WHEATFIELD | Gabby Martin was attending her sister's volleyball games at Kankakee Valley while still in the first grade.
Watching the court, the game, the players and all the fun they were having, Martin was immediately attracted to the sport.
As a sophomore outside hitter, she's already leaving her name in the school record books. With 326 digs, Martin has surpassed the mark for most in a season (previous was 296) and figures to set a career record before the end of her junior year.
And playing in the back row isn't even her forte.
"I would really rather be a libero," Martin said. "I love to pass and I love the back row. But I've always been an outside hitter."
Martin, who also plays basketball and runs track, leads her team in kills with 275 and has the second-most aces with 70.
The Kougars open their postseason Thursday against Calumet in Game 2 of the Rensselaer Sectional.
"She works very, very hard during the offseason all while playing other sports," coach Rick Ashmore said. "She has a very high volleyball IQ, understands the game well and has been playing for so long.
"She's a very smart hitter, she can read blockers and has a real good help-side ... her strength is her serve-receive."
Martin started playing volleyball at age 8 and by 10, she was on her first travel team. Soccer and basketball took over her schedule and she returned to her favorite sport in time for middle school.
She's listened to instructors while playing volleyball at the club level with Ashmore's Dunes Volleyball Club and learned to watch the tell-tale signs from players on the other side of the net.
"She has such a feel for the game," said Ashmore, who has sent more than 200 volleyball players to college. "She can read a hitter's shoulders from the back row to see where the ball is going to go."
Martin has a keen insight into the sport.
"A lot of college coaches have come in and talked to our club and it's just about paying attention to what they say," she said. "I wanted to see the kinds of things they were seeing.
"I've learned that instead of just being a good hitter, you watch enough on the other side of the net and maybe go for the tip. I've picked up to watch where the hitter is hitting early and they'll maybe start cheating one direction and that makes it easy to know where the ball is going to go."