From the very first time that Coppell senior Madison Gilliland stepped foot on campus, she never wanted anything given to her – she wanted to work hard to earn it.
During volleyball tryouts her freshman season, Gilliland knew that earning a spot on Coppell’s varsity team wasn’t going to be a sure thing. In fact, she was in competition with a handful of other hopefuls to earn just one of two starting spots at middle blocker.
When it was time for Coppell head coach Julie Price to finalize the roster, Gilliland’s experience of playing on the highest level of her club team — Skyline Juniors — work ethic and passion for the game helped her to push through all of the drills and to earn a starting role alongside Riley Ross.
Gilliland and Ross made for an imposing duo on the front row, combining for 526 kills and 207 blocks – Ross had a team-high 113 blocks and Gilliland was second with 94. Their net presence helped Coppell to finish with an overall record of 38-4, an undefeated run through conference play and a playoff run that lasted three rounds deep.
“My freshman season was so fun,” Gilliland said. “Riley is such a sweet girl and a lot of fun to play with. I really enjoyed playing with her.”
Gilliland made a huge decision regarding her future in February of her sophomore season. That’s when she gave her verbal commitment to play for Texas Tech, and on Nov. 11, 2020, Gilliland became a midyear signee with the Red Raiders.
Gilliland’s roots run deep in Lubbock. She was born in Lubbock, and her mother, Angela, played golf for four years at Tech. Madison’s father, James, was on the men’s basketball team at Wayland Baptist for one year before he transferred to Tech to complete his studies. Her brother, James, is a Tech alum.
Family is important to Gilliland. Madison has always been appreciative of their support. Her family can be seen sitting in the stands at center court in every volleyball match that she plays.
“My family is amazing,” she said. “It means so much to have them there every time to watch me play. I’m so lucky to have them.”
Although Madison’s future playing volleyball had been decided midway through her prep career, she wasn’t going to stop working. She knew that giving a verbal commitment to a college didn’t mean that she couldn’t rest on her laurels.
It wasn’t just as a blocker and hitter that she wanted to excel.
As a freshman, Gilliland didn’t have one attempted serve. She had 32 aces in 402 attempts her sophomore season.
As a junior, the Cowgirls’ coaching staff had flirted around the thought of having Gilliland expand her role to serve-receive. But, with defensive specialist Isabelle Bowles excelling at that position, Price and her staff came with an alternative plan – Gilliland would play in a limited role in the back row.
As Gilliland’s senior season was rapidly approaching, again the idea of her expanding her role was discussed. And with not much depth at that position, the future Red Raider was given the green light. However, it came with a lot of training.
“During practice, we did six-on-six and I was always in the back row, learning how to adjust to the ball and where and how to pass,” she said. “My role was now as a six-rotation player and it was a lot of hard work, but I enjoyed the challenge.”
Gilliland’s hard work paid off in spades. Her senior season, she dug out 165 balls, compared to just 52 as a junior – she more than tripled her output but did it in 31 less sets, as Coppell played in 118 sets in 2019 before a reduced schedule in 2020 due to COVID-19 limited the Cowgirls to 87 sets. At serve-receive, she finished with 430 attempts as a senior, compared to 73 as a junior.
It wasn’t just on defense where Gilliland stood out in her final season donning a Cowgirl uniform. She was still all business at middle blocker, leading all area players in Class 6A in kills with 314 to go along with 82 blocks and 33 service aces. Gilliland finished her four-year varsity career with 1,400 kills, 465 blocks, 316 digs and 80 aces.
The recognition followed. Gilliland was named the District 6-6A blocker of the year, earned a spot on the Texas Girls Coaches Association all-state team and a selection on the AVCA all-region team. She was named first team all-state and PrepVolleyball.com All-American in her junior campaign and all-area, all-state and PrepVolleyball Sophomore 59 honors in 2018. She was named district newcomer of the year as a freshman.
All of these gaudy statistics came during one of the most challenging seasons in recent memory – not just for Coppell.
There was an 18-day pause between matches in October due to COVID-19 concerns within the Cowgirls’ program, in the heart of district play, no less. But, the Cowgirls worked through challenges of conducting team meetings remotely and went on to clinch a playoff berth. In the bi-district round of the Class 6A playoffs, Coppell took nationally ranked Prosper to five sets.
“It was a fun season, but also challenging,” Gilliland said. “I had fun playing with my team, but it was different to have to be wearing face masks in practice all of the time. We had to shut down for a little bit due to COVID-19. But, we did a lot of good things despite being relatively young.”
An early graduate of Coppell, Gilliland is moving into her new digs at Texas Tech on Tuesday. She plans to major in human sciences.
“I’m nervous, but excited at the same time,” she said. “At Coppell, I want to be remembered for my leadership. I want to lead and help my team to be great. Also, God is important to me. God gives me strength to go out onto the court and compete. I thank Him so much.”