It seems odd to insinuate that the ideal way for a season and a career for a standout athlete to come to an end would be in a loss, but maybe that was the case for Bailey Schaefer and the Brandon-Evansville volleyball team on Nov. 20.
The Chargers knew they weren’t going to get a section tournament due to the pause in sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, so they treated a match-up against 10-1 Park Christian like a playoff match. It played out that way too in a thrilling five sets that the Falcons eventually won in a 17-15 final, but the Chargers (9-3) still celebrated with each other on the court.
They had reason to after senior setter Korrie Randt passed the 1,000-assists milestone for her career. Schaefer also set a program record that night. Her 34 kills helped B-E play point-for-point with Park Christian, and it was also a new single-match school record for kills, surpassing her own mark of 31 she had in a match in 2019.
That is just one of many school records that Schaefer leaves Brandon-Evansville with. The senior outside hitter became the only Chargers player to pass 1,000 kills in her career early this season and finished with 1,150. She holds the kills record for a single season (354) at B-E.
That would have likely been surpassed this year with a full schedule. Her 5.05 kills-per-set in 2020 is also best all time. Along with her attack records, she holds the single-season record for aces in a season at 73 (2018) and aces in a match with 14.
“I guess I just go out and play every night,” Schaefer said. “I set goals for myself, but it’s not what I’m focused on in the middle of the season. Every day, I go to practice and try to get better. I’m trying to make myself better for my team, so that’s how I went about it.”
Schaefer is a multi-sport athlete who also plays basketball and softball, but volleyball is her first love in athletics. She lifted weights and played JO volleyball through Brandon-Evansville as a young player before joining the Kandi Elite Volleyball Club out of Willmar after her junior season.
The Kandi Elite Club is a traveling team that gave Schaefer a chance to play against some of the top players in the state through big tournaments until they were shut down due to the pandemic in March. Schaefer also worked out at Noonan Sport Specialists in Alexandria, which she credited for helping her become a better all-around athlete.
“There have been a few players over my years who have impacted our program,” B-E head coach Kelly Olson said. “These are kids who all the other people in school know and may try to be like, especially younger kids who got to see what those impact players out on the court do. No one has had more impact on the Charger volleyball team than Bailey Schaefer. It isn't just that she was a good player. She worked extremely hard for years to get where she has.”
Olson said Schaefer benefited from watching a player like that before her in Emma Friedrich.
“(Emma) was the kill leader in the program as far back as I can find with 686 kills,” Olson said. “Emma was in the weight room and dedicated herself to the sport in ways I didn't think I would see again. Bailey took that level and raised it...Not only did she jump high and hit the ball hard, she was a student of the game.”
That mental approach to volleyball is where Schaefer feels she grew the most over the years. She was good enough to get quality playing time on varsity as a freshman, but she relied a lot on natural ability back then.
“I think my volleyball IQ in general just got better,” Schaefer said. “I understood the game on a more technical level. If I was screwing up and making errors, I was able to correct them myself instead of looking for input from everyone else around me.”
Olson called Schaefer the best passer he has seen in the Brandon-Evansville program in 15 years. She had a plan at the serving line and took pride in being an all-around player.
“During her varsity career as a starter, Bailey's teams have gone 32-4 in conference play, and 59-34 overall, with 16 of those losses coming her freshman year,” Olson said. “Starting her sophomore year, when she became a focal point of the offense and became a primary passer, her teams were 47-18.”
That culminated with three straight Little Eight Conference championships for the Chargers after winning the league again this fall. Brandon-Evansville is currently on a 27-match winning streak in the LEC. Schaefer has been a first-team All-LEC selection three straight years, as well as being unanimously voted as the conference MVP as a junior and senior. She has been the team MVP in B-E for three straight years.
Schaefer also played with two of the top statistical setters in B-E history in Madison Quinn (2015-2018) and Korrie Randt. Quinn is second all-time on the school’s assists list with 1,294 and Randt is fourth with 1,033.
“Both the setters that I’ve ever played with, we’ve been good friends off the court too,” Schaefer said. “That always helps. You can talk to them about virtually anything. They were both willing to put in the extra work, so if I wanted to stay and hit after, they were more than willing to stay and hit. That helped us a lot.”
Schaefer plans on playing volleyball in college, but she isn’t sure where yet. She has visited the University of Minnesota-Crookston from the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
“I really liked it there, but I’m in no rush to make a decision,” she said. “I’m talking to a couple other Division II coaches right now. I’m just waiting to see how that all plays out, and they’re not pushing me to make a decision.”
Whichever college program gets her will be getting a talented athlete who works hard at her game. An athlete who rewrote the record books at Brandon-Evansville.
“Personally, I will miss seeing her every day,” Olson said. “She is hard headed and dedicated, but 99% of the time was one of the best people to be around and coach. The other 1% of the time, she was pushing me to be better and do more. I hope another player comes around like Bailey, because those types of kids are so much fun to coach and get to know. There will never be another Bailey though. She is one of a kind and I can honestly say she has made me a better coach, person, friend, and we wish her nothing but the best in the future.”