Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, September 24, 2023

MacDonald follows peculiar path to UW

Determination and drive earned MacDonald a spot as a walk-on for the Badgers

When Amber MacDonald made her Wisconsin debut in the fall of 2015, it not only signified the start of her college volleyball career, but also put an end to the whirlwind journey which came before it.

Born and raised in Alpharetta, Ga., the Badgers’ defensive specialist/libero first expressed interest in UW during her sophomore year of high school, when she took a trip to watch the Badgers in the 2013 Final Four in Seattle. Spectating from her seats in the stands, MacDonald marveled at the passion the Badgers played with. As she continued to watch, MacDonald’s admiration for Wisconsin only magnified, falling head over heels for the program in an instant.

“I really loved their culture and watching how hard they played,” MacDonald said. “I always wanted to play at a school with a chance to win a national championship, and that was the first time I really thought about coming here.”

That first impression supplied all the impetus she would ever need. MacDonald returned home from the Final Four with a brand-new goal in mind, one that she would work for the next two years to achieve.

Willing to do the recruiting legwork herself, MacDonald got in touch with assistant coach Brittany Dildine and opened up a line of communication with the program. From that point forward, she kept in close contact with the coaching staff and eventually arranged for a campus visit. Once MacDonald had facilitated the first meeting, it was head coach Kelly Sheffield who made the next move.

“I came to visit my junior year and spent a lot of time with Kelly and Brit [Dildine],” MacDonald said. “Kelly told me he was going to come watch me practice in Georgia the next week. I was like ‘wow, that’s huge.’”

Making good on his word, Sheffield carried out his promise to MacDonald, traveling the over one thousand miles in between Wisconsin and Georgia to catch a glimpse of the Badger hopeful on the court. Just as Wisconsin felt like love at first sight for MacDonald, it didn’t take long for Sheffield to realize she was too good to pass up.

“The first time she came on campus I hadn’t seen her play,” Sheffield said. “But after she came here we made a point to go see her play, and right away it was ‘whoa.’ The first time I saw her, I turned to Brittany [Dildine], and said, ‘That’s a Badger.’”

Readily convinced he had seen all he needed to, Sheffield offered MacDonald a spot on the team that very night. Despite garnering scholarship attention from various schools around the country, MacDonald accepted Sheffield’s invitation to walk on without hesitation.

Three years have passed since Sheffield took a chance and signed MacDonald, and the move has proven to be a smashing success. Starting ten matches this season, MacDonald has shown measurable improvement in her sophomore season at Wisconsin (12-2 Big Ten, 20-3 overall), enjoying a rise in both digs (1.92) and service aces (.18) per set. Additionally, she is coming off a solid month of October, tallying double-digit dig totals twice this past month, including a season-high thirteen-dig performance against Rutgers.

While her improvements on the court are noteworthy, Sheffield commends her most for the intangible qualities she brings to the gym, extolling the courage and tenacity she plays with.

“I think what sticks out to me is that she is just an unbelievable competitor,” Sheffield said. She competes like crazy and she has a passion for this game. She’s fearless.”

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Daily Cardinal delivered to your inbox

Although she took a path different than most, MacDonald believes her status as a walk-on bears no weight on her college career.

“I never really thought about being a walk-on too much,” MacDonald said. “I just knew I had to come in here and play hard no matter what the situation was.”

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Daily Cardinal has been covering the University and Madison community since 1892. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 The Daily Cardinal