losses came against California teams at the Archbishop Mitty Tournament in San Jose) and they have defeated the last two North Carolina 4A state champions — Apex and Rose — by 3-0 scores.
Bugg has been the leader on the attack, posting a team-best 199 kills while leading the team to a No. 1 ranking in North Carolina by the MaxPreps Freeman Ratings
. She is also second in digs with 121 and has 15 blocks at the net.
"Madison is the most physically gifted volleyball player that I've had the chance to work with," said Barber. "She can do anything you ask her to do and she can do it the way it needs to be done to not only win but make your team better."
Bugg credits her mother Robin, a former University of Tennessee player and a member of the Lady Vols Hall of Fame, with being the biggest influence on her volleyball career.
"She's taught me everything from how to throw a ball to how to pancake to how to gut it out in pressure situations," said Bugg.
Her mom was also there when Bugg first realized that volleyball might be her ticket to a college education.
"When I first talked to John Dunning, the head coach at Stanford, on the phone, I was riding in the car and I looked at my mom," said Bugg. "She said, 'This is really happening, Madi!' That's kind of when it hit me that I could play at the college level."
Bugg has given a verbal commitment to play at Stanford but has yet to sign. She added that the recruiting process proved to be extremely stressful.
"The recruiting process has been good; visiting colleges and going to football games is a lot of fun," she said. "The hardest part for me was waiting to hear if I had gotten into Stanford or not. Serious stress."
The Cardinal could be getting a player who has shined at both the state and national level. Bugg led Cardinal Gibbons to state titles in 2009 and 2010 and earned State Player of the Year honors following her sophomore season.
Bugg has also participated on Team USA for the past four years, being named to the Select A1 team in 2008 and 2009 and the U.S. Girls Youth Team in 2010. She helped lead USA to the gold medal in the NORCECA Girls' Youth Continental Championship and won the Best Setter Award.
"My most memorable moment as a player is standing on the court in Guatemala for the USA Girls Youth Team while the 'Star Spangled Banner' played," said Bugg. "It was amazing. I swear time stopped."
Bugg has set a goal to help Cardinal Gibbons win another state championship this year, but she also wants more for her team, which she calls her family.
"The best thing about volleyball is that walking into the gym every day I know I have 15 girls that care about me no matter what kind of day I had or what mood I'm in. It's a family," she said. "So I want to try to get the volleyball team more involved with the rest of the school and make it a memorable season for everyone on the team."
Barber adds that Bugg continues to work hard and compete no matter how many accolades she has accumulated.
"Madison is one of the most driven people I've ever met and that is a big part of who she is and everything she does," said Barber. "She pushes herself and her teammates on the court to overachieve, but she also takes that same attitude into her schoolwork and anything she chooses to do. The thing that keeps surprising me about Madison is that she is very humble despite all of her success and attention. She has such a level head and approaches every practice and game only as a way to help make her school more successful."
The Crusaders conclude the regular season this week and Bugg and her teammates will look to add a third straight 3A championship.
"I hope our team goes all the way and wins states again," said Bugg. "Gibbons is hard to beat because we have a lot of experience in our starting lineup and that helps in tight matches."
Having a player the quality of Madison Bugg doesn't hurt either.Watch more videos of Cardinal Gibbons volleyball