Exclusive Player Spotlight: Madison Clayton

Clayton’s fall 2021 headshot

The West Liberty University (WLU) volleyball team has won over half of their games so far this season. Graduate student and captain, Madison Clayton, is a big part of this winning season so far.
Clayton has led the team in kills against Tiffin (14), Millersville (14), Malone (11), Cal U (12), Daeman (9), Walsh (10), and East Stroudsburg (21 kills).

Clayton has also led the team with blocks in just about eight of their matches so far. This gives her 145 kills, 47 block assists, 18 solo blocks and 9 serving aces which equates to about 195.5 points earned in the past 16 games. And on the weekend of Sept. 18, Clayton reached 300 career blocks.

Clayton has been playing volleyball since she was in elementary school. She actually started out as a setter, but when the coaches saw her approaching her now 6’5 height, they quickly transitioned her to a middle hitter.

In her Roseville, Ohio high school, Clayton was awarded Ohio Division II All-District three times, All-Muskingum Valley League, and even MVL Defensive Player of the year in 2015.

At West Liberty, Clayton has received All-MEC honorable mention in 2018 and 1st Team All-MEC in 2019 and 2020. In the abbreviated spring season of 2021, Clayton was ranked number two in the MEC and number 14 nationally with her .393 hitting percentage.

Clayton has her undergraduate degree in athletic training and is currently pursuing her masters in sport leadership and coaching. Thanks to the extra COVID year granted to athletes, Clayton was able to play this year as a graduate student, and she said, “I would play forever if I could.” This will unfortunately be her last year of eligibility. She is hoping to stay with the team for the 2022-2023 season as a graduate assistant. After that, she would like to pursue a career in coaching, as she has really enjoyed her work as a volleyball coach over the summers.

Clayton attributes a lot of her success in the sport to her strong work ethic and the amount of time she has spent in the sport. This makes her a “very calm and collected player,” said Coach Riley Schenk. To her teammates, these attributes help create a reliable player as well. Senior teammate MacKenzie Daub describes Clayton as the type of player “you can always count on to make those plays when the game is on the line.”

One of Clayton’s setters, junior Kirsten Bogunovich, agrees and says, “[Clayton] is extremely dynamic, and I know that I can trust her to put the ball down in any situation.”

This trust is likely built from her leadership. This is Clayton’s fifth year on the team and second year as captain, but even as a sophomore her leadership was seen, because according to Daub, Clayton took her under her wing when she was a freshman.

Current freshman teammate, Riley Cudnik, also enjoys Clayton’s leadership. Cudnik said that Clayton is “constantly keeping [the team] accountable and encouraging us to be better. [Clayton] is very supportive and always helps me with corrections to make and helpful hints to improve how I’m playing.”

Clayton’s teammates are looking forward to potentially having her as a graduate assistant next year. Cudnik said that the team already appreciates Clayton as a teammate, and she does not foresee this changing if she were to be their graduate assistant. Bogunovich adds that Clayton “has so much knowledge and experience to offer,” it would make her a great graduate assistant for the team.

That being said, West Liberty is likely to see, as Schenk called her, “the heartbeat to our program” next year as an effective graduate assistant. But until then, Clayton will continue to be a force on the court for her team, because as she so humbly says, “I play for them.”