COFFEYVILLE — While hoisting up the NJCAA volleyball national championship trophy with her new teammates, Bailee Ulery knew she had come a long way from Cherokee.

Fresh off of a stellar senior season at Southeast, Ulery went on to become a champion at Coffeyville Community College just one year later in her first season with the Red Ravens.

Ulery helped lift the No. 3 Red Ravens to their first national championship in school history with a 3-1 win over No. 1 Owens.

“It was the most exciting thing I have ever experienced,” Ulery said. “Just being at the national tournament was amazing, but winning the championship was the cherry on top. The journey there wasn’t easy, every single one of us on the team had to work as hard as we could and push each other to be better. Even though it was challenging, I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with any other group of girls.”

Competing at the national level was largest sporting event Ulery had played in, but it was her small-town roots she credited for preparing her for the moment.

“Playing sports at Southeast will always be something that I remember,” she said. “Having the opportunity to play multiple sports with such great teammates and coaches made it even better. They were always encouraging and pushing me to be the best that I could be.”

It was at Southeast where Ulery grew a passion for the game.

“I started playing volleyball in junior high, but I didn’t really become passionate about it until high school,” Ulery said. “However, playing volleyball has been a lot of fun for me for as long as I can remember. Once I got older, the competitive side of me began to come out, which made the sport twice as fun.”

As a utility player for CCC, Ulery tallied 39 kills, 20 blocks and eight digs in 23 games throughout her first campaign.

Despite some initial nerves of playing at the collegiate level, Ulery said her teammates at Coffeyville made the transition nearly seamless.

“It was nerve racking at first, but after the first week, we had already become a huge family,” she said. “I never doubted that my team could win the national championship because I saw the hard work and drive everyone had each day in practice. We were all working towards one goal.”

Ulery’s teammates were there with her when she took the court in the national championship game as a first-year player and will continue to be there with for the rest of the journey.

“My team means so much to me,” Ulery said. “There’s not one person who I don’t get along with. We’re always laughing and making jokes with each other. I just love being in an environment like the one we have here. We all love each other a lot and I am so glad that I chose to become a Red Raven.”

After completing her career at CCC, Ulery hopes to continue her playing career at a four-year school with the goal of becoming an ultrasound technician.

 — Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at jbuckamneer@morningsun.net and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.