By Rick Assad
Based on talent, overall skill and results, Lauryn Bailey is a veritable magician on the pitch.
In three seasons as a forward for the Burroughs High girls’ soccer team, the soon-to-be senior has scored an eye-popping 67 goals and handed out an incredible 31 assists.
Now that’s truly impressive, but there’s a backstory to her journey. “I’m the third of four girls in my family. My oldest sister [Taylor] has played soccer since she was four [she’s almost 23 ] so I grew up going to her games and wanted to be just like her,” Bailey said. “I love the footwork, the head-on challenges, watching a play we’ve practiced tirelessly unfold on the field, the feeling you get when you “get it in the net,” the sound of the crowd…I love it all.”
Taylor Bailey was part sister and part inspiration, playing soccer four seasons at Burroughs and one at Pierce Junior College.
But there’s more to Bailey’s story.
“I grew up loving the game because of my sister so I naturally gravitated to it at a very young age,” she said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get started until late though, due to an illness. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Wilm’s Tumor at two and a half years old – yep, cancer of the kidney and it had moved to my lung too. No fun! Eight months of daily treatment and years of monitoring my progress before I was officially a survivor and released to play sports. So at the ripe age of eight, I was on my first team!”
Bailey continued: “I studied the game a lot,” she admitted. “I watch the pros play and I try to mimic their moves. I’ll see something in a game on TV and go outside and keep practicing until I get it. Kinda weird, but that’s just me. I’ve had some great coaches that have invested a lot of time in me, too. I’ve learned how to read the field very well and I do a pretty good job at setting myself up for plays, both offensively and defensively because of that.”
Burroughs, along with Arcadia and Crescenta Valley, are the three elite teams in the Pacific League.
In Bailey’s freshman season, the Indians went 15-3-3 and 9-1-2 in league as she contributed 18 goals with five assists and was named All-Area first-team.
As a sophomore and one of the captains, Burroughs fashioned a 16-4-2 mark and captured the league banner with a 12-1-1 record, something truly rare for the girls’ program, as Bailey knocked home 25 goals with 15 assists and was rewarded by being tabbed All-Area first-team and All-League first-team.
In her junior campaign, the Indians went 13-6-2 and 10-3-1 in league play with Bailey, again as one of the captains, tallying 24 goals and 11 assists which resulted in her being selected Co-Player of the Year, All-Area first-team and All-League first-team.
Brady Riggs, the Burroughs coach, realizes he has a treasure. “Lo [Lauryn] is a generational talent,” Riggs said. “There’s nothing she can’t do at an incredibly high level. The hardest skill in soccer is to score goals. Lo is a natural goal scorer. She can win games by herself. We won’t see another talent like her in a long time.”
Bailey wished the school year wasn’t trimmed because of the worldwide pandemic.
“My junior year in general was good,” she said. “Disappointing that it was cut short due to COVID-19, but grateful my family and friends have all stayed safe and healthy.”
Bailey then added: “As for the season, we fell short. We knew early on we had some big shoes to fill as we had just lost some great players that played key positions,” she said. “We gained some good talent on our team, we just didn’t click and play as a team. That will be the focus as we prepare for next year, senior year!”
Bailey continued: “We’ve trained hard and have too much talent to let a repeat of last season take us out,” she noted. “Pacific League champs, CIF….I plan on going out with a bang and I know my fellow seniors feel the same way.”
Bailey did say COVID-19 has had some affect on the upcoming campaign. “The lack of opportunities to condition and stay in shape have definitely affected our abilities to bond and grow as a team,” she said.
In all three seasons, Bailey and her team have qualified for the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
The Indians lost in the second round during her first two seasons and in the opening round as a junior.
Bailey said that it’s extra special playing the more talented league teams. “There’s obviously more reward in playing the better teams and taking the “W” home against a stronger opponent, but the goal is get the win, regardless of how well or not so well the other team may be,” she said.
Fearless, Bailey prefers digging in and getting dirty. “Oh, hands down a physical match,” she said of the type of game she likes to play. “I love a good challenge. The harder they play, the harder I want to play. I love the energy and adrenaline rush a good match delivers. I get amped just thinking about it.”
What kind of mind-set does Bailey, who competed in track and field as a freshman and plays basketball for fun as well as the cardio benefit, have entering a match?
“In general, I’m pretty calm and even-tempered and that rarely changes in a game setting,” she said. “Some coaches knock me for the lack of emotion I exude, but that’s just me. Call it my game face, that’s just how I am. I try not to overthink it, stay out of my own head and just play the game I know how to play.”
Bailey is a team-first player, but also realizes that her presence on the pitch is essential if the Indians are to fare well.
“I hope it means the same for the team as it means for me,” she said. “Trust. Integrity. Talent. Leadership and excellence. At the end of the day, we’re a team. None of us are any good without all of us. Everyone has their role, their skill and we expect each other to bring that to each and every game. Sure, we get frustrated, might make a bad play or shoot off the post a time or two. We get annoyed and may be short tempered in the heat of it all, but if we keep our eyes on the prize and strive to work together, encourage, build strength not just around the game, but as women athletes, we’ve all won! I love this game, but I love this team just as much.”