Bailey Dudley is one of those exceptional teenagers who seems to have it all together.
She has been able to combine her athletic talent, academic skill and a lively personality to become second from the top in the Lakewood junior class, named to the All-County team and All-Conference Honorable Mention in both softball and volleyball, and titled Miss Lakewood 2011.
She’s an Academic All-Star and has never made anything less than an A since starting kindergarten. “There was a lot of push from my mom to keep my grades up, because she was also really good at maintaining her grades. Now, I’ve gone too far to get a B. If I get a B, I will cry,” the teen said playfully.
At 5 feet 11 inches tall, the rising senior is hard to miss on the field or the volleyball court.
She played softball and basketball in the recreation league, but she didn’t go out for volleyball until her freshman year at Lakewood. “It’s what I’ve played the least, actually, but what I ended up being the best at. And it’s what I enjoy the most,” Bailey attested.
Trying to put into words why she likes volleyball so much, the teen said, “ I don’t know really. I just enjoy playing it. I love the girls and we’re very competitive. Of course, being able to hit the ball hard is pretty fun, too.
“I definitely like hitting the ball, because I’m so tall and I jump really high. Volleyball is more fast-paced, and the better you get, the more teams you play, and it just gets harder and harder. It’s really challenging, but fun to play really competitive teams,” she continued.
Speaking of competitive teams, the Lady Leopards got all the way to the regionals in the state 1A tournament last season.
How about this season? “I think we’ll do really well this year. We lost one senior (Zanna Faircloth), and she was a big addition to our team, but this year we’ll have seven returning seniors, plus a new girl who is a senior that has just moved here. We want it so bad and we are working as hard as we can. We now know what it’s like for someone to take it away from us, so that’s pushing us even harder,” she insisted.
One volleyball match she will never forget is their win over conference rival Pender.
“It was for the conference championship against Pender, who were back-to-back state champions, and we had never beaten them before,” Bailey recalled.
“I ended up getting the winning block of the game. They had never lost to anyone in our conference before, so being able to get the winning block was probably the most amazing feeling ever. To see the expression on my teammates’ faces, and my coaches’ faces. Tears of joy. It was great,” she said, smiling broadly.
The Lady Leopards softball season wasn’t as successful as the volleyball season. “I don’t know what happened in softball. We are all so athletic, and we all got along so well. My freshman year, we won more games, but we didn’t get along as well. Our problem this year was errors in the field and we just didn’t hit the ball,” the teen expressed.
Her fondest memories from this past softball season were when the Leopards played against Hobbton. Bailey said, “I had really good hitting that day. I just remember every time I went up to bat I put it in the outfield.”
Another good memory was the team’s double-header win against Wallace-Rose Hill.
One memorable event on the softball field from her sophomore year wasn’t such a good one.
“Another reason I probably don’t enjoy softball as much as volleyball is because I got hit in the face with the softball and it broke my nose,“ the teenager recalled.
“It was last year, just three days before the Miss Lakewood pageant that I was in. I usually wear a face guard, but it was the one day I forgot to bring it. My nose was nice and yellow for the pageant,” she said with a good-natured laugh.
And who was the guilty batter? “My coach did it in practice, Dr. Dave (Yarasheski). I still love him, though,” she said playfully.
With her height and her quickness, one wonders why Bailey doesn’t play basketball.
“That’s a funny story, actually,” Bailey began with a wry smile.
“I was a cheerleader in middle school, and that’s when I quit basketball, because I played in the rec league. So my freshman year, I kind of missed playing it, so I decided to play in the summer league. The very first game, Teisha (Rich) spiked the basketball into my face. Blood went everywhere. I just have issues with being hit in the face,” she said with another good-natured laugh.
“That team was so much more experienced than I was, so I didn’t even try out for the high school team. They are a really good group of girls,” she added. “I should have never stopped playing.”
Bailey credits her coaches for making her the athlete she is today.
“Ms. (Sheila) Davidson is an amazing coach, and she pushes us so hard. She may seem mean at times, but it’s definitely worth it. Dr. Dave in softball, he never gives up on us. He still thinks we can do it, even if we don’t pull through in the games,” Bailey explained.
“At practice they tell us to never give up. You have the ability to do what you need to do, you’ve just got to put it all together,” she remembered.
Bailey included Dan Heinz in that list, too. He was her coach in rec league. “He taught us everything we know — all our fundamentals,” she added.
One lesson Bailey has learned from playing sports that she carries over into other aspects of her life is to never give up.
“You might get a bad grade or not win a game, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying your best. Also, even if you’re put in a position you don’t enjoy, you should still do your best anyway,” she insisted.
Bailey said her volleyball coach asked her to play right side, even though she was more comfortable playing middle. “But I switched and gave it my best, because if that is what she needed me to do, then I was going to do my best,” she said.
Bailey said her parents, Laurie and Shannon Smith, have kept her motivated when it comes to sports.
“They are very big influences in my life. They take me to all kinds of tournaments because I play travel volleyball and it’s very expensive, but they do that for me for my enjoyment and my time. And they also spend their time going to my games,” she asserted. She plays on the HAVC team in Harnett County.
Bailey laughed when asked if she got her athleticism from her mom, and replied, “She kept the score book.”
She also added that God was the biggest influence in her life because, “without him I couldn’t do everything I’m able to do. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” she said.
More than sports
Besides sports, Bailey is a dance enthusiast and has been taking lessons since she was 4 years old. “Dance is my passion. You can express yourself in it. I just love it,” she said with a smile.
“Next year, I want to go to ECU and get a degree in dance. Right now, I’m very undecided as to what I want to do, but I want dance to be a big part of my life,” she revealed.
Bailey is working this summer as a life guard at the Health and Wellness Center in Clinton and at Lakewood Country Club.