The Plano West volleyball team is heating up, recently winning the Allen Texas Open for a second straight year and outlasting state-ranked Prosper in a five-set thriller on Tuesday.
The Lady Wolves have upped their game despite the graduation of five players who received all-district honors last year and the arrival of a new head coach in former Plano assistant Cooper Phillips.
One of the team's steadying presences has been senior Blaire Bayless, an all-district first-team selection entering her third varsity campaign. Committed to Pitt, Bayless is the Lady Wolves' top option on the attack and a valued source of experience and leadership for a team looking to once again contend for a District 6-6A championship and build off last year's run to the regional semifinals.
In this week's student-athlete profile, Bayless talks about the new-look Lady Wolves, improvements she has made on the court, and her game-day routine.
SLM: It's been quite the start to the season for Plano West. What have you liked about the way you and the other girls have started the season?
BB: We're just starting off super strong right now. It's a pretty new team with all the seniors that graduated and there are a lot of new girls coming up, and they've all stepped up to the plate. It's been really fun getting to know the younger girls. We've typically been an older team, but it's been really fun having to take on that leadership role as a senior and it's been great to see the way we've started. We're super close and there's no drama on the team, and I think that translates to how we play. We all trust each other and expect the best out of each other.
SLM: As a senior, how much has your role changed on the team this season?
BB: With my presence on the court, I was always talkative and would try to lead through my actions, but this year I really have to lead with my words. Just encouraging the team in those tight games and making sure we're all coming together.
SLM: How did your offseason go, and was there anything specific you worked on with your game?
BB: Definitely my serve-receive. That was a big thing I needed to work on, especially going into college and wanting to play my freshman year. As a six-rotation outside, it's great if you can be a big hitter or blocker, but the thing that's going to be able to set you apart from other hitters is being able to pass back row.
SLM: How has it been adjusting to a new coach in Cooper Phillips?
BB: I really like playing for him so far. His practices have been very involved playing-wise. We get a lot of six-on-six reps, which is really good for us having such a new team. It helps us learn how to play with each other. The practices are fun and intense, and we've been putting in a lot of work on serve-receive there as well.
SLM: You've got one of the heavier serves of any hitter in the area. What goes into developing a serve like that?
BB: I had to work a lot on my toss. Being so tall, a lot of it was making sure the toss was high enough and far enough in front of me so I could really go get it. I have a lot of power and length as a hitter, and I've worked to try and bring that to my serving as well.
SLM: With so many new players on the team this year, what kind of goals have been set for the season?
BB: Our expectations are just as high as they were with any other team. We're trying to go win district and go far in the playoffs. We're trying to upset some teams along the way, like we were able to do against a really stacked, really good Prosper team. Pulling out a win like that one was a big deal for us, and I hope it translates for the rest of our season.
SLM: Has volleyball always been your go-to sport? Did you play anything else growing up?
BB: I grew up playing soccer, basketball and softball, but volleyball was always my favorite. With my height, I felt like I'd ultimately stick with either basketball or volleyball, and volleyball just clicked with me better. I love the competitive atmosphere. There's just something really special about the way volleyball is with the team aspect and the six-on-six with how close everyone is together. It creates a big team atmosphere and everyone out there has to be so competitive. I love incorporating a bunch of different skills while still being competitive.
SLM: Do you have a game-day routine or anything you do before a match to get in the right frame of mind?
BB: My friends and I actually have a superstition where we go to Subway before every game. It's not super crazy, but we've been doing it since my freshman year. We do that and I love to listen to music to get in the right mindset.
SLM: To double-down on the superstition, is it always the same sandwich?
BB: I actually switched it up. This year, I've been getting a turkey sub with things like lettuce, pickles, cucumbers, and ranch. I actually got a chocolate chip cookie when we ate before we played Prosper, so I might have to start doing that regularly.
Get the Plano Star Courier in your inbox!
Success! An email has been sent to with a link to confirm list signup.
Error! There was an error processing your request.
Post a comment as anonymous
Watch this discussion.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.