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Lady Pioneers finish third
WCMS volleyball.jpg
Photo provided Ali Young, left, and Aubrey Oleksik were named All-CTC after standout seasons for the WCMS volleyball team.

The streak finally came to an end for the Lady Pioneers in the CTC tourney. Warren County rode a wave of momentum down the stretch, ultimately winning seven straight games to claim a part of the CTC regular season championship, but the group was topped by Coffee County in the semifinals Tuesday to end its season.

Coffee County prevailed in three sets, taking the first one 25-21 and ultimately hanging on in the third 15-11 on its way to the CTC championship. The Lady Raiders defeated Tullahoma in the finals. Warren County, coming off a straight-set win over Shelbyville Monday, held off elimination by winning the second set 27-25 Tuesday, but couldn’t complete a late charge in the final set.

“The third set started with us being down 9-0. Our girls didn’t quit and made quite a comeback, but we waited too long to start and weren’t able to come out on top,” said coach Holly Palombo. “I am so proud of them. We had a lot of turnover and changeups due to injury this season and the girls always took it in stride.

“This group of girls is one of the most, if not the most, talented group Nick (Cantrell) and I have gotten to coach. We have huge shoes to fill with our four eighth graders moving up, but we have seventh graders who are fully capable of taking the reins and leading us to success.”

The tournament didn’t start out like the Lady Pioneers would’ve wanted. First, Warren County lost a three-way tiebreaker for first place, leaving the Lady Pioneers as the lone co-champ to not receive a bye into the semifinals. 

Having to face an extra matchup, the Lady Pioneers were lethargic in a win over the Golden Eagles Monday.

“I honestly think this was our worst game of the season. Our first 6 serves were errors and we kept digging our hole from there,” said Palombo. “They girls never gave up and rallied from 24-21 down to win the first set. We did a little better with serves (in the second set) but still weren’t consistent. We finished though.”

Brynlee Chisam was the hero in the first set, serving five straight points to keep Warren County from falling into a deep hole in the quarterfinals. “She had the weight of the world on her shoulders and she came through when we needed her most,” said Palombo of Chisam’s performance to lead the Lady Pioneers to a huge set victory.

Ali Young stepped up under similar pressure in the second set, turning a 22-21 deficit into a 25-22 win for Warren County. Natalie Payne, who had four kills, was a huge boost at the net in the victory as well.

Starting slow seemed to linger Tuesday as the Lady Pioneers dug a big hole against Coffee County. Serving from Chisam and Oleksik seemed to shake the team out of its slumber, as did a huge block from Payne to swing momentum to the Lady Pioneers by the start of the second set.

Super sub Ella Wells, who was forced into action due to an injury, was a big part in the second set victory. She had to finish the set and stepped up, getting two digs and keeping the ball alive for the Lady Pioneers to come back and win precious points down the stretch.

Ultimately, Coffee County pulled out the win and was able to take home the biggest trophy on the night. It’s one the Lady Pioneers will be searching for next year.

“This is the end of the fourth year for us coaches and we have made it to the semifinals every year and the championship once. The group of girls we have coming back aren’t ‘semi’ anything. We have high hopes for next year,” said Palombo.

After the tournament, Young and Oleksik were recognized as top CTC performers in the postseason. Young finished the tourney with 10 assists, six aces, while Oleksik had nine digs, three kills and two aces. The duo, along with Jenna Mullins and Alyssa Boyd, were eighth grader leaders for WCMS this year.