Caledonia High School junior volleyball player Bailie Cross was selected to play in the Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) Senior All-Star game next year at Millsaps College in Jackson. Photo by: Contributed
December 2, 2016 10:39:06 AM
CALEDONIA -- "Guess what happened?"
Bailie Cross didn't have any idea what her mother, Beth, was talking about when she arrived home from school last month.
Cross said she and her mother usually talk about their days when she gets home from Caledonia High School, but she had a feeling something was different this time.
Cross' curiosity quickly turned to surprise when she learned she had been nominated and selected to participate in the Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) Senior All-Star game in at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, at Millsaps College's Hangar Dome in Jackson.
"I really felt honored that I had been nominated," Cross said. "When I found out that (Caledonia High) coach (Samantha) Brooks nominated me, I was so thankful. When I found out I got it, I was even more thankful. It was all crazy. I didn't think it would ever happened."
Cross is the only local player to be chosen for the game, which will feature 24 of the state's top rising seniors divided into two squads (North and South).
Morgan Smith, a setter, is the only other Caledonia High player to have been selected to participate in the annual event.
Starkville High's Kennis Kingery and April Reese were selected to play in the event the last two seasons.
Cross played a key role in helping Caledonia (27-6) win a Region 4 title and advance to the second round of the Class II playoffs. She played a variety of roles on the team, including a right-side hitter, defensive specialist, and setter.
"I nominated her because she has put a lot of time and work into volleyball," said Brooks, who received a text message from Cross thanking her. "She started at a really young age and has such a love for it. I feel like this is one of the big payoffs for her."
Brooks used the word "invested" to describe the commitment the Cross family has for volleyball. She said Cross has that spirit for other Caledonia High teams and events. In fact, she said she saw Cross at a recent Caledonia High basketball game and she was supporting the team with a poster she had made. Brooks said Cross' spirit is infectious and has provided a great example for the younger players on the volleyball team.
"That is something the younger girls look up," Brooks said. "She brings a lot other than her talent and hard work to the team. There is also the spirit aspect."
Cross has honed her volleyball skills as a member of the Level Elite Sports travel teams. In addition to a busy Amateur Athletic Union schedule last summer, Cross received the Coaches Awards for the Caledonia High varsity team at the Bob Bertucci Volleyball Camp.
Cross said she hopes to play volleyball in college, so she feels the All-Star event could help her attract the attention of college coaches. She said another busy travel volleyball season, which starts in January, also should help her raise her profile, as should playing for Brooke Beasley, who is the assistant volleyball coach at The Mississippi University for Women. A women's volleyball team will be one of six sports The W will feature for the 2017-18 school year as part of its decision to introduce men's intercollegiate athletics and to bring back women's sports.
Cross, who moved to Caledonia from Austin, Texas, said she isn't sure where she would like to go to college, but she said she already has started to look at schools. She said she is looking forward to training hard to prepare herself to represent her school and program in the All-Star game.
"I always want to work hard on and off the court," Cross said. "It makes me want to do a lot more, especially since we are in our offseason and don't have any club practices. It makes me want to go to the gym by myself to make sure I stay in shape to make sure I am ready."
Cross said her AAU tournament season likely will start in February and will feature at least six events. She senses things have been getting bigger and bigger as she has climbed higher and higher in volleyball. She said the exposure she has received playing club volleyball has helped her, but she hopes to use the All-Star game in a similar way.
Brooks believes Cross will be able to make that happen.
"She does have the desire to play at the next level, so this is a huge accomplishment that will be recognized," Brooks said.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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