HANOVER, N.H. — Even after playing in 305 sets, tallying 1,176 kills, recording 1,052 digs and totaling 51 service aces, senior Madeline Baird (Austin, Texas) is looking to accomplish more for the Big Green than just individual success.
"Our senior class wanted to make a conscious effort this year to show a solidified group for the younger players," Baird said. "We also want to show the rest of the team that they have the ability to beat any team and win whether the team is at home or on the road."
Baird didn't show up one day one knowing that she wanted or could provide this kind of leadership and desire to the team, but through many different events and experiences, she has arrived at where she is now. Before she arrived at Dartmouth, she did know when coming to Hanover was why she was drawn here.
"I really wanted to go somewhere different and I really liked New England," Baird said. "I knew I would be able to meet people from all over the U.S. and different parts of the world. I also really liked all of the study abroad opportunities."
Before her freshman season, Baird was prepared to sit and learn from the upperclassmen, but before she knew it, she was playing in every match and learning on the fly.
"I prepared myself to warm the bench my first year," Baird said. "I knew there were two seniors in my position, and one of them, Jess Thomas '09, got injured and couldn't play in most of the matches. Because of the injury I was able to play, and just took advantage of the opportunity the best I could."
But four years later, it hasn't all been about bumps, sets and spikes for the Texas native. She has taken full advantage of the Dartmouth D-Plan, studying abroad and interning at domestic organizations. The D-Plan simply refers to a student's enrollment pattern, which has built in plans to study abroad and pursue internships.
During her sophomore winter, Baird studied abroad at a Spanish University with two of her teammates; seniors Annie Villanueva (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and Kendall Houston (Austin, Texas). The following winter, Baird worked in Bolivia and also interned at a regional office for the World Health Organization. The ability to travel and explore different cultures was essential to Baird's college experience.
"A part of Dartmouth that I really liked was the emphasis on volunteering and global understanding and experiencing new cultures," Baird said. "The D-plan really facilitates that, and allows us to have multiple different experiences. They were opportunities I couldn't pass up."
The experiences Baird had off the court helped her become the leader and person she is today. Baird specifically mentioned her time in Bolivia, this time without any of her teammates with her, as a time she grew as a person and was able to branch out as an individual.
All of theses experiences have contributed to her ability to be successful on the court. It won't be easy for people to forget about Baird once she plays her last match this fall. She will be leaving her name throughout the program's record book after four historically successful seasons. With six matches still remaining, she is tied for sixth in career digs (1,052), tied for third for kills in a match with 27 and has the sixth (359) and 14th (291) highest single-season kill totals.
But maybe the most impressive mark is that the outside hitter is only four kills away from tying the program's all-time kills record. She has 1,176 kills, while Ashley Dean '02 currently owns the record with 1,180. If Baird even tallies a few kills below her average, she should break the mark on Friday, Oct. 28, against Princeton at home. Baird downplayed her legacy in Dartmouth volleyball and chose instead to emphasize where the team will be in the future.
"The record is a great indication of where the program is going," Baird said. "It is really exciting for the future, and this is really just the beginning of that plan. I see a lot of young talent coming in and I can see the record getting broken in another four years in the near future."
First-year head coach Erin Lindsey was grateful and thankful to have a player like Baird to help implement her system and culture on her new team.
"When you've had success in the past and you are good at what you do like Maddy has, it's not easy to always listen to a new person that comes into that environment," Lindsey said. "But Maddy was looking to fit in and work in the system right away and she was great. She is a fantastic player and the changes we have made have made the program stronger and Maddy stronger as a player."
The Big Green are 12-7 overall and are in fourth place in the Ivy League at 4-4.The team has six matches left in the regular season and even though all of the goals that Baird and the team wanted to accomplish this year haven't come to fruition, she is happy as to where she and the senior class have left the program.
"With the direction the program is heading it was a little disappointing knowing we didn't go undefeated in the Ivy League this year, but with the way things are headed I know its going to be happening soon," Baird said. "I'm glad I got to be part of the senior class that got to change the culture and help turn it toward being one of the top programs in the Ivy League."
Baird, along with her three other seniors, have shown the underclassmen the kind of success the team can have both on and off the court. Even though Baird might sell her own accomplishments short, there will be plenty of people and fans that will remember and share the stories of this special player that suited up for the Big Green for four years. (Chip Whipple)
Madeline Baird is sponsored Catherine & George Jacobus '53 and Ken Be