Bailey embracing challenges for senior year


Adam Tumino | The Daily Eastern News

Eastern senior Laurel Bailey (left) attempts a kill during an intrasquad scrimmage at practice Thursday afternoon. Bailey is in her senior year with the volleyball program.

Autumn Schulz, Volleyball Reporter

If COVID-19 had not imposed many great advertises on the world of college athletics, the volleyball team here at Eastern would have played 6 games by now.

The first game was secluded for Sept. 18 against Morehead State right here in Lantz Arena.

For senior Laurel Bailey, it would have been her last home opener as a Panther. Now with all games being pushed back until the spring semester, Bailey and her teammates have come together during practices to simulate the game-winning energy that they have been lacking for quite some time now. According to Bailey, it has all been going well for the Panthers.

“Practices have been going really well. We have been working really hard to focus on the basics as well as our new strengths to prepare and train for our upcoming season,” Bailey said. “There are a lot of new players that bring exciting talents and skills to our team that push all of us to be better players. Our coaching staff has done a great job working with us and around the new rules and expectations of COVID and it has allowed us to get back to training with ease.”

Despite being thankful for being on the court during a global pandemic, Bailey admits that there are some difficulties when it comes to practicing for a long time. The mask requirement has been one of the most difficult COVID-19 guidelines that Bailey and her teammates have had to adjust to.

“I think the most difficult thing that we have to adapt to has been wearing masks during practice. When we are practicing extremely hard and for a long duration and the mask makes it harder to breathe. We have to take breaks more often resulting in less practice time,” Bailey said.

Wearing a mask may be a distraction for some but it has not kept Bailey from focusing on her goals and what she needs to improve on as a senior member of the volleyball team. Once she starts playing games again with her teammate, she said she hopes to get better at two different facets of the game: hitting and blocking.

“I hope to improve my hitting and blocking overall. I am trying to improve my strategy and placement of the ball. I am trying to learn new shots and improve on my old ones,” Bailey said. “Blocking wise I am trying to improve my eye work and work on my technique to overall improve my effectiveness as a blocker. I also am trying to improve my overall knowledge of the game to become a better leader and learner.”

Since Bailey has played for the volleyball team, she has had three different coaches. The newest coach, Sara Thomas, has been an adjustment for not just Bailey, but all her teammates. Despite this adjustment, Bailey believes that Thomas and her assistants are what the culture within the volleyball program needed.

“It has obviously been a big change having a new coach, but our program and culture needed someone like Coach Sara, Coach Manolo (Concepcion) and Coach Haley (Bilbruck) to build us back up. They bring such positivity and support to us all and push us to be the best players we can be,” Bailey said. “Coach Sara has believed in our strengths from day 1 and wants us to not only grow as players but as people. She has given our team motivation to change our culture and wants us to build a better program for years to come.”

Aside from doing her best on the court, Bailey also has ambitions to do her best off the court as well after the conclusion of her senior season. She hopes to further her education even more and get her master’s degree in Marine Biology.

“I am currently applying to different positions around the US at different lab jobs, research jobs, aquarist jobs, etc. I hope to work in the scientific field for a few years then go to grad school to further my education,” Bailey said.

Bailey is just one of the many collegiate athletes whose senior season is unfolding during COVID-19. One thing that this global pandemic has taught Bailey is to not take anything for granted and to embrace change. She said she would like to remind all seniors to take advantage of everything the world of college athletics has to offer.

“You don’t know when practices could stop, players could get sick, events get canceled so just enjoy the moments you get to do all those things,” Bailey said. “We all know the season is going to look different and might not last as long or might not even happen, but to take in everything that your coaches have to say and enjoy the time being on the team while you still are.”


Autumn Schulz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]