A scrape here, a scratch there. No biggie.
Madison Shields, the libero for the Pepperdine Waves women’s volleyball team, is used to discovering bumps and bruises—usually on her knees and elbows—following a match.
“Every game, I walk away with some sort of battle scar,” said Shields, a senior. “Sometimes I just wake up to a random bruise that is probably from the game, but it’s worth it. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.”
The markings on her appendages come from running and diving all over the gymnasium floor in pursuit of the volleyball. As the Waves’ top defender, it’s her job to be quicker than her teammates in figuring out where a ball rocketed by opposition is heading to on Pepperdine’s side of the net and to give the ball a deft hit to keep it in play.
“I don’t really give up on any plays,” Shields said. “I pretty much go for anything in my vicinity. Having that mindset has expanded my range on the court. Sacrificing your body for the ball—I love it.”
Shields’ gashes along with her stellar defensive play led her to be named the West Coast Conference’s Defensive Player of the Week on Nov. 1. She earned the honor for the fifth time in her career after she led Pepperdine to a sweep over Pacific Coast Highway rival Loyola Marymount University (LMU) on Oct. 29.
The fourth-year Wave tallied 17 digs and five assists in the 33-31, 25-22, 25-23 victory. She totaled 24 successful service reception attempts without an error. Shields averaged 5.6 digs and 1.67 assists per set in the triumph over LMU.
The WCC is a very competitive conference, Shields said, so it was amazing to get recognition.
“I couldn’t do it without my teammates, my supporters,” she said. “Winning it means so much to me because there are a lot of great athletes in the WCC, so it’s nice when I get any recognition.”
Shields first won the defensive honor last February during Pepperdine’s COVID-19-delayed 2020 season. She then won it twice in March. The player won the weekly award for the fourth time in September.
Pepperdine downed Pacific, 3-0, on Nov 6. In the squad’s 25-15, 25-19, 25-20 victory, Shields registered 18 digs, two assists and one ace. It was the 50th time in her career and 20th time this season Shields finished a contest with double-figure digs.
Shields is marching toward the top 10 on Pepperdine’s career digs list heading into the Waves’ contest at Brigham Young University (BYU) on Thursday. “If I told my 13-year-old self, she would be in disbelief because Pepperdine was my dream school,” she reflected. “It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get here.”
Shields has been a defensive player—a libero, or defensive specialist—since she began playing volleyball as kid. She wanted at play at Pepperdine soon after she participated in her first Marv Dunphy volleyball camp at Pepperdine as a young teen.
Shields loved her initial experience at the camp and went back again the following summer.
“How could you not fall in love with the amazing atmosphere at Pepperdine?” the 21-year-old recalled. “Also, the people and the environment for volleyball is something I wanted to be a part of. I always kept Pepperdine in my sights as I progressed in volleyball.”
Shields was two-year team captain and 2017 MVP for girls’ volleyball team at Oak Ridge High in El Dorado Hills. She has garnered a lot of recognition including being named a Sierra Foothill All-League honors for three straight seasons.
Since her 2018 freshman season with Pepperdine, Shields has been a defensive stalwart for Pepperdine. Her mentality and work ethic have helped her excel.
“I love the situations where I have to prove myself,” she said. “It provides a ton of room for personal growth. It’s hard but it is so worth it. The hard times were tough in the moment but they made me such a better person and player.”
Pepperdine had an 18-4 record at press time and was ranked 25th nationally. After the game at BYU, Pepperdine plays at San Diego on Saturday and then hosts San Francisco on Nov. 18. The squad hosts Santa Clara two days later and closes the regular season by hosting Gonzaga on Nov. 23.
The Waves had won five consecutive games by the end of last weekend.
Shields said a change in the Waves lineup possibly spurred the winning streak. She cited the team’s “ability to make adjustments when things aren’t working—persevere through adversity,” as one of its key strengths.
“We are all very bought-in and have high expectations of ourselves individually and as a team,” she continued. “Once we are all on the same page, it flows well in the games and tough situations.”