Sam Pogatchnik and Katelyn Marunich never considered quitting their current sport to spend more time with the sport they will play in college.
Basketball will come soon enough, but right now the Proctor seniors are enjoying the volleyball season.
“I’ve loved it for so long,” Pogatchnik said of volleyball. “I’m going to (Bemidji State) for basketball, but I love volleyball with my whole heart. The team is like my family. And we’re doing amazing this year, which really helps. There’s no reason for me to take a year off. I want one last year to kick butt.”
And that’s what the Rails have been doing this fall, improving to 10-1 with a convincing 25-15, 25-17, 25-14 home victory over Duluth East on Tuesday night.
Pogatchnik, a right-side hitter with a 24-inch vertical, had 19 kills to lead Proctor. Marunich, a 6-foot-1 middle hitter, had five kills and six blocks.
Like her teammate, Marunich wasn’t about to abandon volleyball early.
“I’ve been with this team forever, so if I didn’t play it would be almost like letting my team down,” said Marunich, a center who will play basketball at Division II Southwest Minnesota State. “It’s also my last season so it’s one more go-round with my friends.”
Both players would like to see that last go-round end at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for the Class AA state tournament.
“We’ve been playing really well,” Marunich said. “We’re not the young team anymore like we used to be. We’re all grown up and are bigger and stronger.”
With nemesis Greenway dropping to Class A, the path has suddenly opened up for Proctor to win its first section title. The Raiders eliminated the Rails in the section quarterfinals the past two seasons.
“Our goal is definitely state,” Pogatchnik said. “We’ve talked about it several times as a team, and that’s the goal.”
To do so, the Rails will need to clear a big hurdle in two-time defending section champ North Branch.
“We had some pretty big expectations coming into the season,” Marunich said. “We want to come together for a common goal. We’ve never gotten past that Greenway roadblock for many years, but that’s no excuse any more. It’s time for us to go far.”
Pogatchnik and Marunich — along with sophomore outside hitter Payton Rodberg and sophomore setter Gabby Jauhola — will play big roles in how far the Rails advance.
Proctor coach Anna Sederski credits the basketball standouts with helping forge a winner at a school with a long losing volleyball tradition. The Rails were 8-16 when Pogatchnik and Marunich were freshmen.
“Sam can hammer the ball down the line or cross,” Sederski said. “She also is a great backup setter, if needed. She’s very consistent and competitive, and she’s not going to back down.
“Katelyn is always smiling on the court. She’s legitimately out there to have fun. She gives it her all, and you can see that she’s having fun and it’s very contagious for her teammates.”
Though the duo declared a preference for basketball early on and didn’t receive any scholarship offers for volleyball, Sederski says they have the talent to play at the next level.
“I do believe that if it had been an option and their passion wasn’t basketball, I believe both girls could go play at the collegiate level,” the coach said.
Though they have been basketball teammates since first grade, the friends say they never considered going to the same college.
Instead they will be opponents on NSIC rivals.
“I think it’s best that we go our own way,” Pogatchnik said. “It’ll be amazing when she comes up to Bemidji or I go down (to Marshall, Minn.). Seeing each other again and reconnecting will be a great thing, but the independence and meeting new people is a big factor for me personally.”
And what will happen when they cross paths going for the same rebound or loose ball on the basketball court?
Expect the same competitive nature both players exhibit now.
“I’m coming after her,” Pogatchnik said with a laugh.