By Steve Gunn

HESPERIA – Usually when high school players excel at a particular sport, it’s because they work pretty hard to improve on their own time.

They attend camps, play for club teams, and sometimes just pursue that one sport, to become the best they can be.

That’s not the case for Hesperia’s Emily Bayle. She leads the rising Panthers is several statistical categories – including kills on offense (142 on the season) and digs on defense (172) – and is the most dangerous hitter on the team.

Hesperia senior Emily Bayle.

But Bayle has never played club volleyball, and has only attended one volleyball camp in her life. She also plays varsity basketball in the winter and softball in the spring, and does not focus on any one sport more than the others.

The bottom line is that Bayle is just a natural athlete, according to her coach, and is just beginning to understand how good she can be.

“She definitely didn’t understand the gift she has,” said Hesperia volleyball coach Monica Grimard. “People would ask me what club she is from, and she really hasn’t had much offseason experience. She is just that good.”

If there is any logical explanation for Bayle’s success, it has to be a combination of genetics and environment. Her mother, the former Missy Jacobs, was a member of the Walkerville girls basketball team that won a state title in 1988.

Bayle grew up hearing stories about that team, and dreaming of accomplishing something similar when she reached high school.

“I wish we could do something like that,” Bayle said, when asked about her mom’s state title stories. ”Ever since I was younger, I’ve always been big into sports. Since my mom went to college for sports, that set the path for me, I guess.”

Bayle was also influenced by her older sister, Allison Bayle. The siblings played two years of varsity volleyball together, before Allison graduated last spring.

Bayle serves during a recent match.

“She taught me a lot,” Bayle said. “She taught me that you don’t always get to play at that level, and that you have to do your best and work for your spot. It was a cool experience (playing with Allison). Sometimes we would butt heads a bit, but that happens with siblings.”

The fact that Bayle stands out on her team is a testament to how well she is doing. She comes from a very talented junior class that comprises the entire Hesperia roster.

The juniors were part of the very first fifth-grade team at Hesperia, and have developed together over the years, with Grimard and her husband coaching them.

Three of those current juniors – Bayle, Rachel Romero and Kyra Sayer – were called up to varsity as freshman. Isabelle Rumsey, Aria Thomas, and Sierra Cechura were called up as sophomores last season, and the rest joined this year.

It’s no accident that the team has showed steady progress as the young players arrived and continued to develop.

“We just worked our way up together,” Bayle said. “Ever since middle school we’ve always won a lot. We’ve always been pretty good, I guess.”

Last year Hesperia won its first volleyball district championship in school history. This year the Panthers are off to a 17-7-1 start with a 4-1 mark in the CSAA Silver Division standings. Some might say that the best year for the team will be 2020, when all the key players will be seniors, but the Panthers aren’t willing to wait that long to taste more success.

“It was pretty amazing honestly – I never experienced something like that before,” Bayle said about last year’s district title. “It was a pretty big thing for us. Now we’re setting bigger goals. Last year we didn’t quite become conference champs, and we’ve never done that before, so we’re trying to get that this year, and then shoot for district and regional championships.”