By Thomas Sellers Jr.
In the 10 years The Millington Star Female Athlete of the Year Award has been given out, the Munford Lady Cougars have compiled an Who’s Who List of winners.
The first was Whitney Malone in 2007. Then standouts like Cali Overbeck and Crystal Williams added their names. Fast forward to 2013 and 2014, Sami Jo Schulz and Jodie Duncan were awarded the prize.
Now the latest Munford Lady Cougar to win the award is volleyball and softball All-District standout Maddison Welch.
“It feels great because I know it’s a great accomplishment,” Welch said of her 2015 Female Athlete of the Year Award. “I know a lot of people who could have gotten it, but I’m glad I did.
“It feels great to follow in their footsteps because I know they’re both (Sami and Jodie) great ball players. For them to get and me to get it, it is a great accomplishment.”
Welch makes it three Lady Cougars in a row to win the award. During the tenure of Schulz, Duncan and Welch, Munford volleyball and softball reached Sub-State each year in both sports.
Welch was a part of four volleyball Sectional squads playing along side players like Cecily Gable and Lily Turner. Springtime brought success for her as well reaching the Class 3A State Softball Tournament three years in a row, coming up one game short her senior season.
“We all came together as a team in the end,” Welch recalled of the softball season. “We didn’t quite pull it off in softball but we knew what we had to do. And we did the best we could.”
Welch entered her senior year starting off on the volleyball court and ready to lead. Picking up the game at Munford Middle School, Welch tried out for Nina Makris’ volleyball squad knowing the history of the program featuring players like Williams, Brandi Hale, Savannah Gable, Kelsey Hale, Lizzie McLean and the legendary Scarlet Gable.
“I was nervous as usual,” she recalled. “But I played in middle school and loved it. In high school it got even more competitive and I loved it even more.”
The newest Lady Cougar had to find her place in Makris’ system. Her sophomore and junior campaigns featured Welch as a libero and the Munford continued to dominate District 13-3A.
By the time 2014 arrived, Makris was stepping down and Angie Buchanan entered the picture.
Buchanan counted on her seniors like Welch to lead the squad in order to continue the winning ways. And the new leader of the Lady Cougars wanted to employ Welch in a new position.
“Senior year was as a setter,” Welch said. “I came in the middle of my sophomore year as a libero. Then my junior year I was a libero. So my senior year, ‘Hey Maddie, you will need to set.’ I was like, ‘OK.’
“It was a big transition, mainly getting to know the hitters,” she added. “I’ve never really set before, except for Lily one year. So I had to learn what they needed and what they like so they could put the ball down. Jodie and Savannah were both great setters. So to follow them was a huge honor. I honestly didn’t think I would get the job done and be as good as them. I tried.”
Welch led the Lady Cougars in assists and kept Munford atop the league. After reaching Sub-State for the fourth and final time with Volleyball, Welch grabbed her tools of expertise for the sport she has played since she was 5 years old.
By the time Welch was 14, it was time for her to join Glenn Goulder’s winning program. Prior to her entering high school, the Lady Cougars reached their first State Softball Tournament.
“It was, ‘Go in there. You know the game,’” Welch recalled. “‘Go in there and do better than you have done, keep improving each year.’
Welch would see time at many positions during her four years with the softball time including third base, second base and shortstop.
Injuries her sophomore year forced Welch into the lineup full time.
“Honestly I wasn’t ready,” she said. “Jodie and others kept on getting hurt. So it was a spare of the moment thing. But I felt I did what I needed to do to help the team out.”
Welch helped the Lady Cougars out a lot batting near the top of the lineup. Her contributions assisted Munford in reaching three-more consecutive State Tournaments.
The streak ended at four this past season with the Lady Cougars dropping the Sectional game against Houston. Munford did capture the Region 7-3A championship in 2015 led by Welch and her fellow seniors Taylor Hobson and Tori Ray.
“We made the program better,” Welch said. “I hope it keeps improving each year even though we didn’t make it this year. Hopefully they’ll keep making it in the future. My sister will be there.”
Welch said the Lady Cougar Softball program has solid pieces returning like Jade Welch, Peyton Joyner, Makayla Pugh and Sam Scott.
The next chapter for Welch will be joining the Christian Brothers University Lady Bucs. By signing with the Gulf South Conference team, Welch will play NCAA Division II softball.
Once again Welch’s achievements puts her in the exclusive company of Schulz and Duncan who signed with Memphis and UT Martin respectively.
“It feels great knowing that they are great ball players,” Welch concluded. “To add my name to the same award as them it just feels awesome.”