MARYVILLE, Mo. — The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot for a lot of people, but few had their paths altered by as many miles as Bailey Cook.
The Illinois native and Northwest Missouri State graduate was teaching at William Chrisman High School in Independence, but had accepted and was planning on moving to Spain to teach English as a second language.
The pandemic and the travel restrictions which came with it threw that strategy out the window and the teacher and coach had to adjust her game plan on the fly.
She got into contract with a friend from Northwest, Miranda Mizera, who was getting ready for her second season as the Maryville High School head volleyball coach and had an opening on her staff. Cook came on as the team’s second assistant coach and began to work as a paraprofessional.
“I really couldn’t imagine anywhere better to do it at,” Cook said. “I went to Northwest so I knew Maryville and I knew the area. It is a great community.”
Cook joined a program which had seen its record improve each of the last four seasons to the point where the Spoofhounds won their first district title in 10 years in Mizera’s first season.
With a senior-laden group coming back, the Spoofhounds had higher goals in 2020. And they accomplished them all.
Navigating the pandemic and the challenges which came with it, Spoofhound volleyball delivered Maryville its first team state championship ever in a girls’ sport. The Hounds went 21-2 and won state in dominant fashion with a 3-0 sweep over Central-Park Hills.
The 2021 season always set up for a transition year with the loss of the best player in the state Serena Sundell, fellow All-State selections Macy Loe and Morgan Stoecklein and key players Klarysa Stolte, Jordyn Suchan, Ilse Flores and Kelsey Scott.
“I think that helps with that idea and possibility of what can come to a program,” Cook said. “Last year with those seven seniors, it was awesome to be able to do that for the first time.”
Maryville has 27 new freshmen out for volleyball this year.
“Those younger girls, the eighth graders then and the now eighth graders and seventh graders seeing that and knowing what can be done,” Cook said. “Yes, Maryville can do that. I think that adds some excitement into those girls and gives them that idea that they want to try it out and see what it is like to be a Spoofhound volleyball player.”
After the season, assistant coach Sarah Brought stepped down and this summer, Mizera resigned as well. Suddenly, Maryville’s most successful team last year was without its head coach.
Luckily for the program and the returning talent, Cook was ready to step up before she even knew that she would be the next head coach. Cook immediately took on the task of organizing the team’s summer program including open gyms.
“Coming into the summer and being the only coach in the program at the time, I was the head of the program, I guess, just without the title,” Cook said. “I was kind of treated as the head coach and I just kind of went with it. … Not much is really going to change throughout the summer, I just have the title.”
Last week, the Maryville R-II Board of Education made it official and approved Cook as the next head coach of the Spoofhounds.
“It has always been a dream of mine to be a head coach,” Cook said. “Growing up, my mom was always a head volleyball coach, so I was born into it.”
Cook’s mother Sherry Hargis was the long-time head coach at Salem High School in Illinois.
Cook didn’t take much time to celebrate and got back into the gym with her team, but the players including lone returning starter Rylee Vierthaler were happy that Cook was the choice.
“She’s already spent a lot of time this summer trying to ensure our program’s development,” Vierthaler said. “The good thing is she already knows a lot of the girls from coaching last season, and I’m excited to see where she leads the program.”
Vierthaler developed into a feared hitter last season as a complement to Sundell and Stoecklein last year and her raw power was capable of overwhelming many opponents. This season, she goes from the complimentary piece to the primary weapon for the Hounds.
Aside from Vierthaler, Maryville brings back juniors Kennedy Kurz and Anastyn Pettlon. Kurz seems like a natural fit to fill Stolte’s libero spot while Pettlon showed flashes as an outside hitter last year. Both were in the rotation throughout the state tournament last year.
Outside of those three, Maryville will be counting on a lot of players without much varsity experience next year, but Cook has worked with those players before as the C-Team coach last year and also a junior varsity assistant.
“It is nice having a year under my belt already in the program because I do already know the girls, and how they play and what their mindset is,” Cook said. “Getting to know those younger girls who are going to have to step up because we did lose a good chunk of seniors, that is going to help make this season a lot easier on me too.”
Maryville opens its state title defense this fall with a road trip to Benton on August 30.