Huskies’ Bailee Hartsook signs letter of intent to Western Oregon

Scott Swanson

Though her senior volleyball season has been, at the very least, delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and has been full of questions, Sweet Home senior Bailey Hartsook got one answer last week when she signed a letter of intent to play at Western Oregon University.

She finalized her decision in front of a group of friends and family, coaches and school officials in the Main Gym Friday afternoon, Nov. 13.

Hartsook, who said she plans to major in elementary education, said she felt Western was “like the perfect fit for me” because it was reasonably close to home, so she could stick close to her three younger brothers, Ryker, Kellen and Dylan, who are involved in athletics.

“They have a great teaching program and I really fell in love with the campus. It’s super pretty. I love the coaches too. I’ve known them for a while.”

She said her goal is to come back to Sweet Home and teach at Foster, where she went to elementary school.

The Wolves finished the 2019 season 5-22, including 3-17 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. They were young, with one senior and five juniors for first-year coach Stacy Metro, a former assistant at the University of Oregon, where she spent 12 years. Only one of those juniors is back this year, Allie Spear of Sisters. The team’s 2020 schedule has been suspended.

Hartsook said she expects to play on the right side, as she does for the Huskies, when she gets to Western Oregon.

Sweet Home Head Coach Mary Hutchins described Hartsook “a hard worker, who didn’t know she was going to fall in love with volleyball when she started in the sixth grade.”

She noted that Hartsook and many of her teammates have played together for seven years and have “excelled together.”

“Bailee is naturally athletic and has continued to improve herself each year,” Hutchins said. “Her defense is as strong as her offense. She moves fluidly on the court and reads the ball so well.”

Hartsook also has been a mentor to younger girls, she said.

“We are so proud of Bailee. I feel blessed that I got to be her coach. So excited to see her future volleyball dreams play out at Western Oregon University.”

Adam Ellis, club director and head coach for the North Pacific Juniors Volleyball club team on which Hartsook has played since she was a sophomore, called her “one of the top athletes in Oregon, someone I have enjoyed coaching and enjoyed watching her grow and progress, not just as a volleyball player but also as a person.”

He also described Hartsook as a “great role model” to younger players.

Athletic Director Nate Tyler reminded attendees that Hartsook has been a leading figure on “a pretty special team,” one of Sweet Home’s best in years; the Huskies finished second in the state last year were poised to make another run this year with the obvious goal of winning the school’s first state title.

“This is a very special event,” he said, noting that only about 4 percent of the 450,000 girls who play high school volleyball go on to college. “We do have kids who go on to college and play, pretty much every year for different programs. We often forget that’s not the norm.”

Hartsook is the second volleyball team member to sign to play in college – Teja Abbott quietly signed to play sand volleyball at Bushnell (formerly Northwest Christian) University last summer – and Tyler said he expects “two or three” more to move on to college-level volleyball.

He drew attention to the “support system” Hartsook and other college-bound athletes have received from parents, coaches, teammates and other friends in their quest to move up to the next level.

“Nobody gets to go on and play in college,” said Tyler, who played college basketball himself at  Chemeketa Community College and George Fox University after his career as a Husky. “Without that support system, we don’t know what may have happened. This is not an individual accomplishment, even though we may celebrate it as one.”

He described Hartsook as “one of the most accomplished volleyball players to come through Sweet Home.”

“This is very special. It’s going to be fun to watch her play there at Western Oregon. I’m hoping she will take that Sweet Home attitude over there and push those girls to play well.”