Last season, the Lady Pioneer soccer team made a step toward returning to the dominant program which was at Warren County High School in the mid 2000s.
The Lady Pioneers won 12 games, finished second in District 6-AAA and went to the regionals for the first time in six years.
Coach Todd Willmore is hopeful a team which returns five all-district players and a number of other solid contributors can take another step toward bringing back district championships to Warren County.
“Obviously, we’re trying to build upon what we did last year,” said Willmore. “Our schedule is much stronger this season with the hopes that facing tough competition throughout the year will prepare us for tough games when the district and regional tournaments come up.”
The Lady Pioneers added Region 3-A rivals Soddy Daisy and Ooltewah to the schedule, along with the always tough Blackman Lady Blaze. Soddy Daisy ousted Warren County in the regional tournament last season 4-0 and Ooltewah also made it the regional tournament from District 5-AAA.
While coach Willmore wanted to add more competition out of district, the Lady Pioneers are still focused on trying to overcome Cookeville in District 6-AAA.
The Lady Cavaliers had Warren County’s number last year, but the Lady Pioneers will have two opportunities in the regular season to get revenge. The Lady Pioneers second game of the season is a home match against Cookeville on Aug. 25. Warren County makes the trip to Cookeville on Sept. 20.
If the Lady Pioneers are to take top honors in district this season, it will be because of the growth of a talented core of players from last season.
Junior Joanna Paz returns to anchor the defense after being named an all-region and first team All-District 6-AAA last season.
Top scorers Ayla Anish and Ansley Mullican also return to headline an offense which boasts four returning all-district players. Anish, Mullican, Lauren Roller and Allison Connor each were recognized for their stellar 2010 seasons.
Coach Willmore estimates his team has 16 players who can contribute at a high level. With the team trying to employ an uptempo offense, coach Willmore thinks his team’s depth will be a key to success.
“We have 12-16 players with talent,” said Willmore. “It’s a nice problem to have and I think everybody is buying in because our style of play will be uptempo with lots of movement and playing time will be pretty much equal.”
The Lady Pioneers roster seems to already have strong chemistry. With many of the players already having two years of varsity experience, along with playing middle school and travel ball together for a number of years, coach Willmore has noticed his team looks ready to work toward a successful season.
“I like our team’s ability and I’m confident in what the girls can do,” said Willmore. “We just have to put it all together. We’ve got a good group of girls who work hard and are excited about getting better.
“It makes it fun to coach when your team is excited and motivated to get better.”
The team camaraderie has never been more evident than when a new player showed up the first day of practice. Iselin Winther, an exchange student from Norway, clicked instantly with her new teammates.
If Winther can adjust to the heat of Tennessee after spending most of her days in temperatures rarely exceeding 70 degrees, coach Willmore may have another player to add to his already deep squad.
Warren County opens its season with a home game against Ooltewah on Aug. 23