Kelli Bailey is going home.

Bailey, who has been Union’s volleyball head coach since 2015, is leaving the Lady ’Cats for a job in the Crawford County R-1 (Bourbon) School District.

She will teach third grade and coach the high school and middle school volleyball teams.

Bailey is from Bourbon and lives there. Her husband, Marcus, also teaches and coaches at Bourbon.

“Bourbon is where I went to high school,” Bailey said. “My husband and I would talk in our English class about how we wanted to come back to ‘our little school’ and change the way people viewed the sports programs. It has already gone through such a change and I hope to build the volleyball program.”

Bailey came to Union in 2014 and served as an assistant volleyball coach for one season before taking over the head coaching job. Over five seasons, her teams went 44-98-7. 

“I will miss the people and the way they look out for each other,” Bailey said about leaving Union. “That’s not to say I won’t end up receiving that in my new position, but any time there was ever a need for a person in our ‘family,’ the community and the girls would definitely show up to support. I also will miss the vastness of interest from players in the program and the amount of dedication from my athletes. They showed up to open gyms, fundraisers, camps, and they would work so hard. It has set my expectations for future student-athletes and their families very high.”

The best season was 2016, when Union went 16-15-1.

Bailey said another highlight was being able to watch Union players continue their careers in college.

“One highlight has being able to take my team right up the road to watch past players continue their career at East Central College,” Bailey said. “I had the opportunity to play there and to see the hard work and dedication of my own players was something special.”

In 2015, Union was the consolation winner at the Hermann Tournament.

“Thinking back, it’s funny,” Bailey said. “It’s not the season records that jump to my mind, it’s the moments where the girls made a difference in a teammate’s life, or had a team experience, and I feel proud that those are my highlights.” 

The Lady ’Cats were 5-20-2 in 2019, losing in the opening round of the Class 4 District 3 Tournament to state runner-up Lafayette.

“My message to volleyball players at Union coming through the system would be to never forget why you started playing volleyball,” Bailey said. “You started because it looked fun, your friends were doing it, it gave you joy, or a sense of accomplishment. The Union volleyball teams, fourth grade through high school, are a family that work hard to better themselves and each other. I am so fortunate to have been a part of an amazing program.”

Bailey graduated from Bourbon High School in 2009, where she was a multiple sport standout. She was the Gasconade Valley Conference MVP during her senior season in 2008. She made the all-district teams during her junior and senior seasons and was academic all-state those two years as well.

She signed with East Central College and played on two teams which qualified for the NJCAA Division II national tournament, including East Central’s 11th-place finisher, the program’s best, in 2010.

Following her time with the Falcons, Bailey played at Lindenwood-Belleville.

At Union, Bailey also worked with the Union Junior Ladycats Volleyball Club (fourth through sixth grades), which operated in the River Region Volleyball Club.

She was the eighth-grade volleyball coach from 2015-17.

Bourbon went 4-19-3 last season, losing in the opening round of the Class 2 District 8 Tournament to Linn.