By Krystle Bono
Last Monday evening, the Nandua High School lobby was packed with family, friends, and supporters of senior Warrior Baylee Justis, who formally committed to play Division I volleyball at Regent University.
The two-sport athlete toured numerous campuses from North Carolina to Delaware, and entertained recruiting offers from Hollis and Mary Baldwin, among others, before making her final choice to settle on the private Christian university in Virginia Beach.
“My friend that I played travel ball with last year–she chose to play volleyball [at Regent] and I never really considered it until she told me about it, and I went there and as soon I stepped there [on campus] I was like, okay this is for me, it just feels right,” said Justis.
“Then I talked to the volleyball coach after [touring campus] and she was so caring, and it was just completely different than anyone else I had talked to. I just love that it’s not too far from home, but not too close.”
Justis has been named to the Eastern Shore All-District teams for both volleyball and softball in past seasons. With a dedication to both sports over the years, she admitted that volleyball was not always her first choice, but it won her over in the end because of the person it ultimately helped shape her to be.
“Volleyball, at first, I didn’t think I would like it as much [as softball] but my dad pushed me to play travel, and I wasn’t even going to play high school at first, but when I started playing, something came to me–I’d never played before–but as soon as I started, I was good at it. I learned everything quick. My coach definitely pushed me to be a better player. As soon as she put me on varsity, in ninth grade year–I got put in an uncomfortable position–but it taught me to have confidence in myself, and even though there were better players, you know, like seniors when I was a freshman, they pushed me out of my comfort zone and got me where I am today.”
It was apparent with the amount of witnesses present for her signing that she is well liked and supported; and Regent head volleyball coach Kelly Kessler knew from the first time she met Justis that she was much more than just a talented athlete.
“The first time Baylee came out, I could tell from the very beginning that she was very coachable, very humble in her talent, and she meshed really well with the rest of the team, and I knew right away she was someone I wanted to pursue. In the course of us emailing back and forth and her coming out for the evals and getting to know her, she was one of my top recruits that I wanted. You can tell from everyone being here [at the signing], from her little league coach, all the way to her high school coaches from softball and volleyball, that she’s a very special girl and so, I feel very honored and blessed that she chose Regent to further her sports at the collegiate level,” said Kessler.
Justis said her mom and dad, JJ and Troy Justis, helped make the opportunity possible, helping her see as many campuses as possible and always pushing her to go to the next level if she chose to go that path.
“They have always supported me, especially during sports.”
It also comes as no surprise that the future Royal is a fan of the newly crowned NCAA champions, University of Virginia, her mother’s alma mater, and says her favorite sports to watch are college basketball and of course, volleyball.
Justis plans to study counseling psychology for undergrad, and hopes to go into occupational therapy thereafter.