Madison Bennett was a major contributor for the Woodland High School girls soccer team over the past four seasons. However, four months ago, she was not planning on continuing her career in college.
A few months, emails and soccer camps later, Bennett decided she would play soccer at the next level after all, and last week, she signed to play for North Greenville University.
“I played for 13 years and was always like, ‘I want to play college soccer.’ And recently, I was like, ‘It’s just not for me,’” Bennett said. “I thought I was going to go to Liberty University. That’s where I was looking at. That’s where I really wanted to go. Their soccer program is really prestigious, D-I. I just didn’t think, with what I want to do because I want to go on missions and go internationally, I thought it was too time-consuming with my major. So I just kind of cut it off there. ... And then the Lord just kept changing my heart, and He kind of led me to North Greenville and their outdoor leadership program and their missions. So I just thought this is where I needed to be. And it’s a D-II school, so I thought I’m probably good enough to play there and see if they like me. So it just kind of went from there.
“I sent the coach an email and he told me to come up for an ID camp. So I did that, and then he told me to keep sending game film. ... I just kept sending that to him and he came up to watch a game.”
Bennett said her love for the outdoors and North Greenville’s Christian focus led her to the school.
“I chose North Greenville because it’s a private Christian University. College is a huge transition time and we learn so much and we develop,” she said. “I’ve been to public school all my life and I really kind of just wanted to go through that transition time of a Christian background, a Christian understanding, just so I could really develop the right morals. ... I’m majoring in outdoor leadership and they have a prestigious outdoor leadership program there.”
North Greenville, located in Tigerville, South Carolina, is an NCAA Division II program in the Conference Carolinas. As well as the interest from the soccer program, the school’s outdoor leadership program was a major draw for Bennett.
“Outdoor leadership, I kind of wanted to do the ministries aspect of it, so it’s kind of like camp ministries. They can kind of be tour guides, working in Colorado, stuff like that. So I want to do camp ministry, some kind of outdoor therapy. People have done that before. Obviously, I want to pull God into it, too. And then also, I want to minor in intercultural studies, which is like Christian studies, but with a missions aspect because missions is a huge thing and I love travelling. I can see myself ending up on the mission field somewhere in like Africa or something. ... In the [outdoor leadership] program, they learn how to kayak. They learn how to belay people. You can teach leadership through any degree. This is just leadership in outdoors.”
Bennett was the center defender for the Lady Wildcats and was an important member of the squad, according to head coach Jonathan Cannon.
“She was our lead defender. She’s the voice of the defense, keeping them all together. As center defender, that was her role,” Cannon said of Bennett. “She’s been a leader for multiple years. She’s definitely going to be missed on our defensive line. I’m just proud of her to make it to the next level.”
Bennett faced off against some talented strikers in Region 7-AAAAA and performed well, including the River Ridge game when North Greenville’s coach was in attendance.
“I think [the River Ridge game] was one of my better games,” Bennett said. “It was kind of funny. [The coach] emailed me and was like, ‘Would you like to know which game I’m coming to?’ And I checked it like 20 minutes before I went on the field. And he was like, ‘By the way, I’ll be at your game tomorrow.’ I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s today.’ I had no idea all day. So I think that was good that I found out late because I wasn’t nervous all day or anything like that. I think we lost by one goal. We should have won that game, but I’m proud. We still played really well. And then the coach invited me on an official visit and everything worked out.”
Bennett’s athleticism is a major attribute of her game. She took first place in the 100-meter dash at the Bartow County meet, and she has drawn the distinction as the strongest girl in the school from Woodland strength coach Tony Plott.
“I really like lifting weights. Coach Plott could tell you otherwise some days. Squat and power clean are kind of my thing,” Bennett said. “I just really like lifting weights. That’s just something I’m good at. ... Sophomore year, I just started weightlifting and now I’m up to like 250 on squats. And, power cleans, probably 175 or something like that.”
That athleticism will translate anywhere on the soccer field, but Bennett believes she will stick at defender with North Greenville.
“[Defender] is the position I play right now, but back in the day, growing up, I played forward. I played midfield. I would think that since he saw me as a defender, he would have something in mind that he would put me as defense, but I’m not picky whatsoever. If he tells me to play goalie, I’ll jump in.”
Whichever position Bennett plays, Cannon believes Bennett’s athleticism and work ethic will translate to the college level.
“She’s going to do well,” he said. “Her work ethic is very good. So, if she’s not starting immediately, she’ll be starting soon.”
“I’d like to do my best. I don’t really know how it’s going to look. I’m really working on my skills and my athleticism this summer just so, that way, when I get to college, the coach can focus on coaching me,” Bennett said. “I’m really trying to focus on my weightlifting, work on my skill, so when I get to college, I can be coachable and just serve my team. Obviously, I want to play. That’s my goal, too. But, if I do my best and I’m coachable, I think that’ll come.”