LA CONNER — The names on the La Conner High School volleyball team’s roster likely make longtime fans of the state power feel a twinge of familiarity, if not do a full-on double-take.
At outside hitter? Ellie Marble, daughter of head coach Suzanne Marble and sister of former standout Carlee Marble.
At setter? Emma Keller, daughter of assistant coach and former Braves standout Pam Keller.
At middle? Morgan Huizenga, daughter of former Braves star Kristin Huizenga, who has also run La Conner’s club volleyball program.
It’s not unusual for familiar last names to pop up, said Suzanne Marble, who is in her 28th season as head coach of the program. But this year’s deep ties to the past have been especially fun.
Suzanne Marble said there are times when Emma Keller or Morgan Huizenga remind her of their mothers. It could be through their play on the court or phrasing they use.
“Some of the things the girls do, I’m like, ‘Oh my god ... that’s totally your mom,’ Suzanne Marble said. “But they’re different, too. The game has changed so much.”
In the early years with Suzanne Marble at the helm, year-round volleyball wasn’t much of a presence in the area. Rather than year-round training and summer leagues, she remembers only brief tune-ups in the offseason.
“I think we’d do a weeklong camp and then it’d be like, ‘Have a good summer!’” she said.
Pam Keller and Kristin Huizenga were on the first La Conner team to qualify for a state tournament under Suzanne Marble, in 1996. Keller was the first player in that era to also play at the club level.
“It wasn’t really popular at that time,” she said.
The game was different, too — serves could be blocked, for example — and the commitment level was different than the nearly year-round effort asked of players now.
“When the kids show up the first day, they’re ready to play volleyball. They don’t need to get in shape,” Suzanne Marble said.
While there are differences in the game and the athletes, Suzanne Marble said she enjoys seeing the similarities across generations, such as the quiet leadership common to both Pam and Emma Keller, or the eagerness to learn in both Kristin and Morgan Huizenga.
She said there are differences, too. Each of the three daughters plays a different position than her mother did.
Ellie Marble, Morgan Huizenga and Emma Keller said they grew up playing together, and spent hours watching volleyball matches, filling in during practices when the older girls needed a few more players on the court, and shagging balls.
Pam Keller said it can be hard to transition from being in that role to actually stepping on the court as a player, but each of the three girls has done so.
Ellie Marble and Emma Keller won a state title in the fall of 2019, and Morgan Huizenga has stepped into a key role this season as a freshman.
Even in an unusual, COVID-hampered season, they say it’s fun to play together after knowing each other for so long.
“We were so excited to play, we didn’t care about the circumstances,” Emma Keller said.
Those three aren’t the only familiar names on the Braves’ squad: Maya Masonholder is the daughter of former coach Megan Masonholder.