Faltering down the stretch has been the story of the season for the Lady Pioneers, but they turned a new page Thursday in Franklin County. After struggling to finish so many times, Warren County made a huge charge on the road, rallying from down two sets to top the Rebelettes.
Warren County took the final three sets 25-18, 25-16 and 15-8 after falling in the first two sets 18-25 and 20-25. It was a huge boost for the team, both because it was a pivotal District 6AAA battle and because the team so desperately needed to have a game break their way in the final moments.
When the amazing comeback was finally sealed in the deciding set, all the emotion from demoralizing losses vanished in the midst of a Lady Pioneer party on their opponent’s home floor.
“The joy and the excitement they had is the reason why we play,” said coach Erin Blalock about her team’s celebration after the big win. “They knew they had finally done what they needed to do for so long. It was kind of a release, but also they were the most excited we’ve been all season long and I think it will carry us a long way.”
Warren County (6-11) went to Franklin County with some newfound momentum after breaking a nine-game losing streak against Shelbyville Tuesday, but doubt started to creep in after the Rebelettes took the first two sets.
A switch got flipped by the third set, though, as the Lady Pioneers simply refused to lose another winnable match, especially to a district opponent.
“We got down and it was really tough. After that third set, where we dug in, we started talking about how vital it was to getting the victory and how close we had been to winning the other sets,” said Blalock. “It wasn’t like we had been blown away, we just weren’t doing the little things. In the last three sets, they came out and played the way they knew how to play, everything clicked and we basically dominated.”
Ally Beneke turned in another stellar effort at the net, leading the Lady Pioneers with 14 kills and four blocks. Jessie Young showed she can do more than just play defense, leading the team with three aces (she also had 14 digs). Mia Hobbs did a little bit of everything, finishing with 18 digs, eight kills, two aces and an assist. Kennedi Pegg and Lydia Netherton set up the offense, chipping in 14 and 11 assists, respectively.
“Everything came together in those last three sets. We do it in pieces in every game we play – they show the talent and competitiveness in every match, but it’s been the finishing factor. This has been a huge week getting two big district wins,” said Blalock. “I’m hopeful we continue to play that way and peak at the end.”
The momentum, Blalock hopes, will continue in upcoming district matches, but it didn’t seem to help when the Lady Pioneers had an impromptu match with Chattanooga School of Arts and Sciences Friday afternoon. CSAS swept a quick match 25-10 and 25-14, which was highlighted mostly by a nice pregame moment.
Coach Blalock and CSAS coach Brandon Lowry, a WCHS graduate who was part of the 1992 state champion baseball team, were able to present legendary former Lady Pioneer coach Franklin Fisher with a plaque to recognize his five years of commitment to officiating volleyball matches.
Fisher stuck around to watch the match between two programs that he helped grow over the years. It turned out to be a quick one as CSAS, a state qualifier last year that is 21-1 this season, made quick work of the Lady Pioneers.
“They’re one of the most talented teams we’ve played this season,” said Blalock. “It was a kind of a last minute addition where coach Lowry wanted to bring his team up, so we played during the day and he is introducing them to the fair as well.”
Warren County will be back at home Monday to face Stone Memorial, then the group will go for its third straight district victory Tuesday against Franklin County at Charlie Dalton Gym. Action starts at 5 p.m. Monday and 4:30 p.m. against the Rebelettes.