by Bob San
SUN PRESS Newspapers
If you run into Osseo senior Madi Malone these days, you might hear her mutter, “Why me? ‘How did this happen?’”
What happened was Malone has accepted a lacrosse scholarship to attend Tusculum College, a private college in Greenville, Tenn. The first Osseo female lacrosse player to receive a Division I or II scholarship, Malone will also play basketball for Tusculum, a Division II school. It was a long and winding journey and a fairy tale ending for Malone, who wants to go out of state for college and who does not want to give up basketball or lacrosse.
It all started at Osseo where Malone began playing basketball in second grade. She went on to play two seasons of varsity for Oriole basketball. She picked up lacrosse in eighth grade and is now in her fourth year playing for the Osseo/Park Center varsity team.
“My whole life I am saying, ‘I want to play basketball in college,’” Malone said. “My heart was set on basketball but I started taking lacrosse a little bit more serious in my junior year when I was named captain. I love it and I am pretty good at it. I decided I want to play both sports, I don’t want to give up either of them.”
She won’t have to, thanks to Tusculum College. Malone was in the midst of her college shopping last fall and reality was beginning to set in that she would have to choose between basketball and lacrosse for college.
“I was like, ‘Okay I am probably going to play basketball somewhere in Minnesota like St. Kate, Gustvavus, or one of those Division III schools that do not offer scholarships,’” Malone said. “And then Tusculum called.”
In October, Malone received an email from the lacrosse coach at Tusculum asking her if she’d be interested in becoming a member of the college’s first women’s lacrosse team in the fall 2014.
“I have never heard of that college before the coach contacted me,” Malone recalled. “I was like ‘WOW, Tennessee.’ I’ve always wanted to leave Minnesota and go to college far away.”
Malone still isn’t sure how the Tusculum lacrosse coach found her, but thinks it’s through one of many websites that list high school athletes.
“She had never even seen me play, which is kind of weird,” Malone said. “We don’t record the lacrosse team so it’s hard to get film on that. My dad put together a basketball highlight video and had one 10-second lacrosse clip of me in ninth grade. We sent the lacrosse coach the tape.”
Malone kept in contact with the coach and during one of the conversations Malone asked, “Can people play two sports there?’
“That’s how basketball got brought up,” said Malone, a starting point guard for Osseo the past two seasons.
The Tusculum lacrosse coach forwarded Malone’s video to the basketball coach. It didn’t take the basketball coach long to realize that Malone can play at that level. The coaches asked Malone to pay a visit to Tusculum. Malone went for an official visit the end of March and fell in love with the campus. Nestled on the foothills of the majestic Appalachian Mountains, the Tusculum campus provides spectacular natural beauties and an old-time feel.
“It’s beautiful. The maintains are there,” Malone said. “It’s super nice. All the buildings are beautiful. It’s small and very old-time. Walking around campus, it just feels like home.”
Malone met both coaches and liked them.
“They said, ‘Yes, the first year go ahead and try both sports and then in the sophomore year I will have to decide,’” Malone said.
Malone wants to major in nursing and that requires clinical, which may interfere with sports. Tusculum is one of five U.S. colleges that offer students a blocked schedule in which they take one class at a time for 18 days, so Malone feels confident that she will be able to compete in both sports for four years.
A lovely school far away from Minnesota, a scholarship and an opportunity to play the two sports she loves convinced Malone that Tusculum will be her college for the next four years.
“That’s a huge factor why I chose Tusculum — so I can play basketball as well because I don’t want to give it up,” Malone said. “I felt like this is the best fit. I get to play lacrosse and basketball at the Division II level. It’s going to be a whole new atmosphere. It’s super exciting. I can’t wait.”
Osseo basketball coach John Rieser knows if anyone can handle and excel in two sports in college, Malone is the one.
“As a coach at Osseo High School, I have had the opportunity to work with many quality student-athletes,” said Rieser, who coached Malone for three seasons. “Madi will be remembered for her quick smile, her contagious laugh and her “I will run through a wall” attitude. Having watched her on the court, and seen her growth off the court, it is no wonder that she has earned a scholarship to play lacrosse and basketball. Madi grew each year as a player and as a person. In the gym she is a tireless worker. She worked hard to improve all aspects of her game. She learned to balance the need to have fun with the need to work hard. By doing so, she became a real leader. Kids like Madi Malone are why you go into coaching.”
Malone is excited about her future but she looks back fondly at her years playing sports at Osseo. In basketball, Malone appeared in two state tournament, the first in her sophomore year as a junior varsity bench player who got to play in the final minutes of the state championship game when Osseo lost to Hopkins. In her junior year, Malone was the starting point guard when the Orioles once again made the state tournament and took fourth place.
“That’s the best feeling ever, stepping onto the Target Center court and knowing we’re one of the last teams in the state to still be playing basketball,” Malone said. “I wish every athlete could experience this. And over the years, I got to play with Mikayla Bailey, Phillis Webb and Janay Morton (all Division I players). They are amazing players and I was very lucky to go against them in practice.”
Lacrosse is a new sport at Osseo and the program is working toward getting to a higher level.
“We are not the best but I love being with the girls. I would not want to be on any other team,” Malone said.
Even with some Park Center Pirates on the team?
“We are big rivals. I think this is the only sport we come together and we like each other,” Malone said with a big smile. “For the sports that I am in, this is the only one that we get along.”
Individually, Malone has blossomed into a strong midfielder who has stick skills, speed and boundless energy. As a junior, she was named all-conference and was selected by her teammates as captain and Miss OPC (given to the team’s best player). In her senior season, Malone is again the captain. She hopes to make all-conference again and wants to be named all-state.
Malone’s high school career is coming to a close but she is excited about being the first Osseo female Division II lacrosse player and being a part of Tusculum’s first-ever women’s lacrosse team. Most of all, she is thankful.
“I never imagined it would be like this,” she said of her college search. “It’s amazing that this smaller school in Tennessee found small-town Osseo Madi Malone. Like how? Why me? I am so lucky and blessed.”
Contact Bob San at [email protected]