The girl wearing the white University of Tennessee volleyball T-shirt who was smacking the ball with thunderous authority during practice last Wednesday doesn’t play for the Volunteers. At least not yet.
Perhaps one day soon, though.
Tennessee is one of the colleges Madison Osler is considering playing for. Also under consideration are Clemson, South Carolina, N.C. State and the College of Charleston.
Yes, she’s that good.
Osler has time before she makes her decision. In the meantime, she is spending her senior season at Mattituck High School using her volleyball skills to help make it as memorable for her teammates and herself as she can.
So far Osler is off to a great start. The outside hitter was lauded for her play in Mattituck’s season-opening loss to Elwood/John Glenn on Sept. 5. Coach Frank Massa said Osler played the best match of her career, hitting the ball from all areas on the court.
“It doesn’t really matter if she’s back row or playing in the front, we’re going to get her the ball,” Massa said. “I’ll take my chances with her swinging at the ball any day. It doesn’t take a smart coach to know what to do with a player like that.”
As impressive as her hitting ability is, Osler does much more. There really isn’t anything the outside hitter cannot do on a volleyball court. She’s a complete player, who can serve, block, dig, pass, set, swing. “From the service line to serve receive to blocking to passing to setting to hitting, she’s doing all facets of the game,” said Massa.
A player doesn’t pick up those skills playing just a few months out of the year. The 5-8 Osler made her varsity debut as a sophomore. She has gotten better each year, said Massa.
Osler said playing club volleyball for four years has helped “tremendously.” Her current club team is the Long Island Fury. The club season runs from late October to early April, with two practices a week and weekend tournaments over the winter. Furthermore, she said playing beach volleyball this summer has helped her agility and leaping ability.
Osler said her game has changed “dramatically” since last year when she was an All-Conference player. She has mastered a powerful jump serve, occasionally mixing in a jump floater to throw opponents offguard.
Osler’s approach is to go for the kill.
“My philosophy is that the more you hit, the harder you’ll hit and I think that even if you’re getting blocked or you’re hitting them out, just to keep swinging because I find that when I’m swinging harder, I’m swinging more consistently,” she said. “So, even in those high-pressure games when it’s 23-24, you still have to crush the ball. You can’t just roll it over and play it safe. You got to go for the kill.”
Massa is seeing confidence and on-court maturity from Osler, who is vital to Mattituck’s fortunes this season. Osler’s presence alone is a help. She draws attention from opponents, opening up hitting lanes for teammates such as outside hitter Vicki Harkin, last year’s League VII Rookie of the Year, and All-League middle hitter Jaime Gaffga.
“She’s playing the role that she needs to play for us to be successful,” said Massa.
Osler understands that. “I know I have to step up big time to help my team,” she said, adding: “I just want to be able to play the best that I can and I’ll know when I hit that point. As of right now, I think I’m on that track of where I want to be.”
Osler also knows how valuable setters like Ashley Chew and Cassidy Bertolas are.
“You get such an adrenaline rush when you see that ball coming down because you know when it’s that perfect set and when you can crush it,” she said. “That kill can’t happen without a great setter. Ashley Chew, I really enjoy having her as my setter because I know she’ll give me the ball where I want it, and so I really give compliments to the setter because I couldn’t hit the way I can if I didn’t get that set. I feel amazing when I get a great kill, when I know I got on top of that ball really nicely.”
The Tuckers hope she experiences that feeling a lot this season.
Photo caption: Mattituck outside hitter Madison Osler is considering Tennessee, Clemson, South Carolina, N.C. State and the College of Charleston as possibilities for herself. (Credit: Bob Liepa)