By Curtis Marlin Portland Leader
Portland High School volleyball standout Marlayna Bullington had a dream come true last week after signing with Missouri State University to play beach volleyball.
Beach volleyball is the fastest growing sport in the NCAA with 100 college programs participating. Beach volleyball is played in the spring.
‘It’s like a dream for me,” Bullington said Friday after signing, “I’ve been playing beach volleyball since I was 14 or 15 years old and take a lot of pleasure in it. Missouri State is a new program and is improving.”
Not only will Bullington have an opportunity to play a sport she loves at the next level, but Missouri State offers a nursing degree that she can use after college.
“They are building nursing buildings on campus,” Bullington remarked. “I would like to be a LifeFlight nurse or a nurse practitioner.”
Bullington has had plenty of success playing competitive beach volleyball in recent years.
This past summer, Bullington ‘s best finish was at the AAU Nationals in California by placing 22nd and coming in first in the Gold Bracket in the Volley America National Championships in New Jersey.
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Bullington won a national Beach tournament in July 2017.
Beach volleyball can be tougher to play than on the hardwood, according to Bullington.
“Beach volleyball is much harder,” Bullington said. “It uses different, more complicated rules. Running and jumping in the sand takes a lot more effort.”
Playing beach volleyball also has a lot of positives, Bullington said.
“Sand also helps you to have better court awareness since you are constantly trying to put the ball where the other team can’t get to it,” Bullington said. “It’s a fun environment with good people. I have played against some of the girls in the summer that I will face in college.”
Portland volleyball coach Rob Lesemann, though happy with Bullington’s opportunity, was also sad to lose a four-year starter who has meant so much to the program.
“It’s a big day and we are proud of Marlayna,” Lesemann said. “She has represented the school well. You never tell her she can’t do something. I have enjoyed coaching her.”
Marlayna’s parents, Marty and Sandy, were happy to see their daughter take her game to the next level.
“She’s earned every bit of this,” Marty Bullington said. “She has worked hard and loves it.”
“This is something she has always wanted to do,” Sandy Bullington said. “We are so proud of her.”
Portland has a four-year record of 154 wins and 33 losses with three district and three region titles along with two state championships. Bullington also owns the record for most kills in school history with 2,130.
Bullington has a long list of accomplishments while wearing the Purple and White including earning a spot on the all-district and all-district tournament teams as a freshman. Bullington was named all-district tournament most valuable player three years in a row as and twice named MVP of the state tournament where the Lady Panthers won their second consecutive state title last month.
Bullington was selected to the 2017 Tennessean All-Midstate team and was named to the PrepVolleyball.com High School All American team.