EDN PLAYER AND DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: St. Anthony's Hatton, Kibler earn Daily News co-Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year

Feb. 23—EFFINGHAM — St. Anthony senior libero Maddie Kibler and outside hitter Abbi Hatton are the Daily News co-Defensive Player of the Year and Player of the Year, respectively.

Both left their mark on the first state tournament run in the volleyball program's history, too.

Kibler led the area in digs with 452. She also had 25 kills, 53 aces, and 11 assists.

Hatton finished with 278 kills, 37 aces, 44 blocks, 294 digs, and nine assists.

"Abbi is an extremely competitive player," former head coach Kristie Bailey said. "She's loud and out there. Her competitive nature comes off sometimes as over-aggressive to other players, so you explain to the girls that this is how some people are."

"Maddie is a quiet threat," said Bailey of her back row leader. "She doesn't say a lot, but her work ethic is outstanding. The girl knows how to work hard, and she takes everything you say and just wants to learn. She's not afraid to ask questions. She would always give me feedback, which is really important for a coach."

Both matured over their time with the Bulldogs, so much so that Bailey couldn't take either of them off the court.

For Hatton, Bailey mentioned how calm she became when significant moments occurred.

"Her ability to stay calm in the game got a lot better," she said. "That comes with maturity. When other people were struggling, Abbi became very good about turning it up a notch."

As for Kibler, Bailey noted the difficulties that come with the libero position and how Kibler took that head-on.

"That's probably the most difficult position because you never get the glory. You never get to get that thrill of the kill," Bailey said. "She's always on serve-receive or defense, which are the two hardest aspects of the entire game, and they're expected to do it right every single time."


Hatton and Kibler were asked a series of questions from Daily News Sports Editor Alex Wallner.

Below is how they responded.


Q: When did you start playing volleyball, and what made you want to improve over the years?

A: "I started playing volleyball at Sigel St. Michael's in fifth-grade exhibition games. Knowing that my mom, Amy Walk, was a volleyball star for her entire life, I envied her. I wanted to use all the abilities and genetics I had been given to show my mom I could succeed just like her. As I grew older and knew where I was going to high school, all I dreamed about was playing under Cathy Wenthe. I worked on my craft to become like the players I learned from that 2015 volleyball camp, and I did just that."

Q: How have your high school coaches helped you progress?

A: "My first volleyball coach, my mom Amy, applied for the coaching job at Sigel St. Michael's my sixth-grade year, and I've learned everything I know about the game of volleyball from her since then. She was the one who pushed me to have the skills that she developed. Once I moved on to high school, my eyes were set on playing volleyball for Coach Cathy. I valued her coaching style, her IQ in the game of volleyball, and the fact that she wasn't my mom coaching me. My last volleyball coach was Kristie Bailey. She was our assistant my junior year, and I didn't truly accept her coaching style until my senior year. With Coach Cathy leaving, everyone thought it was 'wraps' for the volleyball team, but Coach Kristie found a way to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit for the team. She pushed us all the way to cap off my volleyball career and made history by being the first St. Anthony volleyball team to ever go to the IHSA State Final Tournament. All three of these coaches have allowed me to progress in not only the game of volleyball but also in the game of life, and I will forever be grateful for that."

Q: You were fourth in the area in kills and ninth in digs. Talk about your season overall, individually.

A: "I'd be crazy if I didn't credit all 13 girls on the varsity roster because those kills and digs wouldn't be possible without them. Individually, working hard in the back row in serve-receive and defense matters just as much as hitting it hard and getting kills in the front row. Most teams knew our team as one with height, but we were able to use all of our front row weapons with our good passing and defensive abilities, which made for great stats. As for success this season, making history was the best thing that happened. At the beginning of the season, everyone knew we lost games early and had to work out some kinks, but winning when it mattered was key. Trying to stop the momentum of a team with 11 seniors with a desire to keep playing together is a difficult thing to do."

Q: You are a softball-first individual; what did you do to ensure you had time to get work in for volleyball season while focusing on softball?

A: "Being a multi-sport athlete is such a blessing, but dedicating time to each sport matters. As a six-rotation varsity player from my freshman to senior year, I put a lot of work in during practice day in and day out. I played club volleyball only during my freshman year, so growing my skills each year came from grinding at practice. I play softball year-round, so with volleyball being a fall sport, I would find time after volleyball practice to get softball work in, and on weekends off from volleyball, I would usually be playing a softball tournament. My coaches understood that I played an important role on both my volleyball and softball teams, so making time for both was normal for me."


Q: When did you start playing volleyball, and what made you want to improve over the years?

A: "I started playing volleyball in sixth grade at Effingham, as it was one of the only sports offered for sixth graders, but I didn't fall in love with it until my junior year. My teammates in high school made me work harder and want to get better."

Q: How have your high school coaches helped you progress?

A: "Coach Wenthe and Coach Bailey have been great coaches and mentors. I am able to talk to them not only about volleyball but also about school and life. They are trustworthy and admirable, and we knew they would always do what was best for the team."

Q: You led the area in digs for a second straight year. Talk about your season overall, individually.

A: "This season, we worked a lot on passing and defense in practice, which led me to improve. Our front row players are the best in the area, so getting repetitions from them really stepped up my game. Abbi, Addi (Nuxoll), and I created a great relationship working together in the back row, and they helped me a lot. I trusted them all 100 percent, and when I wasn't playing well, they were able to pick me up and help me out."

Q: You are a softball-first individual; what did you do to ensure you had time to get work in for volleyball season while focusing on softball?

A: "Once softball season ended in the summer, I shifted my focus to volleyball. Knowing this would be the first season I would be 100 percent back from my knee injury made me want to practice harder and do well. I was able to give all of my effort on the court and take a break from softball. A lot of the other girls on the team are also dual-sport athletes, so we all work together to split time fairly between the sports, and I could practice and talk volleyball with my softball teammates and vice versa."

Contact EDN Sports Editor Alex Wallner at 618-510-9231 or