Deep down, Maddi Foutz felt like she was born to be a Maverick.
When Foutz, a 2017 graduate of Bayfield High School, transferred from Division I powerhouse Colorado State University to Division II Colorado Mesa University after two strong seasons with the Rams, she wanted to rediscover her love for volleyball. In Grand Junction, playing at the alma mater of her mother, Terene Foutz, she was quickly reinvigorated. It showed on the court, no matter where she played.
Even after a position change and the uncertainty of a senior season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, no player in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference performed better during the 2021 spring season than Foutz.
So it was no surprise Wednesday when, on the eve of the RMAC tournament, Foutz was named the RMAC Player of the Year in a vote of the conference coaches.
“This award is special to me because my journey coming into college wasn’t close to what I expected,” Foutz said. “It’s taken many turns that I didn’t expect with the transferring of schools and even the changing of the position that I play. But through it all, my family and this Mavs community have been a constant positive force pushing me to be better and to enjoy the journey.”
A defensive specialist/libero at Colorado State University, Foutz was one of the best in the Mountain West Conference and played in every match at Colorado State, starting 12 games as a true freshman and all 31 as a sophomore.
During her junior season, and first at Colorado Mesa, the 5-foot-5 Foutz began to transition to outside hitter while still leading the team’s defense in digs. Then as a senior, in a season postponed from the fall until the spring because of the pandemic, Foutz emerged as the team’s best all-around threat.
Her 158 kills led the Mavericks and was tied for second most in the RMAC, while her 144 digs also led CMU. She hit for a .246 percentage and tallied 172½ points, the sixth most in the conference.
Foutz became only the third Maverick to win RMAC Player of the Year. Amy Miller won it twice from 1993-94, while Kasie Gilfert won the award in 2018.
Foutz helped lead CMU to its first regular-season RMAC championship since 2014. The Mavericks will enter the RMAC tournament Thursday with a perfect 14-0 record and the No. 2 ranking in the American Volleyball Coaches Association national poll behind Lewis University in Illinois. Metropolitan State University-Denver is third in the nation with a 13-1 record.
“This coaching staff and this team is one big family,” Foutz said. “We all put in work each and every day – on and off the court – with the goal of trying to become the best versions of ourselves. The people in this program and community are what make being a Maverick so special. Without everyone’s input, this season wouldn’t have been possible.”
Foutz also joined her mother as a First Team All-RMAC selection. Terene, who is the coach at Bayfield High School and Four Corners Volleyball Club, earned that distinction twice from 1994-95.
“My mom is the strongest person I know,” Foutz said. “She is the most hard working, thoughtful and selfless person I have ever met, and she is the type of leader everyone should strive to be more like. The only reason I am here today and have the opportunities that I do is because of her and my dad (Mike Foutz).
“My mom came back to Mesa when she was 25 and finished playing volleyball at 27. Having been married for three years, she found out she was pregnant with me her last semester of college. So one could say I was born to be a Mav. I was 11 days old and in Brownson Arena rolling with the volleyballs. I am not exaggerating. Being here means so much to me. Everything this team has done this year is a tribute to all the work done by people before us, including my mom and her coach Rusty Crick, a lifetime friend and mentor for her.”
Terene has been inspired by her daughter’s commitment, as she has balanced school work while playing in two seasons at the same time. Foutz has traveled all over playing beach volleyball for the Mavericks this spring along with indoor volleyball, practicing for as much as five hours a day.
“It’s crazy how sport is over time,” Terene said. “Maddi is now the third CMU player in history to have a player of the year award. The first was my teammate. To see Maddi obtain that level of status is very humbling. It fills the heart.”
CMU’s Dave Fleming was named the RMAC Coach of the Year, while Sabrina VanDeList also earned RMAC Freshman of the Year honors.
“Kudos to Dave Fleming, who got her started on this process of changing position last year,” Terene said. “Who would have predicted this kid would get this accolade as an outside hitter. I never thought I would see her hit again after high school. That wasn’t the plan. But you never know when you walk away from something what doors will open in front of you. From afar, I was scratching my head a bit about her switching positions, but coach Fleming saw something, and those two are a great partnership.”
For Fort Lewis College in Durango, which missed out on the RMAC tournament, Alexa Treguboff, Rylee Johnson and Kamryn Lopez all earned honorable mention. The Skyhawks finished the year 4-9 overall.
“The fact that the conference coaches recognized three of our players who were definitely leaders for us is fantastic. I think it’s exciting and I’m glad they were noticed even though we didn’t necessarily have the season we wanted,” FLC first-year head coach Geidre Tarnauskaite said in a news release. “Going through the roster, knowing we were a young team, you realize that our sophomores are our contributors, our starters and our leaders. I think that’s huge for us. One of the categories we were in the top-half of the conference in was digs, and looking at the numbers, Kam contributed to nearly a fourth of those digs. Rylee and Kam were absolutely huge for us and I think the future is bright. I think they’re going to continue to be key contributors, have big goals, and I’m excited to be part of their journey. I think there’s more to come.”
Foutz also thinks there is more to come for her and her volleyball career at CMU. She plans to take advantage of an eligibility waiver granted to all players by the NCAA during the COVID-19 impacted season and return to the Mavericks next fall for a traditional indoor season as well as the beach season next spring. Then, she plans to enroll in a doctorate program for physical therapy.
But first, she aims for a sweep of the regular-season and tournament championships this season.
“This is a special group, a group that inspires me every day and a group that I will never forget,” she said.