Sophomore Madison McCartney celebrates a point with her teammates during the Oct. 27 contest against American University in Grace Hall. McCartney has been a high-achieving player on both the offensive and defensive end this season. (Lauren Slovensky/B&W Staff)

Lehigh volleyball sophomore goes by a “why not try it?” philosophy


“Why not try it?” is Madison McCartney’s philosophy for life.

As Lehigh volleyball’s sophomore middle blocker, McCartney has played in every game this season except one, ranking in the top five among her team in blocks and kills for Lehigh’s 2023 fall season.

McCartney said she grew up in an environment where trying new things was always encouraged and never forced. 

Her mother, a former collegiate volleyball player herself, never pressured McCartney to pursue the sport, even when she was deciding whether to continue playing soccer or volleyball during her sophomore year of high school.

“(My mom) was always super realistic with me once I decided on my own to pursue volleyball,” McCartney said.

Early in her volleyball career, McCartney said she went from one club team to a more talented one, where her mother told her she would “ride the bench” in the beginning and would have to work hard to change that.

With some hard work, McCartney was named MVP of her high school team in 2021 when she was a junior. 

Coach Alexa Keckler said McCartney’s hard-working qualities continued into her time at Lehigh. 

McCartney was nominated by her peers and currently serves as the leadership representative for the sophomore class of the Lehigh volleyball team, providing what Keckler calls a “voice at the table” for the sophomores on the team.

“Since (McCartney) arrived on the team, I’ve said multiple times that I would take a whole team of (her) because she is just super coachable and is always willing to do whatever is asked of her,” Keckler said. “She exemplifies a lot of what our team culture stands on, and that is to do the right thing.”

McCartney’s drive and leadership skills are what make her an invaluable member of the volleyball team, Keckler said, but she’s come a long way since the beginning of her first season.

Following a chronic back injury that put her out for the entire spring 2023 season, Keckler said McCartney had to work extremely hard last summer to “earn her position on the court.”

With her successes this season, she has done just that.

Sophomore setter and opposite hitter Arden Below said McCartney’s strengths on the court go beyond her serving, shot selection and left-back defense as a middle. 

Below said playing beside McCartney shows her how fun volleyball can be.

“Playing with (McCartney) reminds me it doesn’t always have to be a serious competition,” Below said. “The best way I can describe it is that she makes everything feel lighter.”

Apart from her mother’s gentle encouragement toward playing volleyball, McCartney has operated outside her comfort zone on other occasions, especially with her father serving in the Navy while she was growing up. 

When McCartney was in middle school, she and her family moved to Japan for two years, where she said she learned to live and thrive no matter where she was.

“My parents always told me, ‘Just try it,’” McCartney said. “Especially when we were in Japan, we were constantly ordering things at restaurants where we had no idea what to expect, they always encouraged me and my brothers to taste it no matter what.”

After Lehigh, McCartney said she plans to use her STEM degree to potentially pursue a career in physical therapy. Because of her relocation-heavy childhood, McCartney said she also would love to live somewhere near a beach where she can truly enjoy the free time she currently lacks as a student-athlete.

Below said in the little free time McCartney has, she can be found on the volleyball court practicing her serve or in the Fairchild-Martindale Library.

“Often when I’m facing a dilemma between studying or napping before practice, I ask myself, ‘What would Madison (McCartney) do?’” Below said.

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