We’re proud to be a part of an ongoing partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods, which is sponsoring our Player of the Week award. We’ll be releasing a featured Vballrecruiter.com Player of the Week, sponsored by Dick’s Sporting Goods, on Tuesdays. Below is this week’s Player of the Week: Madeline Kraft.
It always has to start somewhere. When it came to Madeline Kraft’s beginning in the sport of volleyball, it was simple.
“At first I did it because my friends were doing it and it just stuck,” she said. “Another interest I had in volleyball was going to a lot of (Minnesota) Gophers games. That also really got me into it.”
Before taking up volleyball for the first time in fourth grade, Kraft had spent time doing gymnastics and dancing. She didn’t feel as comfortable with either of those as she did with volleyball.
“It felt natural,” Kraft said of volleyball.
Kraft – a 4-star libero/DS from the Class of 2026 – first played club for Northern Lights during her 12s season. Being part of a club like that and playing for a competitive team is when she started finding out how much she likes the sport.
She’s been a defender throughout her relatively short volleyball career. With her dad being a 4-time All-American wrestler at Minnesota, Kraft has always had a competitive edge and she really enjoys bringing that mentality to the defensive side.
“I love how relentless you have to be,” she said. “You don’t get to think too much about the play, you just have to react and go. It’s like being the quarterback of the defense and being a defensive leader, as well as cheering everyone up.”
When we spoke with Kraft she was only two matches into her high school season with Eagan. The Wildcats currently sit at 6-1 as of this writing. It’s an exciting time at the school with the big coaching change this season. Longtime coach Kathy Gillen stepped down as head coach after 30 seasons. She was inducted into the Minnesota Hall of Fame in 2014, racked up over 700 victories and guided the program to seven state championships during her tenure. Gillen is now an assistant coach for her daughter, McKenna Melville, who has taken on head coaching duties this season.
Melville – a Eagan alum who just concluded her collegiate career at the University of Central Florida – taking over the head position has created a buzz. She made a name for herself at UCF by leading the nation in kills and becoming the first player in program history to be named to the AVCA First Team All-America list.
“We have a good team,” Kraft said. “We are all glad we get to play under her. Obviously, she’s a really good player and a really good role model.”
As our featured Player of the Week sponsored by Dick’s Sporting Goods, we recently spoke with Kraft about volleyball and more.
Who is a role model or someone you look up to?
Kraft: It’s Mckenna (Melville), my (new) coach for Eagan. She just graduated (from Central Florida). I can really relate to her. She’s a good student-athlete and I want to be like her. I look up to her because she succeeded a lot in college. I knew of her before. I met her once before and I always watched her while growing up. She played at Eagan. She committed as a libero but she grew four inches and started hitting in college.
What is your favorite food?
Kraft: It’s probably pasta and pineapple. When it comes to pasta, I really like spaghetti.
Other than volleyball, what skill would you most like to learn and why?
Kraft: I would like to become fluent in another language, so I can travel the world and be able to communicate with other cultures and people throughout the world.
If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be and why?
Kraft: Probably spend time with my friends. It’s hard to make time for them with my busy schedule. I like hanging out with them. We’d probably go shopping.
Aside from necessities, what is one thing you could not go a day without?
Kraft: Starbucks. My everyday drink is the Strawberry Acai refresher with lemonade.
What is one thing that instantly makes your day better or makes you smile?
Kraft: Probably my dog. Whenever I’m sad she cheers me up. Her name is Olivia. She’s a Toy Poodle but she doesn’t really look like a poodle though.
If you could have any superpower what would it be and why?
Kraft: It probably would be teleportation. I can’t drive right now and it would make my life a lot easier to go wherever, whenever I want. If I want to go to the beach, I’d just be there.
Outside of volleyball what are you most passionate about and why?
Kraft: Just being a good person in general. Being a good friend, being a good sibling, being a good daughter. I’m always trying to think of the best in people and things.
What is one thing that may surprise people about you?
Kraft: I can get very serious in stressful times and I can shut everything out and be focused. It’s because I’m usually all over the place. I’m usually making jokes and being light-hearted but I can switch and just turn it on, especially on the court.
What is your strangest irrational fear?
Kraft: It’s mice or rodents. I don’t like hamsters or anything like that. They freak me out. They are little and fast. I had a hamster once and one day the cage was open and we never found it.
What’s your favorite number and why?
Kraft: It’s probably 6 because I’ve always been some sort of 6 when I play. I’m usually always 6 or 16. I randomly just get a 6 every time.