Two players, one name

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Southridge volleyball senior Maddie "Talls" Songer (left) and junior Maddy "Smalls" Songer (right) look on during a drill in Monday's practice.


HUNTINGBURG — It certainly isn’t unusual for sports to be a family affair at the high school level. There might be teammates who are siblings or cousins with one another, or a given athlete is the coach’s son or daughter.

Then there’s Southridge volleyball, where this dynamic is taken to a whole new level — because for one pair of teammates, family isn’t the only thing that they have in common.

“I’m Maddie Songer,” one of them introduces themselves.

“And I’m Maddy Songer,” the other one says.

The both of them laughed upon telling the Herald their names, but Southridge volleyball indeed has a pair of players who go by the same name. They also have known each other for a long time, since Maddie’s father, Jason, and Maddy’s father, Aaron, are brothers, making Maddie and Maddy first cousins. The memories of getting to share and celebrate things with each other at family gatherings is a lot of fun, Maddy said.

“We’re a family on the court, but we’re also a family outside of the volleyball program, so it’s just nice having that connection with each other,” Maddy said.

The two of them have good chemistry together, as their personalities can mesh together. They both describe themselves as outgoing. Maddie, a senior, sees herself as loud, while Maddy, a junior, describes herself as all over the place, but in a good way.

A pair of family members sharing the same name can, naturally, create some confusion, but it’s never awkward. Maddy said it’s always interesting to hear her name all over the place when the two are around friends.

There are distinctions between the two for anybody who is confused. Maddie’s real name is Madison, while Maddy’s real name is Madeline. Maddie is nicknamed “Talls” by the volleyball team, while Maddy is nicknamed “Smalls.”

“I don’t know how much ‘Smalls’ appreciated being ‘Smalls’ in the beginning, but now I think she’s grown to love it,” Coach Mande Keusch said with a laugh.

Keusch is in the third year of her second stint as Southridge’s volleyball coach, and she’s never had something quite like this. However, as someone who has spent a lot of time around this area, she knew she would eventually coach the both of them at the same time. This made it more funny than a surprise to her.

The two of them are known by “Talls” and “Smalls” around their teammates and coaches as a means of eliminating confusion, but even then, clarity can sometimes be an issue. Maddie admitted to Keusch once calling out “Smalls,” which got her attention. It’s always Madison and Madeline when they’re around family, however, and usually when they’re addressing each other.

Maddie and Maddy also play softball for Southridge under coach Scott Buening, but the distinction isn’t quite the same by the time the spring rolls around. One may be known as “Mad Dog” for a day, while the other is known by their proper name.

“We tried to tell Coach B. ‘Talls and Smalls,’ but he never really used it,” Maddie said. “So, if he yelled our name, we’d both look, he’d tell us which one and the other one would go about her business.”

Buening told the Herald that differentiating the two can be quite a challenge, and that it’s been something to joke about.

“We have fun with it, and we laughed about it and still do,” Buening said. “But, it’s definitely weird.”

Both of them bring something to the table while stepping out onto the volleyball court for the Raiders, who host Senior Night Thursday against Springs Valley. Maddie is one of two seniors on the team, and has stepped up as a prominent blocker in recent games. What Keusch will miss about her is her consistency. She lauded Maddie for having a desire to improve, and showing that improvement each year she coached her.

“Even her passing game has gotten a lot better this year compared to last,” she said of Maddie. “Even though she usually doesn’t play back row unless she’s serving for us, she’ll go in for a little while. But when she’s had to pull off the block, she’s gotten a lot better at playing defense and not just being one-sided blocker/hitter kind of thing.”

“(I’m going to miss) just the family — being around all these girls, it’s awesome, it’s fun,” Maddie said.

Despite having the “Smalls” moniker, Maddy’s play has been anything but for Southridge this season, since she has been a leading force in the assists category game in and game out for the Raiders. Keusch appreciates the hustler that Maddy is. She broke her nose while going for a ball Aug. 20 against Tell City. Keusch told her she probably should have used her arms, but wanted to get down on her knees to set the ball.

Keusch can always count on Maddy to give 100 percent.

“She’s got a ton of spirit and energy every time she’s steps onto the court,” Keusch said.

The two of them still have more than a month of volleyball play left on the docket together, and that’s not counting the playoffs.

However, even after Maddie graduates, Keusch will make sure her spirit stays around the team next year.

“That’ll be different just having one Maddy next year, that’s for sure,” she said. “And I think we’ll probably always still call Smalls, ‘Smalls’ even with the other Maddie not around. So, I guess that maybe pays tribute to Maddie even when she’s gone is that we didn’t forget that she was here, and we did have two at once.”


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