Stanwood senior Devon Martinka in The Herald’s 2018 Volleyball Player of Year. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Stanwood senior Devon Martinka in The Herald’s 2018 Volleyball Player of Year. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Herald’s Volleyball Player of the Year: Devon Martinka

The Stanwood senior capped a record-setting career with her best season yet.

Everyone in the gym knew the ball was going to Devon Martinka, but it didn’t really matter.

Not even the best teams had much chance of slowing down the Stanwood High School volleyball star.

Time and time again over the course of her brilliant Spartans career, Martinka rose above the net with her towering 6-foot-2 frame and rocketed a barrage of emphatic spikes at opposing defenses.

“Nobody (can) keep her in check,” Snohomish coach Alex Tarin said after facing the supremely talented outside hitter earlier this year. “She’s such a good player. … She’s unstoppable when she gets in rhythm.”

Martinka capped her record-setting Stanwood career this fall with her best season yet, amassing 344 kills for a whopping average of 5.4 kills per set. She complemented her hard-hitting prowess with a strong all-around game, averaging 3.9 digs, 0.6 aces and 0.4 blocks per frame while leading the Spartans to their third Class 3A state tournament appearance in four years.

For her exceptional senior campaign, Martinka is The Herald’s 2018 Volleyball Player of the Year.

“This senior season for her was phenomenal,” Stanwood coach Megan Amundson said. “Everyone knew the ball was going to Devon Martinka. But even with everyone knowing that, … she’s still able to be that efficient. That says a lot.”

Martinka finished with 993 career kills, shattering the previous school record of 767 held by Amundson, a 2007 Stanwood graduate. Over the past two seasons alone, Martinka totaled an astounding 640 kills.

“She stepped in as an impact player on day one (as a freshman),” Amundson said, “and then honestly just grew from that high starting point every single day.”

Martinka also holds the school record for most kills in a match. She broke it three times over the past two seasons, with all three record-setting performances coming against quality competition.

She first broke the record last year, tallying 28 kills in a victory over eventual state qualifier Snohomish. She bettered that mark this season with 29 kills in a loss to the Wesco 3A champion Panthers, despite the match lasting just four sets. Then, in last month’s state tournament, she broke the record for a third time with 31 kills in a consolation-bracket win over Stadium.

“She never once shied away from any kind of competition or challenge that was thrown her way,” Amundson said.

Stanwood’s Devon Martinka (right) spikes a ball past Arlington’s Caroline Diemer during a game Oct. 17, 2017, at Stanwood High School. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Stanwood’s Devon Martinka (right) spikes a ball past Arlington’s Caroline Diemer during a game Oct. 17, 2017, at Stanwood High School. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Martinka is known for her powerful spikes, but also has expanded her skill set to become an elite all-around player. Amundson said Martinka began emerging as a six-rotation threat during her junior season, but that her biggest improvement came from last year to this year.

“Her jump from the last match of her junior year to the first match of her senior year was huge,” Amundson said. “She became one of our top serve-receive passers. She became one of our top defensive players. We switched her to playing some middle back this year, because she could take on that role. (Having) her as an offensive threat out of the back row was huge for us.”

Amundson also raved about Martinka’s leadership ability.

“The part that I’m most proud of is the teammate that she’s become,” Amundson said. “When you take on that much responsibility on a team, it can be tough. But she became a better teammate this season because she took on that responsibility, (and) because she always tried to make those around her better.

“I feel like she’s the type of player that inspires others,” she added. “She’s the one that some little girl is watching her play volleyball and wants to start playing.”

Over the course of Martinka’s four-year career at Stanwood, the Spartans earned three state berths and went 43-7 in Wesco 3A play, including a league title last season and a conference win streak that reached 24 matches.

Stanwood’s Devon Martinka celebrates a point during a game Oct. 17, 2017, against Arlington at Stanwood High School. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Stanwood’s Devon Martinka celebrates a point during a game Oct. 17, 2017, against Arlington at Stanwood High School. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

“It was such an incredible four years,” Martinka said. “I feel super blessed and thankful to be able to say I went to state three out of the four years. I definitely wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“I feel like I owe a lot of that to my coach. Her first year at Stanwood was my freshman year, so it’s just been super special to go through this with her. She’s such a great coach. I’ve learned a lot from her.”

Martinka said she plans to continue her volleyball career in college. She said she’s received interest from Division-I schools and has taken a few official campus visits, but remains undecided on her college choice.

“I definitely want to play (in college),” she said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. I can’t imagine not playing, because it’s just been a part of my life for so long.”

Amundson said she believes Martinka has a bright future at the next level.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that she is a D-I player,” Amundson said. “She’s put in the work and has the natural talent. And the cool part is that I think she (still) has so much more room to grow.

“She continues to learn every day and continues to improve her game. So being able to have another four or five years in a program where she’s competing against kids that are at the same caliber as her, she’s going to step up to that challenge.”

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