North Allegheny's Martindale named Armstrong Athlete of the Year
Rachel Martindale, North Allegheny's stand-out junior in both basketball and softball, recently earned yet another prize for her trophy case — Armstrong Cable's 2017 Female Athlete of the Year award.
“Rachel has had a fantastic year and stats. She's an outstanding athlete. She has a great court presence. Since she's been on NA's basketball team, they've gone 81-8,” said Ed Conti, co-host of Armstrong Cable's “The Coaches Roundtable” segment, which features high school sports highlights each week.
Conti and his co-hosts — George Abraham and Albert Campman — choose the Athletes of the Year based on each student-athlete's stats for the season.
Martindale, 16, is the first NA athlete to receive this award, which covers all high school student athletes in 25 school districts throughout Armstrong Cable's service area, including northern Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence and Mercer Counties.
This is the eighth year that Armstrong has given the award.
The accolade came at a difficult time in the season for Martindale.
The NA Girls Basketball Team was undefeated and vying for the WPIAL title. In the fourth quarter of the championship game, Martindale had just scored her 1,000th career point and was sprinting down court with the ball, again, when she tried to jump stop.
She heard a pop.
“At that moment, I knew I'd torn something,” she said.
She had, in fact, torn her ACL, instantly ending her season.
The team advanced to states, but lost in the semifinals by three points.
The injury sidelined Martindale for the entire softball season, too.
“It was very tough. I typically go right into softball after the basketball season ends, but not this year,” she said.
“I did go to every home game and tried to do all I could on the sidelines.”
That was about the time she received a call from Bob Bozzuto, NA's athletic director, telling her she had won the award.
“I was kind of shocked. I was very excited,” she said. “I really needed some good news.”
Martindale has been a two-sport starter and stand-out for NA since her freshman year.
In softball, her career batting average is .465.
“Even more than her stats, it's her consistency and dependability that sticks out to me,” said NA softball coach Rick Meister.
“During critical times in the game, she's the one you want to see step up to the plate or have the ball hit to. Being named Armstrong Cable's Female Athlete of the Year is a well-deserved honor.”
At 5-foot-8, Martindale plays point guard for the girls basketball team and has been named to back-to-back All-Section teams and was named First Team All-State.
Her personal favorite sports accomplishment was when she scored 23 points in the 2017 WPIAL championship game, helping bring home the WPIAL championship. She was named MVP of the game.
Spencer Stefko, NA's varsity girls basketball coach, takes special pride in Martindale.
“When she was 14, I watched her take a 75-foot shot during a Fox Chapel game. She's got this knack for buzzer beaters, yet she's so unselfish. She passes the ball to give others the chance to score. Even though she's an offensive player, she has taken 25 or 26 charges in the past three years. She sees plays develop in front of her and puts her own body on the line. It takes a rare combination of basketball player, selfless character, and toughness to do that. We're lucky to have Rachel at NA, and when Armstrong Cable decided to give her their Female Athlete of the Year Award, they made the perfect choice.”
“Rachel is an outstanding student scholar athlete. She represents our school district and athletic department with class and dignity. She's a competitor and she always has a smile on her face. We're very proud of her,” he said.
As Martindale prepares to enter her senior year at NA, she has high goals.
“I want to win WPIALs in softball. And I want to win states in basketball,' she said.
She also has a big decision to make.
She plans to study business in college, but is still evaluating which Division I offer she will accept.
As a freshman, she verbally committed to play softball at Pitt, but has since changed her mind. She now wants to play collegiate basketball, and has been recruited by Youngstown State University, University of Akron, Morehead University, and St. Francis University.
“I want to stay closer to home,” she said.
“That's a big part of my decision because I want my family to be able to come see me play.”
Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.