Stillwell signs letter

Senior volleyball player commits to James Madison University

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— Bayli Stillwell didn't think she fit in. Basketball was her first love, and the veteran volleyball players intimidated her, so she made a choice: quit volleyball to focus on hoops.

Chris and Cindy Stilwell stepped in. They felt their daughter Bayli was too young to play just one sport, so they sent her to freshman volleyball practice.

On Wednesday, Stillwell made another choice. The Steamboat Springs senior signed a national letter of intent to play volleyball at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., more than three years after nearly giving up the sport.

Stillwell joins Katie Carter (UCLA) as the second member of the 2002 Sailors team to commit to a Division I school.

Stillwell was born in California and raised in the western half of the United States. She, nor any member of her family, had been to the East Coast until Stillwell and her mother took a recruiting visit last weekend to James Madison, located in northwestern Virginia.

"It was gorgeous," Stillwell said. "It was something I've never seen before."

Initially, Cindy Stillwell hoped her daughter would hold back on selecting where to go to school until later this year after additional colleges and coaches could see Stillwell play during the club season.

Stillwell was ready to commit Wednesday, the final day in the early signing period. Her parents and siblings, on the other hand, will have to get used to the idea of Stillwell living halfway across the country.

"We have nine months to adjust," Cindy Stillwell said. "I trust Bayli's instinct and her heart. She's so excited. She found the right fit."

Stilwell said she likes both coach Disa Garner and the entire Dukes team. Stillwell said Garner called her Steamboat home on Tuesday one night before she signed because the James Madison players wanted to know if Stillwell was coming.

"The team is awesome," Stillwell said. "They really wanted me to come."

James Madison, a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, is a prestigious academic and athletic institution, and the enrollment, about 16,000, appealed to Stillwell as well. The uncertainty of living a long plane ride from home excites Stillwell more than anything.

In addition, the Dukes are a winning team. Two out of the past three seasons have ended in the NCAA Tournament, and Garner believes Stillwell makes James Madison that much better.

"She's a real team player and a winner," Garner said. "Physically, she's a good left-handed hitter. Not many teams have lefty's. She's going to add a tremendous look on our offense."

Garner, an avid skier, said she does have ties to Steamboat. Her sister and brother-in-law live here and they've kept her attuned to Stillwell's on-court development.

In fact, Garner said she was wearing a Steamboat vest Wednesday afternoon.

"We're pretty excited about Bayli joining our team," Garner said. "She's a super, super kid. We think she brings a lot to the table. She rounds out, what we feel is one of our best recruiting classes ever."

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