Seeing the floor; creating situations for your teammates to score; knowing where to put the ball.
All are qualities vital for point guards to successfully lead their teams to victory.
And though these may be the duties of basketball’s floor general, they are also the responsibilities of the setter in volleyball. And this season, the Wolverines are seeing a change of the guard at the position.
Redshirt freshman Mara Martin of the Michigan women’s volleyball team is the new starting setter this year – a role that she has been anxiously awaiting since her arrival in Ann Arbor last fall. As an incoming freshman in 2004, Martin had to wait for her shot at the coveted position because fifth-year senior Lisa Gamalski was finishing up her impressive career at Michigan.
“It was kind of expected coming in that I would be redshirted,” Martin said. “With Lisa there and all of her experience, it would be tough for a freshman to take the starting spot. But it was still extremely difficult because I was always used to playing.”
In the unfamiliar role as spectator, Martin made the best of her situation by learning from someone she admired for her style of play and command of the court.
“It was really helpful to be able to watch how she ran the team and was in control on the floor,” Martin said. “After watching her, I knew I would want to be that kind of leader out on the floor.”
Learning to be a leader is something that can only come with more experience and, as the first-year player continues to be shaped into her new role this season, she admits she still looks up to some of her elder teammates, such as co-captain sophomore Katie Bruzdzinski.
“Katie is someone who has a lot of experience playing in big matches,” Martin said. “She is someone who knows how to get the job done.”
As it turns out, Martin – who, at 6-foot-1, is the tallest setter in Michigan volleyball history – is getting the job done herself in her inaugural season of play. The young Michigan star has started in all 17 matches played this year and has accounted for nearly 90 percent of the team’s total assists to date. If these numbers are not enough indication of what Martin has accomplished so far, then her mark in Wolverine history a month ago may be. In a Sept. 16 match against Georgia, the redshirt freshman recorded a career-high 81 assists – a mark that has been reached just three other times in Michigan volleyball history. Such numbers have earned praise from coaches and players a like.
“She had a great match,” coach Mark Rosen said. “She has come so far in the last month, and her game has taken great strides. I think she has actually played better matches since then.”
As mentioned before, the key to being a great floor leader, basketball or volleyball, is the ability to make the others around you better as you continue to improve your own game – something that is essential for Martin and the rest of the Wolverines.
“No question about it,” Rosen said. “The success is almost parallel. As Mara improves her game, so we will improve as a team overall.”
Whether it’s continuing to learn from hers captains, setting up her teammates for crushing spikes or merging into that leadership role, it can be expected that, as Martin rises, so will the Wolverines.