It’s just the perfect description and the ideal comment to lead us on our journey to learn about Skyline water polo standout Madison Deininger. “She’s tiny on land, but a beast in the water,” says Skyline Coach Rebecca Godek – I know, how cool is that?
“Madison is one of the most reliable, consistent and fiercest players on the team,” Godek continues. “She is a selfless player who sets others up, and is our main playmaker. She is fast, smart and afraid of nothing.
“As a coach, I feel confident putting her up against an opponent’s best player because she will not back down and she will always do what is best for the team.”
That team was really looking forward to this season, adding only to the disappointment of not getting the chance to make a single splash in what the Eagles were hoping would be a memorable and historic year for the program. Not only was Skyline hosting the state championships this spring but also were one of the favorites to be playing it.
Deininger, along with the two other team captains Alison Lock and Lucy Palacios, were ready to lead the way. And since we are focusing on Deininger, it’s only fitting we start with talking about the team.
“I was looking forward to this season because my teammates and I have been preparing all winter,” said Deininger, a senior at Skyline. “Most of my teammates are on our local club team, Wolverine Water Polo, and immediately following our fall swim and dive season, we start practicing.
“For myself and my fellow seniors, the last three years have been building up to this final season. Our biggest goal was to win the State Tournament, which is something we will never have the opportunity to do.”
Like most athletes, Deininger would have preferred taken the shot and missed this season rather than not getting a chance to take the shot at all. In other words, a “whiff” is better than an “if.”
“I feel horribly for what is going on globally,” she says. “I am pained that I am missing the end of my senior year and final water polo season. I think it is important to acknowledge my own grief as well as my teammates’ grief. I am sadly not able to train properly during this time, but I try to spend lots of time outdoors playing with my dogs and exercising.”
Deininger also was a team captain last season for the Eagles and was All-State Honorable Mention and Second Team All-Region. So, yeah, she could play the game at a high level. And the team was pretty good, too.
“Our varsity team was especially small last season,” she says. “We only had three subs on the bench at a time. Because of our numbers, we were a very close-knit team without any drama. We valued mutual respect and a strong work ethic.
“I think other teams underestimated us because of our numbers, but we proved them wrong.”
They certainly did. The young and small Eagles finished fourth in the state last season.
“I was extremely proud of my team and all of our hard work last season,” Deininger said.
Madison, the daughter of Christina and Peter Deininger, wasn’t a one-sport wonder. She also was an outstanding swimmer on Skyline’s always strong swimming and diving team.
Along with Skyline swimmers Claire Kozma, Lily Cleason and Allison Haak, Deininger earned All-State honors after the foursome finished sixth in the D-1 state finals in the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 1:37.66. She also swam on the Eagles’ 400 freestyle relay team which placed ninth overall in 3:33.59.
Deininger also was a captain on the swim team.
“While the position of captain carries a lot of responsibility, I was absolutely ready to uphold it,” she says. “As a captain, I always ensure that everyone is included and working hard. I value a fun environment, and it is through the hard work we put in that we have the most fun.”
She considers water polo her go-to sport.
“When I am not actively in my fall swim season, my life revolves around water polo,” she says. “My energy is split between the sport and my schoolwork. I dedicate a lot of time to water polo, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I was introduced to water polo during my freshman year by my swim teammates. I immediately loved the comradery aspect of the sport and the challenge that came with its physicality. Without my phenomenal coaches and teammates, I would have never joined or stayed with the sport.”
While Deininger has played her last game at Skyline, she isn’t getting out of the pool just yet. She plans on attending U-M in the fall and joining the women’s club water polo team.
“I chose U-M because I have lived in Ann Arbor my entire life, but I realized that I have barely scraped the surface of the opportunities available in my hometown,” she says. “I will be going into biology with the hopes of narrowing my focus to studying genetics.”
Looking back at her high school career, Deininger says she is most proud of the hard work that her teams put in to accomplish their goals. “We have had setbacks and numerous challenges, but we worked together to get through them,” she says. “For that, I will be forever proud of my teammates and their commitment to the sport.”
And her coaches were certainly proud of her hard work and dedication to not only her sport but her teammates as well.
“As a coach, she is one of those players that you dream of having on your team because of her work ethic, positive attitude, and dedication to the sport and players around her,” said Godek.