One year ago Faye Bailie’s role on the Platteville volleyball team was a reserve front row blocker.
Relegated primarily to defensive duties, the athletic 5-foot-10 two-time state qualifying high jumper was allowed only the occasional hitting opportunity.
As a result, Bailie finished the 2014 season sixth on the team with 92 kills and 220 attempts in 46 matches, despite posting the second-best hitting percentage on the team.
This year, Bailie is still coming off the bench for the talented, senior-dominated Hillmen, but her play in Thursday’s Southwest Wisconsin Conference season-opener showed her budding promise.
Bailie’s athleticism and leaping ability was on full display Thursday as she recorded eight kills, mostly on quick sets, and two blocks to stabilize Platteville’s inconsistent play and help the Hillmen overcome 11 service errors and 12 hitting errors in a still easy 25–15, 25–18, 25–14 victory over an outmatched Prairie du Chien.
“I think people tend to overlook Faye’s talent and ability,” said first-year Hillmen coach Lindsay Neal. “I see Faye as having unlimited potential to our team. I see her as one of my top hitters and blockers. She is great at seeing the court and working to hit where the passers are not.
“She is working on being more consistent in her approach to align herself to swing better at the ball. She and her setters are working to make a better connection between the two of them. Faye has an amazing vertical and I hope to give her the ball every chance we can get. She is already becoming one of our powerhouse hitters.”
Neal is imploring her four-year setters Emendorfer and Phillips to spread the ball around this year. She wants them looking to the middle hitters, Bailie and fellow senior Allison Woodworth, first, then set the outside to keep defenses honest against returning all-state hitters Morgan Stecklein and Claire Tashner, also both four-year varsity players.
The change in philosophy is still a work in progress, but at times Platteville showed the potential balance it can have with a rotation of nine seniors.
Six different Hillmen recorded at least five kills in Thursday’s win and both setters Rachel Emendorfer and Jenna Phillips ran the offense effectively.
Stecklein had seven kills in the third set to put the finishing touches on a nice 13-kill, three-assist night. Bailie finished with eight kills, and Woodworth added seven. Tashner, who has moved from the left side to the right side this year to take advantage of her all-around game to fill a much-needed utility role for the Hillmen, finished with five kills, four aces, two blocks and double digit digs.
Seniors Maddie Caroll and Marissa Marino, another little used hitter a year ago who is playing a much larger role this fall, each had five kills as well.
“I liked that we are trying to move the ball around more on the front row,” added Neal. “We are learning not to utilize one person only but to use our entire front row to our advantage. We always have a strong front row, we just need to use all of our hitters to keep the opposing team on their toes.”
Phillips also served up four of Platteville’s 17 aces. Marino, Emendorfer and senior Lexi Budden each had two aces.
The Hillmen (11–4, 1–0 SWC) posted 17 aces, but were very inconsistent at the service line, giving the Blackhawks 11 free points on errors.
Prairie du Chien (5–5, 0–1) finished with just 10 kills on the night compared to 44 for the Hillmen and didn’t record its first kill until Platteville had built an 18–13 lead in the first set.
The Hillmen committed 11 errors in that opening set and PdC scored just five of its 14 points on its own.
“I think we had too many unforced errors due to the fact the girls were excited and nervous about their first home game,” said Neal. “I discussed that we were not playing to the level we should and they agreed. They know they were making mistakes they shouldn’t at the varsity level but sometimes it happens. We just have to train ourselves to focus better in our matches when we are making too many mistakes.”
Despite the errors, Platteville settled down and dominated the match with its superior size and skill. After Prairie du Chien pulled within 20–15 on an ace by Jacqueline Lahaie, the Hillmen rattled off five straight kills by four different people — Woodworth, Bailie, Stecklein and Tashner — to win the set.
The visitors jumped out to 6–4 lead in the second set, but Platteville went on a 13–3 run to take control. A Carroll tip kill on game-point gave the Hillmen a 25–18 win.
The Blackhawks were within a point at 10–9 in the third set, but Stecklein slammed four kills in a nine-point span to spur a 11–4 Hillmen run. Platteville closed out the match with back-to-back aces by Tashner and a block by Bailie.
Platteville hosted Dodgeville Tuesday night and will host Lancaster (2–11, 0–1) Thursday in a game that was moved to PHS due to a conflict at Lancaster High School that night. Platteville will then have its first showdown with 2014 SWC co-champion River Valley (8–1, 1–0) on Tuesday.
Platteville 3, Prairie du Chien 0
(from Thursday, Sept. 3 @ Platteville)
Prairie du Chien 15 18 14
Platteville 25 25 25
Platteville stat leaders
Kills: Morgan Stecklein 13, Faye Bailie 8, Allison Woodworth 7, Claire Tashner 5, Marissa Marino 5, Maddie Carroll 5. Blocks: Bailie 2, Tashner 1. Assists: Rachel Emendorfer n/a, Jenna Phillips n/a. Aces: Phillips 4, Tashner 4, Stecklein 3, Lexi Budden 2, Ememdorfer 2, Marino 2. Digs: not available.