TAMPA — Plant outside hitter Maddie Martin watched from the stands with five future Penn State teammates — all of them Under Armour All-Americans — as the Nittany Lions rallied from two sets down to claim their record third straight national title Saturday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.
She had been fighting illness last week, but part of the reason her voice was cracking hours later likely had to do with her screaming and cheering for her future team.
And less than 24 hours later, Martin closed out a stellar high school career on the same court, earning MVP honors in the Under Armour All-American Match on Sunday afternoon.
"I was really surprised because there were some amazing girls on our team," said Martin, who had seven kills and just two attack errors on 14 attempts and three digs in leading the Red team to a 25-21, 25-20, 25-20 win over the White team in a showcase format. "They were all so great at every position. But I was completely surprised I got this."
The sight of Martin holding a trophy with a silver volleyball was the final chapter of one of the bay area's most successful high school careers. During the past month, Martin earned her fourth straight state championship. This past week, she was named Florida's Gatorade player of the year. She is the St. Petersburg Times' Hillsborough County and All-Suncoast player of the year.
"It's relieving, but it's sad," Martin said of the end of her high school career. "It's sad. I've been with (Plant) Coach (Leanna) Taylor for four years. She's one of my best friends."
After the club season and graduation, Martin is off to Penn State, where she will try to help the Nittany Lions extend their 102-match winning streak, the second longest in college team sports. But this past weekend will be memorable.
"I'm already best friends with the (other Penn State recruits)," Martin said. "We saw (Penn State) come back and win three straight sets. That alone is a motivator that I need to work hard to do what they're doing, go five straight matches with games that are so close, to be physically fit and mentally ready to play for them."
In Sunday's match, White team MVP Stephanie Holthus, a Northwestern recruit from Burlington, Ill., had four kills and five digs.
"This really helps you gauge how good you are because of the competition you're playing with," said Red team libero Taylor Unroe, Indiana's Gatorade player of the year and the match's only participant heading to a state program.
Unroe, a 5-foot-7 senior from Muncie (Ind.) Burris High, has signed with Florida. She gave her oral commitment to the Gators as a sophomore. Florida saw her at a club tournament when she was 15.
"I think back then they were banking on my potential because I was young," Unroe said. "They liked my range. (Gators coach Mary Wise) said I play like a guy. She still always says that."