University of Saskatchewan women’s volleyball head coach Mark Dodds is excited to see what Kola product Maddie Lesnar can do at the post-secondary level.
The daughter of Chad and Jennifer Lesnar has committed to study and play at the Saskatoon-based institution. The Huskies compete at the U Sports level, the highest for Canadian university athletics, in the Canada West conference.
“I’m just excited that this is a really athletic kid and I’m excited to see her come in and grow and develop at the next level to see where she can get to,” Dodds said. “It’ll be fun to see her journey.”
Lesnar, who plans to study psychology, is looking forward to volleyball and academics at the next level.
“I’m very excited to see and be able to compete at a university level. I’ve heard great things about the Huskies team and the university itself. I’m so excited to be able to be a part of the Huskies,” she said, noting she was also interested in some other schools but that the U of S coach made her “feel very wanted and welcome.”
The support of Lesnar’s family helped her earn the opportunity to play at the next level.
“My parents are my rocks,” she said. “My mom rarely missed club and high school tournaments. Waking up at 4 a.m. to drive me to Winnipeg for practice in the summer. They have supported me through all four/five years. I am so grateful to have such supportive parents that push me to be the best I can and give up their own time for me.”
When asked what Lesnar brings to the Huskies, Dodds said:
“She is definitely a player with an arm that looks like it can compete at the Canada West level. When I’m looking at athletes, I’m trying to find some characteristics that can carry over into the Canada West game. Her arm swing and power is definitely one of those aspects.”
A 6-footer, Lesnar played mostly middle at Virden Collegiate Institute and with the Club West Rage. She was tabbed at that position as one of the Winnipeg Sun’s High School Girls Top 10 Volleyball Players. Her portion of the article described her as a “hard working, determined player, strong presence at the net that changes the plans of the opposition.”
At the Canada West level, she is expected to transition to be an outside hitter. Lesnar said she is excited for the switch. Dodds explained:
“With that arm and the potential with that arm, seeing if she ca transition to outside and become a passer and playing defence and all those details that come with it, and allow that arm to be a weapon from the outside.”
At the high school and club levels, Lesnar has demonstrated she has an all-around game.
“(Maddie is) very versatile in that she can serve receive and play her own defence,” Club West coach Steve Densmore said. “Maddie is a very strong all-round player who you can put at any position and be comfortable with her there.”
VCI volleyball coach Curtis Plett praised Lesnar for her talent, work ethic and her determination.
“She has a ton of natural physical ability and talent from a young age and has worked hard at reaching her potential throughout the years,” Plett said. “In game, she has a competitive drive that you want from a player... characteristic of champions. She will do anything to win and wants the ball when the game is on the line.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made for a unique, if not challenging, recruiting year. Dodds watched Lesnar play at the 2019 Best of the West, a premier club tournament in Calgary, and was impressed with what he saw. The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented him from seeing her play in person since.
Lesnar said her last club volleyball game was the weekend of March 6-8, 2020. She did some training in Winnipeg during the summer and VCI started practice last fall but things were shut down before the high school team could take the court.
“I haven’t played an official game in over a year,” Lesnar said.
Densmore reached out to Dodds about Lesnar. The U of S head coach said this “kind of drew me back to her on my list. A few discussions later and she’s coming to Saskatoon.”
“I knew Mark had watched Maddie play at Best of West tournament where she was an all-star. With all the COVID rules basically wiping out one and a half seasons, it seemed logical to talk to him,” Densmore said. “The unfortunate part was Maddie was playing her best volleyball when we got shut down.”
Dodds believes that Lesnar’s personality, as well as her talent, will help her fit in well with the Huskies.
“I’m a small towner as well so I like that small town feel from her,” he said. “I feel she will be a great fit. She is really keen on the academic side and coming to university and there for that aspect – that’s pretty key for me. We’re going to have 18, 19 players next year on our roster, lots of different personalities, I think Maddie will bring just another element to our team.”