Bailie Cross can relax.
The Caledonia High School standout admits the past few months have had plenty of anxious moments. That’s because Cross, who has played volleyball for years, didn’t know if she was going to get a chance to play the sport she loves in college.
Instead of allowing the doubt and apprehension consume her, Cross relied on her faith and continue to work hard to sell herself.
“I knew God had a plan and that what was happening was happening for a reason,” Cross said.
Cross’ anxiety finally washed away Saturday when she signed a letter of intent to play volleyball at Huntingdon College, a Division III school in Montgomery, Alabama. The signing at Caledonia High came after she visited the school late last month and felt a connection with coach Latonia Brady and the players and enjoyed the campus.
“When I got there, it was really reassuring and I felt there was a reason why I wasn’t having good experiences with the past experiences because I was meant to be there,” said Cross, who said she gave a verbal commitment the day after she visited the school.
Cross said she used help from National Scouting Report, a national scouting service, to contact colleges that were still looking for players. She said she took multiple visits to schools before coach Brady responded to her email by saying she was still looking for a defensive specialist and players to fill out the roster for 2018. She said she set up a visit to spend the night and then “kind of fell in love with the campus, the coach, and the players” on her visit.
“I felt the vibe there that it was the perfect school for me,” Cross said.
Cross said the signing was a relief because she said she had to pray numerous times to keep the faith she would realize an opportunity. She said she has played volleyball since she was 7 or 8 years old, so she was motivated to find a school where she could continue her career and stay on the path to becoming a coach. She admitted it “hit her hard” when she imagined not being able to play volleyball later this year, but she said it was “absolutely amazing” to be surrounded by family and friends Saturday to finalize the next step.
“When I found out I was going to get a chance to play I couldn’t contain my happiness,” Cross said. “I knew there was a reason for everything when certain things weren’t working out. It was extremely stressful for me.”
Caledonia, which finished 27-7 this past season, has been a regular in the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) playoffs. This past season, Caledonia lost to New Albany in the first round of the Class II State tournament. In 2016, Caledonia lost to Lewisburg in the second round.
Cross has been a fixture in that success. Individually, she was selected to play in the Mississippi Association of Coaches Senior All-Star game.
Cross, a 5-foot-4 do-it-all-player, honed her skills this past year on the club scene with Level Elite’s 18s. Mississippi University for Women assistant volleyball coach Brooke Beasley coached Cross.
Cross likely will play defensive specialist or libero in college. She has played a variety of positions in her high school career. Through all of the changes, Cross has remained a leader and someone Caledonia coach Samantha Brooks could look to to set the tone for younger players.
Brooks, who coached Cross for six years, said Cross came to Mississippi from Texas with the basic fundamental skills. She said she knew when she first saw Cross play in fifth grade she would be a key member of the high school program.
“She just steadily progressed, and I feel that she has a knowledge of the game and that she is so excited about it and passionate about it,” Brooks said. “She is going to be one of those coaches who is going to go in and make a difference. She has so much spirit and good ideas. I feel like she will be a really successful coach.”
Brooks also believes Cross, who was No. 1 in aces in the nation for a long stretch this season, will be a key contributor for Huntingdon. She said Cross brought so much spirit and energy to the Caledonia High program that she has no doubt the same infectious attitude will help her in college.
Cross realizes it will be a challenge for her to take the next step, but she is anxious to take it on. After all, playing in college is something she has been waiting to do for years, so she isn’t going to waste her opportunity.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to see all of the love and support (at her signing),” Cross said. “(Playing in college) is something I have always dreamed of.
“I am going to do my best to compete against others and myself and push myself to see what I can do best.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.