Schermerhorn family logging plenty of miles this fall

Nov. 25—WEST LAFAYETTE — Maddie Schermerhorn thought the play was over.

Laying on the ground after making the initial dig, the ball went off the top of the net and back toward one of her teammates, Eva Hudson. The ball went off Hudson's hands, falling right back to where Schermerhorn laid on the ground.

Instinctually, the Purdue senior stretched her left arm out, somehow making enough contact with the ball to get it over the net and keep the point alive.

Less than 20 seconds later, Ali Hornung slammed home a kill to win the point and the first set, 25-23, over Michigan.

"Honestly, I thought Eva hit it twice, so I thought the play was dead," said Schermerhorn, recalling the play. "But then I was like, 'Oh, let's try this.' There was nothing that really went through my head; I just stuck my arm out. There was really no processing of everything."

It was a memorable moment for what's been a memorable season as a whole for the West Noble graduate. Schermerhorn has been the starting libero for the Purdue volleyball team this season, helping the Boilermakers carry a 20-9 record into Friday's regular season finale against No. 11 Penn State.

Purdue is currently ranked No. 19 in the polls and is expected to make the NCAA Tournament for an eight-straight season under head coach Dave Shondell.

"Just seeing how I've been able to perform and watching on film, I'm still getting better each day, and I have coaches that are pushing me and giving me reasons to tell me I'm the best libero in the Big Ten," Schermerhorn said. "I will continue to tell myself that until we get the one job done, which is going to the Final Four. If I have to keep getting better every day to get our team there, I will."

FAMILY SUPPORT

Making the play even more special for Schermerhorn was the fact it happened on Senior Night. More than 50 of her family and friends packed into Holloway Gymnasium for the contest, getting one last chance to watch her play at the place she's called home for the last four years.

"They tell me this every time that even if I was hurt or not playing, they would've been there, and I think that just shows a lot about who they are," said Schermerhorn of the support she's received. "It just reminded me that's why I've worked so hard. It's for those people."

Making the trek from Ligonier to West Lafayette has become commonplace in the Schermerhorn household. At least one member of Maddie's immediate family — whether it be dad, Tom, mother, DeeDee, or younger brother, Luke — have been to every home game this season.

Furthermore, the family has made nearly every road trip that Purdue has been on this season. According to Tom, the only Big Ten gym they did not travel to this season was Nebraska. That means road trips were made to Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan State and Michigan before this current trip took them to Maryland Wednesday and Penn State Friday.

"It just shows what the Schermerhorn's are for," Maddie said. "Some people don't really understand how supporting they are until I say things like, 'My family is coming to Maryland this weekend.' And my teammates are like, 'Really?' And I'm like, 'Yup.' Every time my parents tell me they're coming, I'm almost like, 'Are you serious?' They obviously don't have easy jobs — my dad is an AD and my mom's a teacher. Those are very two exhausting jobs for them, and the fact they put me in front of their ability to relax a little bit just shows the kind of people that they are. That's why I admire them so much.

"And even Luke, he's a senior in high school. Honestly, he could just hang out at home with his friends or his girlfriend or play video games. He's been over-the-top support for me, and I couldn't be any more thankful."

As Maddie mentioned, both Tom and DeeDee work at West Noble, with Tom being the high school athletic director and DeeDee an elementary school teacher. During this past fall, the two parents have had a fun time balancing their work schedules while also trying to support their kids during their season seasons — Maddie with volleyball, and Luke with tennis.

"It's been really hard this year having two seniors, with Luke in high school and Maddie at college," DeeDee said. "We've had to be split up a little bit more than we've wanted, for sure."

Tom gives a lot of credit to the support staff around him that have helped him make the numerous road trips to see Maddie play.

"The people I've worked with have been awesome," Tom said. "The administrative staff I worked with has been great; they've helped out immensely. My coaches have helped out immensely as well. Fortunately, a lot of Purdue games are on Saturday nights, Sundays and Wednesdays, and we don't have a lot of activities going on during those days. It means I don't get many days off from sporting events, but that's OK."

Tom, DeeDee and Luke all pointed to one Saturday this year in-particular that was the craziest one for them.

"I would have to say my most hectic day is on the one of the Saturday's she had a game and I also was helping at the West Noble cross country Invitational," said Luke, which is an event that features more than 2,000 runners from the high school to middle school levels. "I also went to volleyball invite at Tippecanoe Valley, so I was all over the place that day. It helps that her weekend games are 8 p.m. on Saturdays, but that also means it is a long night. But it is worth it being able to support her."

Traveling for games has been something the Schermerhorn family has done during Maddie's entire career, which has included Elite Eight appearances in back-to-back seasons.

"We've been so fortunate that so many of our family members have been able to be there," Tom said. "My parents have been to quite a few games, and so have DeeDee's. In fact, they have season tickets. We've been fortunate her grandparents have been able to go and see her play quite a bit."

INCREASED PRODUCTION

The Schermerhorn family has been rewarded for all its travel with an excellent season so far from Maddie.

After seeing on-and-off playing time during her first three seasons, Maddie has had an expanded role this season as a senior. She's stepped up to the challenge, becoming one of the best defensive players in the Big Ten. Her 4.67 digs per set is tops in the conference, and her 453 total digs ranks fourth — mostly because she's only played 97 sets compared to the 100-plus that the three players ahead of her have played.

"I went through a lot of challenges," Maddie said. "I got put in a lot of leadership roles (in the offseason) that I was still trying to figure out, and I got pushed to be a better teammate and a better leader in that sense. But I also had to raise my confidence level. People are now going to look to me on how they're going to play and how they feel stepping onto the floor, and I wanted to bring that presence of calmness."

Her hard work has been rewarded by being named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week on two separate occasions. The first one came on Sept. 5 following three strong performances at the Reamer Club Xtra Special tournament in West Lafayette, and the other came on Nov. 7 after strong performances in conference road wins over Michigan State and Michigan.

"It's not something you think about, you know?" said Maddie of winning the awards. "When you get a game with double-digit digs, you're not like, 'Am I going to get that reward?' I didn't even think about that. ... I think Purdue has had so many great liberos in the past, and I hope to keep adding onto that."

Naturally, when Maddie won her first DPOW award, the first call was to mom and dad. Tom and DeeDee were at the Marshmallow Festival in Ligonier when DeeDee's phone rang.

"Pretty much what she said was, 'Mom, dad, you're not going to believe this, but I just got Big Ten defensive player of the week,'" Tom recalled. "She's obviously sobbing, and she said it had been a dream of hers since she was a little kid.

"We enjoy that about her because she recognizes the moment. I don't think Maddie is taking any of this for granted. She just loves being a part of Purdue, and I don't think she's taken it for granted since she's been there for the last four years. It's been neat watching that part of her."

Seeing her daughter shine her senior season has been rewarding for DeeDee.

"It's been fun to see her succeed like she has because I know how hard she's worked to get to where she is," DeeDee said. "Dave Shondell commented that out of all the players, she has spent the most time in the gym, and so that attributes to her hard work."

With the NCAA Tournament fast approaching, Maddie's main goal stays focused on making it to the Final Four. She hopes that the hard work her team has put in this season will lead them to the promise land.

"I think right now, we just have to figure out our consistency and trust our roles," Maddie said. "I think we've been so close in each game that we have lost. We just need to put the final piece in. I know we work hard in practice and put the extra time in, whether that's watching film or just trying to meet with the coaches. A lot of our hard work is going to pay off, it's just a matter of when."

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.