Nov. 25, 2015
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Rebecca Martin prefers to pass when it comes to questions about her personal achievements on the volleyball court, which this season have been many.
Of course, Martin’s preference and ability to pass on the volleyball court are the reasons for those questions.
As the junior setter and Novi, Mich., native has shown in her three years as the setter for the Yellow Jackets (18-12, 9-9), who wrap up the 2015 season with home matches at O’Keefe Gym against No. 20 Florida State (22-7, 15-3) at 3 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon then Miami (19-9, 12-6) on Friday at 1 p.m., when it comes to passing, she is REALLY good at it.
Actually, really good is an understatement.
“She’s great,” said Georgia Tech head coach Michelle Collier. “She’s a hard-worker. She’s always up to getting better, always up to coming in and doing extra reps, doing whatever it takes to kind of gain an edge. She definitely invests in whatever it is that she needs to do, whether it’s in the weight room, in the classroom, coming in getting extra reps, watching video. She is doing everything that she can to keep getting better and better, and it’s great to see her development as a person and as a leader for that position.
“She definitely understands what makes us successful and what doesn’t, and she’s just making great choices,” Collier continued. “She’s playing super-hard out there. She’s blocked well, she’s playing defense, and she’s serving well. So she’s really just enjoying the game and enjoying playing that position. So I’m very proud of what she’s doing.”
What she’s done isn’t so bad either.
Heading into the final weekend, Martin ranks seventh in the ACC with 937 assists and eighth with 8.68 per set. Yet, all the focus on assists, has overshadowed the fact that Martin has had tremendous all-around season. Her 21 service aces tie her season best, her 54 kills are one away from her career best and her 199 digs are five shy of matching her career high.
There’s also her climb up the school’s all-time assists chart.
On Oct. 16 at Pittsburgh, Martin recorded a season-high 52 assists, one of them her 2,000th career assist. With that helper she became only the 10th Yellow Jacket ever to reach two-grand for a career. The assist got lost in the flurry of A’s she dished out and, more important to her, in the Yellow Jackets’ heartbreaking 3-2 loss.
“I really had no idea,” she said. “Really, that milestone is not mine. It is [a credit to] all the hitters. All the hitters that we have, they make me look good. I’m just the person that sets the ball up for them. They take care of it because without them I wouldn’t have the assists. Really most of the credit goes to all my great teammates.”
Well, yes and no.
“Yeah, the milestone was only attainable due to the talented hitters we have to be able to execute the balls she sets, but the inverse relationship is just as true if not more true,” said junior OH Teegan Van Gunst, who has the majority of her 918 career kills heading into the FSU match off feeds from Martin. “Without a talented setter consistently putting her hitters in positions to be successful, the hitters would not achieve near the success that we have.”
However you want to look at it, Martin begins the final weekend of the 2015 season with 2,391 career assists, ninth in school history, passing her immediate predecessor and mentor, Kaleigh Colson.
“I played with Kaleigh my freshman year and she was such a great teammate, such a great setter, a great leader,” she said. “I learned so much from her. Even though I might not have known it at the time, I learned so many intangible things from her.”
Other milestones are within reach for Martin.
Martin is 63 assists away from recording her 1,000th assist of the season to make her only the seventh setter in program history to record back-to-back 1,000-assist seasons. That would put her in the company of Jennifer Castillo, Andrea Nachtrieb, Kele Eveland, Lindsey Laband, Allie Niekamp, and Mary Ashley Tippins as GT setters with back-to-back 1,000-assist seasons — Nachtrieb (Class of 2008) and Eveland (Class of 2013) are the only two Jackets with four straight 1,000-assist seasons and are in the Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame.
But that achievement, like reaching 2,000 assists and passing Colson aren’t really important to Martin right now.
“To pass Kaleigh, is another great honor but it’s the same thing. I just want to keep making our hitters that we have now the best that they can possibly be,” she said. ”So if that means surpassing somebody else as far as the setting goes and assists, then so be it. I just want to make sure that I put my hitters in the best possible situation.
“It’s a great honor. Just to be listed with some of those great players, Kele Eveland, being No. 1, it’s really nice,” she added. “It’s an honor just to be mentioned in the same realm as them. Obviously, I’ll keep pushing and I’ll try to keep moving up the leaderboard but mostly I just want to make sure that we put our team in a good position now. The stats, they’re really nice and it’s always nice to hear how well you’re doing individually but all our team cares about is the wins and loss column.”
That Martin doesn’t follow the milestones and downplays them once made aware of them doesn’t surprise those around her.
“I don’t think she knew what the top-10 number was. She was just out there playing the game and worrying about how she can make this team better,” said Collier. “But we were definitely super-excited for her and we hope that she still has the rest of this year and next year so she’s going to move up and we’re excited for her.”
“As a program that’s striving to do big things in the ACC, accomplishments like Becca’s 2,000 assists and London [Ackermann]’s 1000 digs, give us tangible mile markers along our journey to celebrate how far we’ve come then refocus for even greater things in the future,” agreed Van Gunst. “So we celebrate Becca for all she’s done and will continue to do for this program.”