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Countryside volleyball and softball teams just win behind Bayly

Kaylyn Bayly’s Countryside volleyball team is undefeated despite losing one of its top players. Bayly also coaches softball.

JOHN C. COTEY | Times

Kaylyn Bayly’s Countryside volleyball team is undefeated despite losing one of its top players. Bayly also coaches softball.

CLEARWATER — When one of her best volleyball players went down with a fluke injury, Kaylyn Bayly looked down her bench and didn't see any club players to turn to.

No budding stars awaiting their turn.

No one taller than 5 feet 7.

So she did what she does so well — replaced the player with two athletes, a pair of inexperienced softball players.

Then she went to work, observing, cajoling, teaching.

And her team kept on winning.

The Countryside volleyball squad is a perfect 24-0 after sweeping past Lakewood for the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship last week. Heading into district action this week, they won't scare anyone, aren't much to look at during warmups, but once warmed up, they are the kind of typical team the atypical coach always seems to produce.

It's pretty simple, really.

Just win, Bayly.

• • •

She is, without question one of the best coaches in all of Tampa Bay, able to win at not just one sport but two.

In 17 years as a volleyball coach, Bayly has compiled a 341-103 record.

Her first team at Lakewood, back in 1992, went 7-11.

Her second was the school's first to make it to the state final four.

That team, as much as any, defines Bayly, now 40, as a coach. It was a haggard hodgepodge of athletes, with one coach asking, "Why are they here?"

Well, because of Bayly, of course (since she didn't have any assistant coaches).

They mastered the fundamentals. They dove for every loose ball. They took great pride in both.

You do that, and you can play for Kaylyn Bayly.

"Whatever comes to me, I try to work it,'' she says. "I know a lot of coaches go out and get kids through club ball and a lot of recruiting goes on. I don't have time for that. If I have my worst kid and can bring them up to the next level, I'm doing my job.''

Make that jobs. Because when other volleyball coaches are scouring the club scene, Bayly is busy coaching the Countryside softball team, which she has led to a 131-39 record in seven years, including one final four appearance.

• • •

Bayly's ability to win at two sports while ecshewing the club scene — not to mention winning the county's first flag football title — makes her an anomaly.

There are few, if any, like her.

Necole Tunsil was a freshman at Lakewood — talented, confident, arrogant — when Bayly was a senior. She played one season of volleyball with Bayly and was wowed by her smaller teammate, learning more that year than any other.

"She's like she is now,'' Tunsil said. "You do the job, or she'll get someone else to do it. Doesn't matter who. Back then it was her, she would just do it.''

A 5-foot-1 setter, Bayly became probably the shortest volleyball player ever to earn Pinellas County's player of the year honors in 1985.

The youngest of seven children (Bayly has six older brothers), she also threw the shot put, played softball and led the county in scoring as a soccer player her sophomore season.

After earning all-conference honors in college at Lenoir-Rhyne, she returned to St. Petersburg and was the first hire of her old volleyball coach, Liz Collins, in 1992 and turned Lakewood into a postseason regular before heading off to Countryside in 1999.

• • •

The secret of Bayly's successful career, which is missing only a state title, is hard to quantify. It's any number of things, say her friends and former players.

Countryside assistant and former standout Beverly Stasis says Bayly "truly cares about her players and is a friend behind the scenes,'' and the players reciprocate by diving headlong across a wooden floor for her.

When former Cougar Taylor Wilson's club coaches were happy to see scholarship offers from junior colleges roll in, Bayly knew her player had wanted better.

She told Taylor she should follow her dream and walk on at a bigger school.

Wilson now starts at Florida State.

Dexter Rogers was a volleyball manager who caught the bug from Bayly. They have been friends since sixth grade and because of her prodding, he started playing and ended up on the U.S. Olympic volleyball team.

Now the volleyball coach at St. Petersburg, he calls her every night. He's not the only coach who calls for advice, or just to talk.

"She doesn't get the credit she deserves,'' said Rogers. "She exemplifies all the things and is the type of person … if I had a child, I would want her being coached by.''

• • •

When junior Megan Siminski went down with her injury, Bayly grabbed the nearest athlete.

It happened to be Gia Tomossone, her starting third baseman on the softball team. She gave Tomossone simple instructions: move your butt and don't let the ball hit the floor.

"She was scared,'' Bayly said. "Then she said okay.''

And the Cougars have kept on winning.

Countryside volleyball and softball teams just win behind Bayly 10/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 30, 2008 2:56pm]

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