Seen sitting with Bayfield's 'Rowdy Crowd' during home basketball games this winter instead of battling in the paint, one could bet Courtney Bayles would proudly have contributed to the Wolverines' improvement.
"My freshman year, I was very set on playing basketball; it was my favorite sport and everything," recalled the 5'10" Bayles, a senior now just about a month away from graduation. "Then my junior and senior years...I really started to enjoy volleyball a lot more. That's why I quit this year, to pursue my dream of playing volleyball."
On April 11, that dream was realized as BHS' setter signed a National Letter-of-Intent to play and study at NCAA Division II Adams State University in Alamosa.
"I've been working really hard the past few months to figure out what school I'm going to, and it's kind of a relief that I finally get to sign and go to the school I've been wanting to go to," she said. "Last night I had a hard time sleeping because I was really excited, and today that's all I could think about!"
"It's close to home, and then also they have a really good nursing program," she continued. "And when I went over there and played, I really enjoyed all the girls and the coaching staff."
"With Courtney being a setter - etters put in so much extra work that people don't realize, and I think all of her hard work is obvious now," said Bayfield head coach Danica Frost. "Not that it wasn't before in the games, but I think it's truly in the limelight, and I really hope it's inspiring to the other Bayfield girls coming up!"
"I really didn't start getting recruited until club season," said Bayles, a Four Corners Volleyball Club product. "And then I signed up for, like, you go to tournaments and coaches watch you for, like, an hour and a half at a practice. And that's when everything started booming; I got a ton of schools coming in, and that's when I started envisioning myself playing college volleyball."
"She's coming off three months of road trips, getting up at five in the morning and grinding it out with her club team all winter," said Terene Foutz, Frost's predecessor at BHS and Bayles' club coach. "And to tell you the truth, (collegiate) coaches gravitated towards Courtney."
"Sure, there was a reach-out; we've been reaching out for three months. But the coaches who came, every single one of them had very good things to say. They just didn't know who Courtney Bayles was; last year she was in basketball, so she just was not on the scene. That's all!"
"Lindy Mortensen is the right coach for her; she is also a nurturing leader and good teacher," Foutz added. "So I think it's a great situation for Courtney; even if she doesn't get playing time in the fall, she's going to learn so much about herself and about next-level volleyball."
"This season, especially early on, Jade was kind of the 'vocal' leader," said Frost, referring to senior and Colorado Mesa University signee Jade Pascale. "Then Courtney really stepped into that role. She's a pretty quiet person, but she grew out of that when she needed to and that makes me happy; I know there was growth for her."
"She really is an asset at the net, so.Courtney gives them some options, and that's huge. I think she's going to surprise some people.as long as she goes in there with confidence!"
"I go down there in July, so I think that's when we're going to start figuring everything out," said Bayles. "I think I would want to keep setting, but if they need to run, like, a 6-2 or something-with me hitting front-row and setting out of the back row-I'd definitely be open to that. I have a good opportunity to.do really well."
"And the school's amazing, so I'm real excited to see what it has in store for me too!"
SAW WHAT THEY WANTED: Bayles recalled that Adams State had zeroed in seriously on her at the massive Colorado Crossroads club-volleyball tournament, March 16-18 in Denver, where the FCVBC 18-Terene squad ultimately placed second in the 18-American Division's Silver Bracket, and 18th out of 96 teams overall.
GOING HEAD-TO-HEAD: Pascale was present to witness Bayles' signing, and jokingly razzed her friend about becoming enemies, of sorts, in the RMAC this fall.
"Jade's become one of my best friends, and to get to play against her, that's going to be so cool to share that experience with her, on opposite sides of the court," said Bayles. "But we still get to play volleyball, the sport that we love, together."
"To see these two girls - Jade and Courtney - doing big things, getting help with school, and being able to play at that next level, I'm excited to see what they do and how they compete," Frost said. "It's inspiring to me!"