North Allegheny’s Martindale named Trib HSSN Girls Athlete of the Year

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Saturday, June 29, 2019 | 7:45 PM


In her senior year at North Allegheny, all Rachel Martindale did was average nearly 14 points per game on the hardwood and hit nearly .480 on the softball diamond while helping the Tigers to the district title games in both sports.

Not bad for two seasons that at one point looked like they would never happen.

Martindale rebounded from a horrible knee injury her junior year to shine bright in her senior year, which is capped off by being named the Trib HSSN Female Athlete of the Year.

On March 3, 2018, late in the WPIAL Class 6A girls basketball championship game, Martindale crumpled near mid court while playing defense with the Tigers well ahead.

North Allegheny won its second straight district crown, but the joy was tarnished by the prized junior’s serious knee injury.

Doctors confirmed shortly thereafter that Martindale had suffered a torn ACL and meniscus.

Following surgery, did she ever think her senior year athletically was in jeopardy?

“Yes I did,” Martindale said. “But after I found out the extent of my injury, I made it my goal to be back for the first game of my senior season. My doctors made me believe it was possible if I gave a 100% in my rehab sessions and didn’t do anything that would cause a re-injury.”

She not only came back, but returned to her dominating ways both on the basketball court and on the softball diamond.

In basketball, Martindale averaged 13.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in helping North Allegheny finish 24-3, reaching the WPIAL finals for a fourth straight year where the Tigers lost in overtime to undefeated Peters Township.

“Best winner I’ve ever met in my 42 years on earth,” NA coach Spencer Stefko said.

“She’s a once-in-a-lifetime human being. Yes, she’s great at softball and she’s great at basketball, but if they had all-state people, she would easily be first team.”

She was named all-state in basketball three times and ended her career with 1,373 points, 267 3-pointers, 270 assists and 205 steals. North Allegheny was 105-11 in her four-year tenure.

“Martindale is fearless, a natural leader,” Bethel Park basketball coach Jonna Burke said. “I can still see the 3-point shot she sank against us to give them a lead late in a playoff game her freshman year.

“She’s hard to guard and made everyone around her better. Kids like her with great skill, attitude and leadership don’t come around too often.”

While Martindale is headed to play basketball at Akron, her softball skill set is also at a high level. She accepted a scholarship to play softball at Pitt as a freshman before eventually shifting to Division I basketball.

So with softball not in her college future, was there a chance she would bypass her senior season on the diamond to focus on hoops?

“Not really,” North Allegheny first-year softball coach Morgan Vescovi said. “Rachel stayed connected to us as a softball program and made it pretty clear that she still loved to play the game and that she had every intention of coming back.

“Basketball may be her sport, but I think there’s a special place for softball in her heart and she was committed not only to that sport, but also to her school and her teammates.”

This spring, Martindale hit .479 with five home runs, 35 runs scored and 21 RBIs, with a .568 on-base percentage and a .836 slugging percentage as North Allegheny was tri-section champion and lost to Hempfield in the WPIAL Class 6A final.

“Rachel had a wonderful and inspiring season this year,” Vescovi said. “It’s the kind of season that you wish for all of your seniors because it is their last time playing school ball. She led her team offensively in almost every category and she played an important role in each of our victories this season.”

Martindale took some time for a Q&A.

With the physical toll of rehab, did you ever consider not playing softball this spring?

My goal was to be back for the basketball season. If my knee felt strong at the end of the year, I definitely wanted to give softball a shot. The opportunity to play with my team one last year was something I did not want to miss.

How do you look back at your senior season?

I felt it was a successful year in many ways. My goal was always to win a state championship in basketball and get the opportunity to win a WPIAL championship in softball. While we came up short of our goal in basketball, I thought our team did a great job all year, and we left it all on the court. We got our opportunity in softball in the WPIAL championship, and it did not end the way we were hoping. We did everything we could to be successful as a team. The memories that I made this year with my teammates were worth every second of pain that I went through in rehab. I would do it all over again if it meant being with my team one more season.

Early on in your NA career, it looked like softball was your future in college. Why the switch to basketball?

I always loved both softball and basketball and I truly did believe I wanted to pursue softball in college. After committing to Pitt, I focused solely on softball for the entire summer and traveled all over the country. When I got a chance to recover from the summer of softball, it struck me how much I missed playing basketball. I gave myself a month or so to see if I still felt the same and discussed it with my parents. It was at that point I knew basketball was going to be my future.

The Tigers made the WPIAL finals in both hoops and softball, but lost in each title game. Does that take away some of the individual and team accomplishments over the course of both seasons?

As a team we have always wanted to give ourselves the opportunity to win a WPIAL championship. In both basketball and softball we accomplished that goal. I must say I hate losing and I was very disappointed with the outcome in both games. I have always tried to learn from setbacks, and these losses were no different. I will take what I have learned with me to Akron, and hopefully that will help me become more successful.

Was there a highlight that stood out for you in your senior season?

The highlight of my senior season was hearing my name called for the first time at our home opener. It was a fantastic feeling to walk out onto the court alongside my teammates and coach.

When you were younger, did you favor one sport over the other?

When I was young, I truly loved baseball and basketball equally. I played baseball with the boys until I was 12 and then switched to softball.

When it comes to ice cream, are you chocolate or vanilla and are you going bowl or cone?

Vanilla in a bowl, only if Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are crumbled on top.

If you could only root for one pro team, it would be which team and why?

The Pittsburgh Steelers because I have followed them since I was 3 years old. We watch the games together as family every Sunday and scream and cheer at the TV.

What’s a vacation destination that you have been to that you would love to go back to and one that you will never go back?

I would love to go back to the Cayman Islands because the beaches were so beautiful. While I enjoyed Los Angeles the first time, I don’t feel the need to ever go back.

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