In volleyball, it’s not uncommon for a player to perform at different positions due to the natural rotations of the game itself.
However, Maria Kolinoff, in titles and her overall statistics, has clearly taken on more responsibilities than most.
Setter? Check. Frontline attacker? Yep. Defensive specialist? Sure.
For Kolinoff, it’s just another day at the office — playing the game that she loves more than any other.
“A lot of years went into trying to get better at the sport that I love,” Kolinoff said. “I’ve made so many good memories throughout the years of playing volleyball, and I will not take those memories for granted. I’m very grateful to make it this far in my career with the help of my coaches, teamates, and family. Volleyball not only made me a better player, but I have become a better person from the game, as well. I just want to set a positive example, work hard, and give 100 percent the whole time. All of the little things matter and make an impact on the whole team. Everyone is such a hard worker on this team, so I am excited to see what this upcoming season brings.”
An honor roll student at Canal Fulton Northwest, Kolinoff made an immediate impact throughout her first two seasons of competition. She earned Second-Team All-Stark County as a freshman in 2013 and First-Team All-Stark County as a sophomore in 2014 while also earning Second-Team OHSVCA District Four honors and First-Team OHSVCA District Four billing in her freshman and sophomore seasons.
However, it wasn’t all roses for Kolinoff.
In between her sophomore and junior seasons of competition, Kolinoff suffered through a freak accident that resulted in a torn ACL. The injury put Kolinoff’s status to even play volleyball as a junior, and her ability to retain her status as one of Stark County’s best volleyball players, in jeopardy.
Instead of folding, however, the junior-to-be embraced the rehabilitation process with a vigor that eventually defined her volleyball career at Canal Fulton Northwest.
“Going through that experience made me more grateful to be able to play the sport that I love,” Kolinoff said. “The little details of how I currently play is because of the impact my high school team and coaches have had on me as a player. Physical therapy helped me grow mentally and physically. I realized how far I could push my body. The recovery was painful and difficult, and I went extra days for therapy to make sure that I was getting stronger, but also not pushing myself over the limit. It currently helps me push myself knowing that I can push myself harder, whether it’s in the weight room or on the court.”
With her winning mentality still intact on and off of the floor, Kolinoff, despite the physical setback, continued to excel on the court as a result of her hard work.
Despite the lost time from her torn ACL, Kolinoff recovered in time to make a critical impact on Canal Fulton’s 19-6 unit in her junior year in 2015, allowing the Lady Indians to advance to the Division II Regional Finals after a late-season, eight-game winning streak pitted Canal Fulton against Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin.
The Chardon-based school, ranked 30th in the nation during the 2015 season according to MaxPreps, defeated Northwest in straight sets, but with her triumphant return, Kolinoff had helped Canal Fulton Northwest claim three five-set victories during its late-season run to the regional finals, and earned Second-Team All-Stark County honors to go along with Honorable Mention OHSVCA District Four billing.
Kolinoff, now fully healthy heading into her senior season, led Canal Fulton Northwest on an outstanding tear as the Lady Indians rolled through its conference and district competition en route to a 24-1 overall record and its second consecutive OHSAA Division II Regional Tournament appearance. There, it took a Mentor Lake Catholic team — one that was ranked 18th in the country — to knock out Northwest for good.
Still, Kolinoff had successfully made a triumphant return to the volleyball court. Her diligence in her rehabiliation allowed the all-around player, as a senior, to reclaim First-Team Stark County and First-Team OHSVCA District Four honors after a senior season where Kolinoff posted 409 service receptions, 270 kills, 250 digs, a .232 attack percentage, and 39 aces. In addition, Kolinoff was awarded with the Stark County Player of the Year honor after breaking Canal Fulton Northwest’s all-time records in career digs and career attack attempts.
“I had a great experience at Northwest,” Kolinoff said. “It helped that I had an amazing coach for three years. Our team was pretty competitive.”
After initially heading to Mount Vernon Nazarene, Kolinoff, who posted 353 digs over her first two years of varsity competition, decided to make the move to Shawnee State for her final two seasons of competition. With SSU, Kolinoff immediately became a fan of the passion inside the program.
“When I first came to tryouts, I noticed a high intensity level,” Kolinoff said. “The SSU volleyball program is a competitive, highly-skilled setting. We practice with a purpose and a will to get better. The coaches here care about making each one of us a better player, and they see our potential. They are squarely focused on making us better people as well as better volleyball players, which will help us in the future.”’
Kolinoff’s own drive to succeed, in addition to her natural ability and a calming presence on the court, led to a strong junior year where she obtained 677 assists and 37 aces — both team-highs. In addition, Kolinoff finished third on the team in digs (351), fourth in kills (167) and posted a .954 serving percentage to boot.
“I have had the opportunity to play various positions, which I am very grateful for,” Kolinoff said. “Consistency and knowledge of the game is important to being able to play multiple positions. It was very helpful that I had my coaches, Devan (Scarberry) and Susan (Shelton), to help me adjust to different positions.”
Scarberry, a 2015 graduate of SSU who has now taken the reins from the now-retired Shelton, has Kolinoff believing that big things are in store for not only her final season of competition, but in the years to come after that.
“I love Devan’s mindset and love for the game,” Kolinoff said. “This spring, our team has been going through workouts that she set up, and I can tell that we are already getting stronger. She is dedicated to making each one of us better players, as well as connecting us better as an entire team. It’s unfortunate that we can’t be in the gym this spring due to the circumstances at hand, but I am excited to see what the Fall of 2020 has to offer.”
For more information on SSU Bears Athletics, visit www.ssubears.com or visit the Twitter and Facebook pages at https://twitter.com/SSUBears and https://www.facebook.com/SSUBears. For more information on how to join the SSU Bear Club, visit https://givetossu.com/bear-club.