By Jenelyn Russo     10/24/2015

Always tall for her age, Makena Martin would often get asked why she wasn’t playing basketball or volleyball. She finally decided to give one of those sports a try.

“I started volleyball when I was in fifth grade,” says Martin. “I was thinking about basketball, but it just never interested me, so I thought I’d try volleyball. I’ve made a lot of new relationships through it, and I’ve just never stopped. I absolutely love it now.”

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The 17-year-old Mater Dei senior, who now stands at 6-foot,1-inch, plays middle blocker for the Monarchs, a position she struggled with initially, but has worked hard at to improve her skills, becoming one of the top players in her position in Orange County.

“You have to be very quick on your feet, and you have no down time,” says Martin of the position. “You have to make critical decisions all the time, so that was a struggle for me at the beginning.

“Through my coaches, and through time playing and experience, I’ve learned a lot…and I love the position. I’m at the net; I’m always hitting.”

In her final year at Mater Dei, and as one of only two returning starters for the varsity Monarchs, Martin is looking to be a leader to her teammates by staying positive on and off the court, regardless of the score or standings. Head varsity coach Dan O’Dell is looking for that leadership as well.

“Makena is an excellent attacker who sees the block well and does a good job at finding the open court,” says O’Dell. “Her time from our CIF [playoff] run last year should give us some big game experience this year as we hope to make another run.”

Off the volleyball court and on campus, Martin turns her time and energy to organizations that help strengthen her faith by being a participant in Campus Ministry as well as Fellowship of Athletic Monarchs (FAM).

“It’s played a huge role in my life to keep me stable with my faith,” says Martin.

After graduation, the Newport Beach resident is headed deep into the heart of Texas, where Martin will attend Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth and has committed to play volleyball for the Horned Frogs. While there, she plans to study business management and hopes in the future to work with special needs children.

When it comes to role models, Martin doesn’t look much further than her own home, citing both her mother and grandmother as two of the most influential people in her life.

“They’ve taught me to influence others, in the way that Christ would, and to spread his Word…and to stay confident in myself, even when it’s hard,” says Martin. “They just impact me every day, and I totally look up to them.”