Moving on: Badger signs with Lakeland | News, Sports, Jobs

Niagara senior Bailey Pearson (center) smiles while getting ready to sign with Lakeland University, a Division 3 school in Plymouth, Wisconsin, where she hopes to continue her volleyball career next fall. The four-year starter for the Badgers was flanked by her parents dela Gary and Jodi Pearson, as well as Niagara girls varsity volleyball coach Carol St. Arnauld (back), during a recent signing ceremony at Niagara High School. Pearson led the Badgers in attack and block kills her junior and senior seasons. (Dennis Mansfield/Daily News photo)

NIAGARA, Wis. — By all accounts, Niagara senior Bailey Pearson has had an excellent high school volleyball career.

A middle hitter/blocker, Pearson started for the Lady Badgers all four years, was named to the all-Marinette & Oconto Conference team the last three seasons and led coach Carol St. Arnauld’s team in attack and block kills during her junior and senior seasons.

Now, the 5-foot-10-inch native of Aurora, will continue her volleyball career at Lakeland University, an NCAA Division 3 school in Plymouth, Wisconsin.

“I’m very excited,” Pearson said. “The coach (Ryan Schopf) contacted my high school coach in March, February maybe. I had talked to the St. Norbert coach a little bit but his roster was full. And then I was going to play for Bay College and start off there, but then Lakeland came in.”

Part of the reason Pearson made that switch in her thinking is academic. She plans to study business administration, possibly specializing in sports management.

“They have a co-op program which is, like, you get a lot of extra credits to do real work, which was pretty much was my deciding factor,” Pearson said.

Pearson began her volleyball odyssey like many girls do, watching an older sister play. When she was in fifth grade, Pearson watched her sister dela McKenzie play on the Niagara varsity squad.

“It was her senior year and her team was really good,” Bailey said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to play volleyball and try to be good at it. Then, probably around my junior year, I realized I could play in college.”

Pearson was the tallest, strongest hitter during her middle school years. She entered high school at 5-8 and was placed in the right-side hitter’s role. During her sophomore season, Pearson played both left and right side as an outside hitter before being moved to the middle during her junior season. She stayed in that spot this fall and was a key factor in the Lady Badgers winning the conference title that last two seasons, according to St. Arnauld.

Pearson’s development as a player has also been aided by five years of club volleyball with the local UP North Volleyball Club.

“I played there since eighth grade and we had pretty much the same team for all five years,” Pearson said. “We were able to grow there. We really got to focus on current skills, and the new ways to do those skills.”

It was Pearson’s skill as a hitter that caught the eye of the Lakeland coach.

“He said I may play pretty much anywhere, they just need a hitter,” said Pearson, who has also competed in basketball, track and softball at Niagara High School. “So we’ll see when I get there.”

Pearson will begin her life as a college student-athlete when she moves to Plymouth on Aug. 18. Practice begins the next day.

“I’d like to just grow as a person and learn a bunch of skills, like grow my teamwork skills,” she said. “And time management for sure. In college that will be really important.

“I’m definitely nervous, like meeting new people and learning how to work with them sports-wise. And then academics are different.”

Pearson said she’s already met several of the players.

“They were very welcoming.”

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