Freshman Franz is an Ace for Lowell Catholic
LOWELL -- The newest hot shot in Lowell Catholic’s girls volleyball program has proven to be a real net gain.
Freshman Madi Franz of Billerica is an emerging force in the Crusaders’ lineup. A 5-foot-9 outside hitter, Franz is one of the smash hits of the first half of the season in the Catholic Central League, making a dominant first impression while helping Lowell Catholic get off to an 8-3 start.
A student of the game, Franz is quick, athletic and unpredictable in her method of attack, relying on deception as much as brute force while making a big hit.
“She’s good at picking her spots and she has a lot of power,” said Lowell Catholic head coach Edgar Valdez. “She has a pretty live arm. She’s hit a few balls that make you say, ‘Wow!’
“Sometimes she’s hit right at people and unfortunately they’ve felt the brunt of her shot. She’s even surprised coaches and teammates with how hard she hits it. Her shots have plenty of velocity.”
Through Lowell Catholic’s first 10 matches, Franz had notched 106 kills, 63 service aces, 56 digs and 10 blocks. Franz, 14, has quickly hit it off with teammates, while consistently hitting shots into open spots in the defense.
“Everyone on the team has been so welcoming,” said Franz. “I mesh together so well with the girls, which is really amazing. It’s really fun playing here. The coaches are great. They’ll stay after practice to work on things with you. And I’ve been taking advantage of that.”
Franz gravitated to volleyball in the fifth grade. She plays for the Gators Volleyball Club in the off-season and attends numerous camps and clinics while working hard at improving her skills.
“She came in with a lot more experience than our typical freshmen players, many of whom never played volleyball before coming out for the team,” said Valdez, who has led Lowell Catholic to four straight CCL Small titles.
“She really hit the ground running. She knew what she was doing right away. She’s just a great kid. She’s been playing and going to camps since the fifth grade so she has four years of volleyball experience.
“She’s very athletic. She can jump. She’s pretty strong, too. She’s very well-rounded. She’s not just a hitter. She really is an all-around player. That speaks to her work ethic. She’s always trying to get better. It’s not just her natural talent. The thing that separates her is how hard she works at it. She’s always working at doing the right thing. It shows in her performance.”
Franz has been performing at an extremely high level since the season began. In a 3-1 win over the Academy of Notre Dame, she tallied 20 kills, seven service aces and nine digs. Franz filled the stat sheet with 19 kills, two blocks, 12 digs and six service aces in a 3-2 win over Mystic Valley Charter.
“Everything comes from getting into a good rhythm,” said Franz. “You want to get that first hit to help get you into a zone. There are always ups and downs during a match. You can have a real good hit and the very next play you could hit it into the net. You have to be able to bounce back.
“Volleyball is a very mental game. Fortunately, you don’t have time to dwell on mistakes. If someone aced you out, they are literally serving 20 seconds later. That’s a good thing because it’s a constant challenge.”
Franz is quick to point out the role her teammates have played in helping to overcome the challenges she encounters on the court.
“A lot factors go into every shot,” said Franz. “You need to get a good pass. You need a good set. The whole team has to work together in order for me to get a kill. My teammates have played a big role in me playing well. I wouldn’t be able to do anything without my teammates. We win as a team.”
Lowell Catholic’s coaches have helped Franz make an immediate impact at the varsity level.
“She’s very coachable,” said Valdez. “She’s very good at picking up new skills. She has a great skill-set and she’s always adding to it. She just loves playing volleyball.”
Follow Carmine Frongillo on Twitter @cwfrongi