Friendships in sports are not an uncommon aspect of playing on a team.
Friendships are the product of athletes bonding together towards the goal of winning and building a stronger team.
Sometimes, however, those friendships can blossom and become a permanent part of an athlete’s life. Seniors Riley Martin and Katie Rossberg have cultivated such a friendship on and off the volleyball court.
Martin began her volleyball career at the age of nine by playing with her older sister.
Rossberg began playing in seventh grade.
The two met in sixth grade when they initially became friends.
“Basically we were friends and she was tall,” Martin explained, “so I basically recruited her.”
During their time in middle school, they discovered their love for volleyball and worked tirelessly on their craft.
“We’d go to middle school very early in the morning and play for hours before school started,” Martin said.
“And then we’d go over at lunch and play,” Rossberg added.
Their middle school coach supported their passion and would even buy them breakfast. Rossberg remarked that practicing together early in the morning before anyone else was fun.
Since their middle school days, the two have helped each other grow as players. Rossberg, who is left handed, learned some techniques from Martin, who is right handed. Now, Rossberg hits the ball with her right hand.
“She essentially messed up my hit. I would have been going someplace if it wasn’t for that,” Rossberg said humorously.
“I just never thought to ask her if she was right-handed,” Martin joked.
The two had a successful high school career together. Martin started with the varsity team as a freshman and Rossberg, who was pulled from junior varsity to varsity, soon joined her. The two were the only freshmen on the varsity team and their skills and talent showed why they belonged there. Their high school team always won the districts and made it to the state competitions. The two thrived in the well-established program.
Their high school success was what eventually led them to their arrival at R-MC. The two played Emily Ortiz and Anne Knowlton, who are also on the R-MC women’s Volleyball team, in their final state game. While Martin and Rossberg lost to their opponents, the R-MC Women’s Volleyball Coach, Bill Rogers, was at the game and made a recruitment pitch about R-MC. The four girls met during their recruitment visit and after their stay, they all really liked the school.
Martin and Rossberg never intended to play volleyball in college and were actually opting to go to a bigger state school. However, once Rossberg committed, Martin soon followed, and, while it was not their initial intention, the two have extended their dynamic duo status to their college team.
The two’s joint experiences have benefited them greatly on the court.
“If you go to different club teams, you have different centers who are like the quarterbacks, so you have to learn a whole different way of play,” Rossberg explained.
“But when I have her to help me, I am able to keep (my relationship) constant so I can focus on my other skills rather than guessing the others’ senses.”
“A person in a sport knows about their real self, so Rossberg and I know a lot about each other,” Martin agreed.
“In sports, you can’t take everything to heart,” Rossberg added. “It’s not like we don’t fight, but now we’ve come to a point where it’s like ‘Well, this is my point and this is your point.’”
The two’s chemistry is well-evident in the eyes of the staff.
“(Coach) says that we are like co-dependent volleyball players,” Rossberg said. “He says ‘If one of you plays bad, then the other is going to play bad, and then I’m just going to cut it off.’”
The two also agree that chemistry is a strong suit in their game.
“If I’m going to run something that’s not what we had originally planned on,” Rossberg explained, “like a hit that’s going behind me without calling for it, then we can improve without…”
“…Having to talk about it,” Martin said, finishing Rossberg’s statement.
During their current senior year, Rossberg and Martin have become more focused and, as Martin put it, “ignore the silly stuff, ignore the drama… because it’s the last season.”
The two’s relationship on the court serves as an important example of teamwork. No matter what happens on the court, the game has taught them not to take it personally and to improve together rather than alone.
“We always try to set an example of how a team is a team. We try to impart that,” Rossberg explained.
“Rossberg and I yell at each other in the middle of the court, but the moment we get off or on the bus, we don’t care about it. We try to instill that,” Martin added.
Their initial middle school friendship has manifested itself further in to the roots of the game, and as they have become better players, their friendship has grown too.
“If I look back in like fifty years and I’m still friends with Rossberg,” Riley laughed, “…like wow!”
While the two are not basing their future goals off of each other, it’s safe to say that Martin and Rossberg will always find their way to walk alongside each other beyond the boundaries of the court.
-Bar Hass ’16, Senior Sports Editor