Volleyball: Pequot’s dynamic duo share All-Area Player of the Year honors
Maci Martini and Ella Kratochvil share Dispatch All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year honors
Pequot Lakes didn’t have just one hitter on the left side.
It had two.
The Patriots finished second in Class 2A with two outside hitters who smashed more than 300 kills.
It’s why senior Maci Martini and junior Ella Kratochvil are named The Brainerd Dispatch co-All-Area Volleyball Players of the Year for 2022.
For Martini, it’s the second straight year she’s been named player of the year. After being named the top area player in 2021, Martini’s senior season featured being named to the Class 2A All-State team for the second straight year, being Mid-State Conference MVP, All-Section 6-2A and All-Mid State Conference.
She spiked an area-leading 389 kills with a .319 hitting percentage in 96 sets. She recorded 342 digs, 13 blocks and 51 ace serves with a 93 serve percentage.
“At the beginning of the season, that’s when I felt my most confident,” Martini said. “I knew it would be more difficult for me to score and find open spots this year because with getting All-State the other team knows they have to line up the best defense up against me in the front row.”
Kratochvil was the perfect counterpart to the senior Martini. She received All-Mid Conference honors, All-Section 6-2A honors and was named to the Class 2A All-Tournament Team.
She finished with 333 kills with a .320 hitting percentage in 96 sets. She edged Martini in digs with 350 to go along with 33 blocks and 33 ace serves on an 84 serving percentage.
“It never felt like it was certain people shining,” Kratochvil said. “When you are out there with your team, every point and every accomplishment is a group effort and that makes it so much more fun.”
Pequot Lakes head coach Chris Ganley enjoyed coaching both outside hitters.
“They both have a good knowledge of the game,” she said. “I think they feed off each other. They are involved in each other’s offense because of their jobs in the back row and they celebrate each other's kills.”
Kratochvil wasn’t shy that she felt she was snubbed as an All-State player.
“I was told if there is one stat that they don’t like they kind of throw you out,” she said. “It definitely is motivation going into next year, but it’s just one award.”
Martini said it was awesome having Kratochvil play at a high level this season.
“If one of us had a bad game the other one would pick up the slack,” Martini said. “I know Ella is a super powerful hitter which helps a lot because she is really hard to defend. I’m super proud of her.”
Kratochvil enjoyed playing with Martini.
“We are in the same position and really help each other out on the court,” Kratochvil said. “We communicate a lot and it’s been super fun to bond with her over that.”
Where Kratochvil shined was in the postseason for the Patriots. She led Pequot with 104 kills with a .358 hitting percentage in the six postseason games. She also recorded 98 digs, 10 blocks and six ace serves in the postseason.
“She just let loose,” Ganley said. “She found ways to get around blocks. It was just fun to watch her realize that any block they put against her she can figure out how to get around it.”
Martini’s postseason was not to her standards, as she was feeling ill during most of Pequot’s playoff run. She played through sickness, but was still left off the All-Tournament Team in the state tournament.
Martini said after a week of reflection she was still proud of how she battled for her team in the playoffs.
“I’m just super proud of my teammates,” Martini said. “Making it to state is hard enough and so is winning two games at state. I know I wasn’t feeling 100%, but I’m super proud with how I did even with how I was feeling.”
Both Martini and Kratochvil were quick to credit senior setter Abi Martin for their success. It was Martin’s second season playing in a 5-1 for Pequot and she recorded an area-best 992 set assists for the season.
“She’s awesome,” Martini said. “She’s one of my best friends and I was just so proud of her moving into a 5-1 last year and this year she improved even more. Abi and I were the two captains which made it fun, too.”
Kratochvil added: “We all trust Abi so much. Toward the end of the season, we could trust the set was always right where we needed and it was so fun.”
Ganley said Martini really played a big role in leadership.
“She would tell the girls that they could do anything they set their mind to,” Ganley said. “She was a calm confidence on the court. She doesn’t doubt what the team can do. She always tells them they got it and they can do it. I think that confidence helps the team’s confidence as a whole.”
Both Martini and Kratochvil said their favorite game of the season was the five-set thrilling win over Wadena-Deer Creek in the Section 6-2A semifinals.
Martini recorded 19 kills and 15 digs and Kratochvil 18 kills and 19 digs.
“It was so loud in there and we barely had any fans because of the football game,” Martini said (the Pequot Lakes football team played in the section final against Esko the same night). “That was the most intense game I’ve ever played in.”
Kratochvil added: “That was such a thriller of a game. It went five sets. Wadena really came to play. We played our ‘A’ game and that’s where our playoff run really started.”
Ganley said the aspect of her hitters’ games that goes unnoticed is their effect on defense.
A lot of times Martini would pass to Martin to set Kratochvil and vice versa.
Martini said with her long arms she can reach balls other people can’t. She also learned more about where to play in the back row on defense.
“Last year, I started playing in the back row a lot more than I did in previous years,” Martini said. “And I enjoyed it. Learning the new role and how to keep the ball up at all times. I’ve learned to really love defense and I try to get every ball I can.”
Kratochvil is excited about coming back to play for the Patriots next year where she will be a four-year starter. She also ponders playing college volleyball.
“I haven’t had any time to focus on that yet,” Kratochvil said. “I know experience goes into the game. I love volleyball and I’m so happy to have the opportunity to play another year and build those relationships.”
Martini just finished four years starting at Pequot. She finished her career with 1,112 kills, 821 digs, 69 blocks and 118 ace serves. Her favorite memory is going to state twice: once as a freshman and once as a senior.
“My ninth-grade year it was like a whole different group,” Martini said, who is undecided about where or what she’ll do next year. “I was like the only one out of the freshman and sophomores who was on that team and the upperclassmen were just so welcoming. I just remember that team so clearly. Then making it to state again as a senior was the perfect story because I made it with all my friends. So that was really fun.”
School: Pequot Lakes
Position: Outside hitter
Season Accomplishments: Named All-State for Class 2A, All-Mid State Conference, Mid-State Conference MVP and All-Section 6-2A. Played 96 sets and finished with 389 kills (4.0 per set, .319 hitting percentage), 342 digs (3.6 per set), 13 blocks and 51 ace serves with a 93 serve percentage.
School: Pequot Lakes
Position: Outside hitter
Season Accomplishments: Named All-Mid State Conference, All-Section 6-2A and All-State Tournament Team. Played 96 sets and finished with 333 kills (3.5 per set, .320 hitting percentage), 350 digs (3.6 per set), 33 blocks and 33 ace serves with an 84 serve percentage.
All-Area Volleyball Players of Year
2022: Maci Martini, PL; Ella Kratchovil, PL
2021: Maci Martini, PL
2020: Lydia Hubbard, PL
2019: Avery Eckman, Brd
2018: Bailey Wynn, PRB
2017: Casey Volkmann, WDC
2016: Shania Glenz, Verndale
2015: Shania & Jordyn Glenz, Verndale
2014: Shania & Jordyn Glenz, Verndale
2013: Bridget Bednar, Pierz
2012: Emily Miron, WDC
2011: Sydnie Mauch, Brd; Brittney Noon, WDC
2010: Courtney Volkmann, WDC
2009: Courtney Volkmann, WDC
2008: Brigetta Berg, WDC
2007: Katie Kimman, Pierz
2006: Annie Adams, C-I
2005: Erin Cusac, PRB
2004: Erin Cusac, PRB
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.