Thursday, November 26, 2020

MSU volleyball's Bailey and Fitterer are friends both on and off the court

September 28, 2016
The volleyball team puts their hands together during the volleyball game against Notre Dame on Sept. 16, 2016 at the Jenison Field House. The Spartans defeated the Fighting Irish, 3-0.
The volleyball team puts their hands together during the volleyball game against Notre Dame on Sept. 16, 2016 at the Jenison Field House. The Spartans defeated the Fighting Irish, 3-0. —
Photo by Victor DiRita | and Victor DiRita The State News

The two went to the same high school at Assumption Catholic Secondary School in Ontario, Canada, and they were much closer than just classmates. The two lived under the same roof back then, also playing for the same club team, Defensa.

“(Living together) was really good to not only be a teammate but kind of be like family,” Fitterer said. “It was very cool because when I did move schools ... she just took me under her wing and introduced me to her friends. I was new to the area, didn’t know a lot of people, so she really helped me get acclimated to that.”

While Fitterer felt grateful to Bailey for helping her transition back in high school, the roles were reversed once Bailey got to MSU last year. Similarly to Fitterer, Bailey said she was happy that she knew someone so well already on the team.

“The first few weeks (Fitterer) was the only person I really knew, besides some of my teammates,” Bailey said. “She introduced me to a lot of people and it was nice to have her, she’s like a sister to me. It was nice to know her and feel comfortable with her already to help me ease in here.”

During their time playing club together, the two won two national championships, one in the U-16 age group and the other in the U-18 division. Coupled with knowing each other for so long, Bailey said their connection is still as good as ever.

“We’ve gone through a lot together, the good and the bad,” Bailey said. “We still have a great relationship. She’s one of the closest people to me here. I’d go to her for absolutely anything.”

Off the court, the two are extremely close and it’s seemingly the same on the court as well. Fitterer said there’s no love lost between the two when they’re competing against the same opponent.

“It’s weird because I don’t really notice (playing on the court with Bailey), which I think might be a good thing,” Fitterer said. “Her and I on the court, we’re sassy with each other, maybe because we’re closer. We can be direct with each other.”

Head coach Cathy George said she sees the chemistry the two have on the court.

“I think (Bailey and Fitterer) know each other well enough,” George said. “I think that especially when times get tough, I think they really know how to talk to each other. They’re kind of like sisters, which I think has been definitely apparent in certain moments and I think that’s pretty cool.”

Though Fitterer and Bailey are so close, it’s only been more recently that they’ve had the opportunity to play on the same court again. Bailey started her college career at Marquette University while Fitterer has been at MSU since her freshman season.

After Bailey’s sophomore season, she said she was looking to transfer out of Marquette. During that time, George saw a player that would transition into being a Spartan easily.

“(Bailey) was the perfect fit for us with what we were looking for,” George said. “A real well-rounded game. ... We just thought that would be a good fit and we had a scholarship open at the time. It was weird timing that was even available, so it worked out great.”

When Bailey was transferring out of Marquette, her primary reason for doing so was to face tough competition. While she said Fitterer might have been a factor, so was going up against better competition.

“I wanted to play in a better conference and the Big Ten is the best conference,” Bailey said.

During Bailey’s first year as a Spartan, though, disaster struck when she tore her ACL in her MSU debut. A significant injury, George said she thought it might have been a blessing in disguise.

“I think that Autumn has always thought about herself as a volleyball player,” George said. “(After the injury) Autumn had to start thinking of herself as a teammate and person. ... I thought that was a growth period for her and something a lot of people don’t have to think about. But she did.”

It was a long journey for Bailey to get to MSU then get back on the court and now add to an experienced group. But for Fitterer, one of Bailey’s closest friends, she said she’s just happy to finally be playing with her again and going through the same experiences.

“I’m so happy that she came here,” Fitterer said. “I could’ve felt weird about it, it could’ve been something like ‘aw, this is my university.’ But it’s not, I’m so happy that we can share it. It’s just another thing. We shared a club, we shared a national championship and now we’re sharing being a part of MSU volleyball, and hopefully doing something really big with it.”

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