Starting freshman libero Bailey Henington is having a productive debut season for Cougars’ volleyball.
After redshirting during the 2015-16 season, she is leading the team in both digs (463, including 37 against Seattle Pacific) and service aces (20, tied with freshman teammate Madison Ogas).
“I was very excited coming into this season, redshirting last year,” Henington said. “Being able to play this year has been so much fun. It’s been quite the journey, especially with all these new girls.”
Jaden Louie, a graduate student at APU, was one of six seniors who graduated from the volleyball team last season. Last year she witnessed Henington’s first year with the team and the work she put in despite remaining on the sideline.
“I am not surprised at all about her success this year on the court because she remained focused as a redshirt and always pushed herself toward greatness,” Louie said.
Henington has helped lead a young team after establishing her roots during her first year at APU with a little extra support from her cousin, APU head softball coach, Carrie Webber. After playing both volleyball and basketball in high school, Henington looked into a number of schools before landing at APU. One of the drawing factors at APU was that her cousin was already here coaching the softball team.
“She’s my second cousin, so my dad’s first cousin. Her dad and my grandma are brother and sister,” Henington said. “I didn’t really know much about APU until talking to her about it. Just seeing what she thought, I liked hearing her input on the school, whether it would be a fit for me and everything.”
Webber remembers her cousin’s college decision, but said it did not take much convincing to get Henington choose APU.
“I don’t think I was very forceful in seeing that she wanted to come to APU, but I said it might be a place that she should check out, think about it and at least tour the campus,” Webber said. “I don’t exactly know all the reasons she chose APU, but I’m glad she did.”
Although Webber remained neutral during the decision process, her input still had an impact on her younger cousin.
“I took everything she said, came on my visit here, and it was everything I imagined, everything she told me it was like, and it was just a perfect fit,” Henington said. “She definitely has an impact on my life. I value everything she says completely.”
One result of the family ties between the women is a strong mutual support, not only between cousins, but between the two teams as well.
“I guess she always tells her players to come because they’re always there at our games. We equally support each other and it’s a cool dynamic,” Henington said.
Webber said she has noticed the women on both teams have given each other additional support.
“I think it’s always helpful to have a connection. It makes things more personable, it makes things kind of mean more and the girls get to know each other,” Webber said. “I welcome the alliance, same with the soccer teams and the tennis teams and everything else. I hope it’s a trend that will stick and continue to grow.”
Both Henington and Webber have thought about the possibility of working together on the softball field. Although she is a multi-sport athlete, Henington remembers some difficulty in her softball experience from her youth.
“I honestly could not hit the ball. I could play shortstop or outfield, but I could not swing the bat to save my life,” Henington said.
However, Webber said she would still be open to the possibility of her cousin playing on her team.
“I would love to have her come out on the field and see if she can contribute. If she can, than I’d be happy to have her. Maybe she could be a pinch runner for us, that’d be awesome,” Webber said.
Whether or not they team up on the softball field, both Webber and Henington will continue to enjoy their overlapping time here at APU.
“As a relative, I’m extremely proud of Bailey, just for her making her own decisions about where she’s going to go to school,” Webber said. “Her being at a school like APU, it makes my heart happy and I’m glad to see not only that she’s here but that she’s thriving. She’s being successful here.”
Henington said she is happy to be near Webber, especially when she needs help with something she’s struggling with or when she wants a home cooked meal.
“Carrie is an amazing person,” Henington said. “It’s honestly so nice to have that family structure here at APU, and it’s cool that we’re both involved in athletics.”
The Cougars volleyball team is currently 10-13 on the season and will play their next home match against Academy of Art on Wednesday, Nov. 2.