#EagleNation Spotlight – Blyer Watching, Waiting And Learning

#EagleNation Spotlight – Blyer Watching, Waiting And Learning


Not being able to play due to injury isn't easy for an athlete.

Add to that not being able to play on the top-ranked team in the country, and Ashland University freshman guard Maddie Blyer's first year in college hasn't been what she originally envisioned.

"It wasn't something I was thrilled about," Blyer said about realizing she would have to delay the start of her collegiate playing career. "Obviously, I had been excited to come here and play. One thing I want to make sure I am doing is not just accepting my role, but embracing it.

"My teammates and coaches have been so supportive. It's hard, but I know God is going to work it for good."

Said Ashland head coach Robyn Fralick, "Maddie Blyer brings an incredible positive enthusiasm, and a joy to our practice every day, and to our team every day. For being a freshman, and for being out, I think that's even more incredible.

"We're better because she's on our team. We're better because we're around her every day."

An All-Ohio guard at North Canton Hoover, Blyer was a highly-touted player who set her prep program's records for career assists (433) and single-season assists (146). She also was a part of a state runner-up team as a freshman and a Sweet 16 squad as a senior.

Blyer, who said she missed a couple games at most in high school due to injury, knew she wouldn't start the season on time in mid-fall due to her injury.

"We were still hopeful that I would get to get in there and start playing at some point," she said, "but that has since turned into most likely a redshirt season."

In professional sports, athletes sometimes talk of how they feel detached from the team when injured. College athletics is a different dynamic, and in the case of the Eagle women's basketball team, that certainly hasn't been an issue.

"My coaches, teammates, trainers, they deserve a huge shoutout on that one," Blyer said. "When you're hurt, I'm not on the court with the team every day. I've just been blessed with phenomenal people in my life who make sure to include me.

"It's little things that I have to give all that credit to my teammates."

One of those teammates who helped Blyer while also sitting out for the first three games of 2017-18 was senior forward Andi Daugherty. Like Blyer, Daugherty wasn't used to missing time on the court, having started all 104 games at AU prior to this season.

"Maddie is probably one of the best teammates I've ever had the experience to, not necessarily play with, but be a part of," Daugherty said, "and I can say that because I haven't had the opportunity to play with her. You really find people's characteristics and what they soar with in times of struggle. She's right beside us the whole time, and brings nothing but energy.

"When I had the opportunity this entire preseason to be out with Maddie, and go through the same struggles, I think I'm a little extra aware of them. I try to include her as much as possible."

Said Blyer, "She was incredible. Just about everyone I talked to said, 'How are you holding up?' I said Andi has helped me more than she realized. Spiritually, she is someone that I look up to. Her faith is just amazing.

"Just to have someone keep me on track…it was so helpful. I miss my buddy on the bench, but I was so happy for her when she got to get back in there."

While Blyer is waiting to get on the court for the first time in an Ashland uniform, she is taking in as much as possible during practice and games to prep for her debut in 2018-19.

"I'm trying to learn as much as I possibly can," Blyer said. "I have an opportunity. It's not what I thought it would be. It's just an opportunity for me to learn. I'll watch plays, and (think) what would I have done in that situation?"

Said Fralick, "Sitting out always gives you a different perspective. That sideline perspective is very different than a playing perspective. A lot of people don't get that experience until after playing, and so she's getting, in some ways, a great opportunity to see the game from a different lens. When you sit out, you really cherish opportunities when you get them again."

And for Blyer, the learning isn't confined to the court.

"If there's one thing this injury has taught me, it's that my identity isn't found in basketball," she said. "It's found in Jesus Christ alone."

While she hasn't been able to participate in Ashland's undefeated season, her teammates' success has been fun for her to watch – and it pushes her for what's to come starting next season.

"It's outstanding. Every day is just so much fun," Blyer said. "It's a really special year. Just trying to take it all in.

"Just thinking about it (next season) makes me so excited. But I just want to take in all of this year. I'm not trying to wish away this year. I want to embrace every second of this."