Martin Sortun and Lake Youngs were crowned champions at the Kent elementary schools volleyball district round-robin tournament on Dec. 10. Martin Sortun was the winner of the boys bracket and Lake Youngs won the girls side, breaking a three-way tie with Martin Sortun and Ridgewood.
Marla Taylor who teaches physical education at Martin Sortun Elementary, and her wife Guyla Kennedy, who also teaches PE at Ridgewood Elementary, took over the program in 2017. This year, there were over 200 kids with a total of eight schools represented at the season-ending tournament.
This is the end of the year for these volleyball teams, but it isn’t the only competition. There is also a regular season that the coaches of all the teams coordinate and schedule with one another. On average, the teams play about six games before this tournament.
“We are totally independent and do our own thing,” said Taylor. There isn’t any help from the Kent School District, as Taylor said: “Ms. Kennedy and myself get everything going, send everything out, and create the whole thing. We do all of it.”
It is the first season of elementary volleyball since the pandemic, and Taylor couldn’t be happier.
“It’s been wonderful to be back with the kids competing and playing again,” Taylor said.
At Martin Sortun, there is an extremely diverse student population, with over 70 languages spoken at the school. Most kids haven’t played different sports, Taylor said. One of the perks associated with playing volleyball is that 14 students got to go to UW and watch the Huskies play.
“It was so eye opening for them,” Taylor said.
When asked who her biggest rival is, a huge smile came over Taylor’s face, and she pointed directly at Kennedy, her wife. They take great pride in helping prepare the kids to play volleyball, not only outside of school, but for their future.
“I ask the coaches, ‘what do you want to see, what do you need?’ So I can help prepare them for middle school,” Taylor said.
As students move on and keep playing, Taylor said she tries her best to watch all of her former players at their next schools. And some of them even come back and help referee the elementary school tournament.
With all the students competing, it got pretty loud inside the Kentwood gym, which was a great sign for Taylor.
“There’s a lot of kids screaming and yelling and having fun,” she said. “Each student not only left with a ribbon, but a smile on their face as well.”