Beginning as a freshman at Burroughs High and now about to commence her fourth season playing volleyball at the University of Washington, Marin Grote is exactly where she envisioned herself.
“When I was playing for Burroughs, I did know that one day I would be playing and starting in the Pacific 12 [Conference], but I did not understand the weight of that statement,” explained Grote, a 6-foot-4, middle blocker. “College volleyball is a whole new game and nothing could have fully prepared me for the level of play I was about to be a part of, but Burroughs volleyball and club volleyball taught me as much as they could to help me succeed in the Pac 12.”
Though the game is the same, it’s vastly different at the next level and it takes time to adjust.
“Going into my fourth season here, I am stoked for what stands before us. Looking back at my first season I was just so excited to get to play a college volleyball match, but I did not understand what actually went into a college match,” said Grote, who became a starter this past mid-season and along the way was named Pac 12 honorable mention after being second on the team with 1.02 blocks per set and leading the Huskies in blocks in six matches. “Now, I understand the preparation and level of focus it takes to prepare, compete, and win a volleyball match. I am pleased with my growth over the last three years, but I’m not done yet! There is always more to learn and to find new ways to improve my game.”
Looking back, those years at Burroughs, where Grote was a three-time Pacific League Most Valuable Player, was an All-CIF Southern Section first team selection and an All-SoCal first team member, proved to be a valuable learning experience.
The previous campaign was an incredible one for the Huskies after reaching the NCAA Final Four and also capturing the conference championship.
“Last season was a memorable and successful one in Husky volleyball history,” said Grote, who after turning in an 11-kill, career-high 10-block effort against visiting Utah and two days earlier having a similar showing [seven kills and two stuffs] versus the Utes and was named Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Week on March 2, something that hasn’t happened to a Husky middle blocker in many years.
Grote continued her thought: “Winning the Pac 12 title was huge and the first step to a successful postseason,” she said. “It was special that we won the title against Cal [UC Berkeley], where my younger sister Lydia plays. To have her there to witness that moment with me was something special, especially because no fans were permitted in the arena [Haas Pavilion] at Cal at the time.”
Named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Region squad this past season, Grote addressed that playoff run.
“Advancing to the Final Four had been a goal since day one of the season this past year,” she noted. “The games leading up to the match were grueling matches that we pulled out in five. We prevented a reverse sweep against Dayton, had an insane comeback in the fifth set (11-5) against Louisville, and then pulled a reverse sweep against Pittsburgh.”
Grote went deeper into the game with the Cardinals.
“As a team, the Louisville match in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament was a match I will remember for being a team,” she said of the encounter in which she had eight kills with five blocks. “We fought hard that whole match and ended up down 11-5 in the fifth set. Maria Bogomolova, a serving substitute, had just subbed in as I stepped on the court, and every player on the court knew what had to be done, only focusing on one point at a time.”
Grote added: “We ended up winning 15-13 and advancing to the Elite Eight the next day,” she said. “As a team that is the most memorable match to me because we all understood the job ahead of us. We were fighting for our season and every player on the team knew we were going to win that match, and we did.”
Grote finished with five kills and five stuffs in the Elite Eight encounter versus the Panthers and five kills with four blocks against the Flyers.
Washington’s incredible run had reached the point where the Huskies were part of the four best teams in the nation.
“My team worked hard for those wins in the NCAA tournament, and we were ready to do so against Kentucky in the Final Four,” Grote said. “Walking out onto the arena floor before that match was a surreal moment. A moment of “Wow, this is it. This is where we will fight tonight!” And we did, even though we lost that match [3-1], I was so proud to be a part of Washington volleyball, and we are all ready to get back to business this fall.”
Washington head coach Keegan Cook has seen Grote grow into a bonafide contributor.
“Marin plays with purpose, with confidence, and with an assertiveness that is rare at this game,” he said. “She is determined to impact the game on both the offensive and defensive sides of the game.”
Grote’s talents and skills are apparent to Cook. “Marin’s greatest asset is her ability to think, communicate, and perform under stressful circumstances,” he said. “This was on full display during last year’s NCAA tournament run as Marin sparked multi five-set comebacks.”
And with the season on the horizon, it seems that the Huskies are primed for yet another fruitful campaign.
“Expectations for my team this fall include winning the national title on December 18th. We are capable and I expect nothing less from myself and my team,” Grote said. “We know how to put in the work needed and we are dedicated to our team to do what it takes to accomplish our goal of a national championship.”
Over three seasons, Grote has developed into a reliable on-court contributor and is also willing to take on the responsibility of being up-front and center.
“My role on the team has changed into more of a leadership role. Before this coming season and the previous year’s COVID season, I was more of a player to challenge the starters, playing scout team and providing competition so my teammates can get better and be prepared for a match,” she said. “Now, I lead by my actions on the court – a role I have worked hard over the last three years to build up to.”
Cook wants Grote to step forward knowing that she is fully capable and ready for the assignment.
“I think the best athletes recognize that they do not arrive at excellence alone,” he said. “Marin has grown from an independent performer to an interdependent leader on and off the court.”
Grote tries to keep an even keel when she steps foot on the court, not getting too high or too low.
“When I take the floor for a match I am confident and excited. I know my team and I have done the work to be ready for this match, and I am excited to get to play and compete,” she said. “In moments of worry or anxiety I turn to a teammate. We are all going through the same emotions and are there to support each other. We as a team are so close with each other and are always there for each other. Off the court we are best friends, but on the court we are teammates, and we know what we are here to do.”
One teammate does stand out for Grote.
“Sophie Summers is my best friend on the team, and we have this special and weird bond,” she said. “We are both middles and often competing for the same spot on the court, but that is what brings us closer because we know exactly what each other are going through.”
When the Huskies take on the Golden Bears, it’s special for Grote because she gets to face her sister, who will be a junior and is also a middle blocker.
“I remember warming up for the game with extra energy, and I knew I needed to treat this like any other match because that is what it was,” she said of the conference clinching game at the Golden Bears in which she tied for the team lead with nine kills. “As much as I tried to treat it like another match and not one with my sister on the other side of the net, all I wanted to do was block her. And when I did, it was a great moment. My whole team surrounded me because they knew what it meant to me, but then it was on to the next point because we had a job to do and this match was not about me, it was about my team.”
Grote added: “Playing against my little sister is something so special only a few people get to know, and I’m grateful to have that opportunity,” she said. “I cannot wait for these matches this fall season.”
Grote will get two more opportunities to play against her sibling, October 22 at home and November 14 at the Golden Bears.
More memories will be made for Grote and they will go alongside nicely with the others she has collected.