Yuma Catholic was the only local volleyball team to qualify for the postseason this year.
Leading the way for the Shamrocks was their 6-foot junior outside hitter, Rori Martinez, the 2019 Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Volleyball Player of the Year.
Martinez led the area in kills with 210, while also ranking top-four on YC in aces (42, 2nd), blocks (48, 3rd) and digs (106, 4th).
“I think she had a great season this year,” said coach Dusti Williamson, who’s also Martinez’s mom. “She really stepped it up for us as an outside hitter, transitioning from middle blocker (last year) to the outside. It was just a much bigger role, and I thought she did a great job hitting hard and hitting in.”
The role change showed up in her statistics, as she was not among the team’s leaders in kills a year ago.
“I definitely grew during the season, transitioning from middle blocker to outside hitter was definitely a big change, but I felt like I did better at the outside,” Martinez said.
Martinez had six matches with double-digit kills, including a season-high of 14 twice.
This was Martinez’s third year in the program; she spent a little time on varsity as a freshman, before playing a regular role last year.
“She came in as a good athlete and her reach has always been really nice — long, tall — so she’s been able to get really good blocks from early on,” Williamson said. “But her swing is what’s really improved. The power behind her hits is so much more effective this year. She’s just kind of grown and progressed as a volleyball player.”
Two years ago, the Shamrocks went 6-10 in AIA play and finished 27th in the 3A state rankings; last year, they went 6-11 and also finished 27th.
This year, however, YC got above .500 in the regular season at 9-8 and finished 17th, good enough for a spot in the 3A state play-in round. It was just the program’s second postseason appearance in the last seven years.
“(Martinez) was pretty instrumental (in that),” Williamson said. “She averaged almost 25% of our team’s total earned points, which is big in volleyball to have a player who can (account for) that much. Trusting her that she could get that hard hit and in was very impactful for us.”
Martinez credited her teammates — in particular senior captains Ali Schmunk and Cazzia Salgado — for the team’s success.
“It’s crazy, because their leadership really brings the team up and I’m so thankful for them,” she said. “They’re the reason why I’m Player of the Year, for sure.”
Martinez has always been destined to be a successful volleyball player. Not only does she fit the stature, but it also runs in the family, as Williamson — a Cibola alum — played in college, first redshirting at the University of Arizona before transferring and playing at Arizona Western.
“To be honest with you, I think she’s probably better (than I was); she’s a little bit more knowledgeable at her age,” Williamson said. “We started doing travel (volleyball) a little bit younger; I didn’t started until I was in high school. So her exposure to the game was more than mine.”
Martinez, who also plays basketball, still has two basketball seasons and one more volleyball season to accomplish even more in her high school career.