Chestermere beach volleyball player Haylee Bailey and her partner Avery Kelly from Cochrane dominated at the Alberta Summer Games July 19-22 to bring home the gold medal.
“It feels really good, we worked hard for it,” said fifteen-year-old Bailey who has been playing beach volleyball for three years.
Competing for Zone 2 at the games, Bailey and Kelly overcame the wet and rainy weather in Grande Prairie to go undefeated at the games and earn the gold.
“It was raining for a big chunk of the time when we were there,” said Bailey, “we just got lucky that all our games were not [played in the rain].”
While the wet conditions were challenging enough, Bailey and Kelly were a brand-new partnership, brought together after each one qualified individually for the Zone 2 team.
“We started training probably a month, two months before [the games] and that’s when we first met each other,” said Bailey.
She said that the two athletes connected really fast learning to play well with each other.
“We became really close by the end of it,” said Bailey.
Their ability to connect quickly in the weeks before the tournament was key to their success in a sport where trusting one’s partner is the difference between success and failure.
“It really is almost everything about beach,” said Bailey, “if you don’t have a good relationship with your partner then it leads to a lot of stress and tension which then is harder for you to do well.”
“It really is a lot about how well you get along with your partner,” she said.
As they trained for the summer games, Bailey said they were able to blend their strengths with the other’s weaknesses to create a skilled and effective team.
Bailey said that while their play at the Summer Games was well rounded, they did particularly well at receiving the ball and knowing where to place it on the oppositions court.
She felt that her personal strengths on the court came in her serves and placement of the ball during play.
As for areas of improvement, Bailey said that she, “could probably work on my passing off serves.”
However, this was where Kelly’s passing skills shined through.
“She’s very good at passing so that helps out when I was struggling,” said Bailey.
“When she’d get down I’d kind of help her up too,” she said, “we kind of worked good for each other.”
Their ability to bond as a team is one of the memories from the Alberta Summer Games that stands out for Bailey.
Seeing their new partnership flourish under their training and lead to success throughout the tournament right up to the final serve that won them the gold medal.
“There was a final serve of the gold medal game that won it so that will probably stick with me as well,” said Bailey.
While the partnership was new, their competition wasn’t. Many of the teams they faced in Grande Prairie they had each played against at other tournaments.
“A lot of the girls are the same in all of the tournaments,” said Bailey.
This was Bailey’s first trip to Grande Prairie but her second time competing at the Alberta Summer games, although last time it was in a different sport.
Previously, Bailey competed at the games in women’s soccer when she was eleven-years-old.
Having switched sports, Bailey plans to stick with volleyball.
“Volleyball is definitely my sport,” she said.
At 15, Bailey isn’t sure whether she’ll be eligible to return as a competitor in two years for the next summer games but hopes to be able to compete again since the experience has been so much fun.
“It was definitely cool,” she said.
“It was really cool seeing all the different teams and the sports.”