Pine-Richland volleyball player Kristofic commits to George Mason

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Friday, November 9, 2018 | 6:45 PM


George Mason University is located in Fairfax County, Va., about 20 miles from Washington D.C.

For Pine-Richland junior Grace Kristofic, it is the ideal setting for her to continue a stellar volleyball career.

Kristofic made a verbal commitment Nov. 3 to attend GMU.

“I chose George Mason because I just fell in love with it,” Kristofic said. “The campus is beautiful, and I love Fairfax. After visiting other schools, George Mason was by far my favorite.”

GMU is a member of the Division I Atlantic 10 Conference, along with Davidson, Dayton, Duquesne, Fordham, George Washington, La Salle, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Richmond, Saint Joseph’s, Saint Louis, St. Bonaventure and Virginia Commonwealth.

“Mason has a good volleyball team,” said Kristofic, a 5-foot-10 setter. “Over the weekend, they swept VCU and Davidson, which secured their spot in the conference championship tournament.”

Pine-Richland coach Cassie Pratte believes Kristofic will develop into a prominent impact player for the Patriots, a role she has secured with her high school team.

“Grace’s strong work ethic and positive mindset will allow her to flourish at George Mason,” Pratte said. “Playing a a Division I college can be a challenging adjustment for some players, but I expect Grace to embrace the challenge and adjust quickly to the change.

“Grace has made great progress throughout her volleyball career, and we are so excited that she has another year at Pine-Richland. Her 2018 season was by far her most successful season. She dominated as a blocker and attacker in the front row. Grace was able to consistently run our offense and led the team in assists.”

Kristofic has been a varsity starter for two years, and is a three-year letter winner for the Rams. She is a two-time all-section selection, and was chosen at the setter position on the KRVA High Performance Select Team in 2017.

She also plays club volleyball for Pittsburgh Elite, and is a javelin thrower in the Pine-Richland track and field program.

Kristofic has a 4.1 GPA and is considering majoring in business or biology at George Mason.

“Pine-Richland is very lucky to have a setter like Grace on our team,” Pratte said. “Setters have a huge impact on the quality and prosperity of a team.

“Grace’s strengths as a volleyball player are her ability to be an offensive threat, her coachability and her positive mindset. We are very excited to watch her grow as a player and continue her success at George Mason.”

This season, Pine-Richland made its first Final Four appearance in the WPIAL Class AAAA playoffs since 2012. The No. 3-seeded Rams lost a 3-2 decision to No. 2 Baldwin in the semifinals to end up 12-5 overall.

One of the team’s best victories was a thrilling 3-2 verdict against Norwin in the quarterfinal round. Trailing 14-8 in the fifth set, Pine-Richland rallied to win 17-15. P-R senior Michaela Pettinato and freshman Sophie Catalano combined for 31 kills from their outside hitting positions.

“I thought that we had a successful season,” Kristofic said. “Obviously, no one likes losing in the playoffs, but it was the first time since 2012 that we had made it to the WPIAL semifinals.

“Overall, it was a really fun season and one that I will remember forever.”

Several Rams players earned Big 5/6 all-section status.

Two seniors, Pettinato and libero Maddie Schieder, a Villanova commit, were named to the first team; two juniors, Kristofic and middle hitter Maryellen Berger, received second-team plaudits.

Catalano and juniors Jiley Berger, a middle hitter and Maryellen’s twin sister, and Marin Laffey, a defensive specialist, were honorable mention selections.

“I was really impressed with the leadership provided by our seniors this season,” Pratte said. “Our team had a constant positive attitude and a will to win that helped lead us to one of our most successful seasons in recent years.”

Pratte was an assistant at Pine-Richland for five years before taking over as head coach this season. P-R finished as the Section 1 runner-up.

“The biggest adjustment for me was managing responsibilities outside of coaching players and planning practices,” Pratte said. “I was immensely lucky to have such a supportive group of parents and players who helped make the transition as easy as it could be.”

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.

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