Sophomore Madison Donley verbally commits to Northwestern for soccer


Gabi Dykema

While many underclassmen are beginning to feel pressure that the heavy workload of the high school brings, one sophomore has an extra incentive to work harder. That sophomore is Madison Donley, who verbally committed to playing soccer at Northwestern this past August.

Not only is Northwestern ranked fourth in the Big Ten and continually improving due to changes in the coaching staff; Northwestern was also ranked fourth by Forbes in a list of colleges with the smartest students, ranking above Ivy League universities such as Yale and Penn State.

“I have to keep a 4.0 GPA to maintain my scholarship, so it definitely makes me try harder in school,” Donley said. “[My scholarship] is 80% athletic. They cannot give academic money because Northwestern is so high in academics and everyone there is crazy smart.”

Although Donley may have first caught Northwestern’s eye in the middle of her freshman year due to her talent in soccer and her scholarship may be based on athletics, her grades are also something that Northwestern requires her to maintain throughout high school, and while Donley may work harder than others because of this, she doesn’t see her grades slipping anytime soon. Her friend and peer Brennah Merrill feels the same way.

“Madison as a student is determined and hardworking,” Merrill said. “She has always been a hard worker in school but her commitment has given her something to work towards.”

Not only is she a hard worker in the classroom, Donley works hard on the soccer field, as well. At the age of four, she started playing with a little league soccer team called AYSO, and kept going from then on. She played for Grand Rapids Crew, now known as Midwest United. Now, she plays for a team out of Detroit called the Michigan Hawks, practicing in Detroit three or four times a week.

The decision to switch from a local club team to a more competitive one farther away that travels often has been beneficial to Donley, Northwestern noticing her by her showcase tournaments freshman and then contacting her team, the Michigan Hawks, about her. However, sacrifices had to be by both Donley and her parents for her to compete on the team. For Donley, that meant not playing high school soccer; the Michigan High School Athletic Association does not allow athletes to play for a club team and a high school team at the same time.

Her parents, on the other hand, took on the responsibility of driving her to and from practices, games, and accompanying her to tournaments across the country. According to Donley, her parents are easily her biggest supporters. Her father, Lawrence Donley, had never thought when she first began playing soccer at four that it would impact her life as much as it has.

“We always thought she was very athletic and could excel in any sport she played,” Lawrence said. “We didn’t expect her to continue soccer as a passion and be this big of a part in her life as nobody else in her family ever played soccer.”

Even though Mr. Donley believes that Madison would have excelled at any sport she had set out to play, he sees what makes her athleticism in soccer stand out from other sports.

“As an athlete, especially in soccer, she was gifted at an early age as she was equally strong with both feet,” Lawrence Donley said. “That’s probably the most important attribute in soccer, and she was a natural with both feet.  Very fast and extremely competitive.”

One thing is for certain: those around Madison Donley think highly of her, not only as a student and an athlete, but as a person as well. Her father describes her as smart, funny, and “competitive 110%.” According to Merrill, Donley’s hard work and vibrant personality sets an example for their whole class as well.

“Madison is a charming, funny, and loving person,” Merrill said. “I love Madison Donley; she’s a catch [for Northwestern.] I  think Madison and all the other kids who have committed are good role models for the class of 2018.”