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Lady Pioneers prepare
Soccer - Jaden Smartt, Bailey Bundy.jpg
Jaden Smartt, right, passes to Bailey Bundy during a weave drill at WCHS soccer practice Tuesday morning.

Warren County High School soccer practice is back on the right foot after the two-week TSSAA dead period.

Players can finally pass the ball among themselves, a change from June.

“We had been using one ball per player for the whole practice, but now we’re able to pass to one another,” said WCHS girls soccer coach Todd Willmore.

Like many events in America, uncertainly swirls around the start of WCHS soccer season, which is supposed to begin with a home game Aug. 18 against Ooltewah. However, it’s expected the season-opener will be delayed.

When the Lady Pioneers do take the field, they have the luxury of a roster bursting with talent, led by all-state performer Katie Toney, who is relentless in her work ethic. She is joined by all-district and all-region performer Bekah Jackson to give the team a dynamic offensive duo.

“The great thing about both of them is they make the players around them better,” said Willmore. “That’s hard to do and it’s rare that you see that.”

In terms of district play, Willmore thinks it will be a dogfight between Warren County, Cookeville, Soddy Daisy and Rhea County for the No. 1 spot. 

“We’re all pretty much the same in that we lost one or two quality players and we have a lot of returning players who are good,” said Willmore.

White County rounds out the five-team district.

Samantha McCormick, a sophomore, is set to assume duties as keeper. The defense will be solidified by Natalie Stepien, Sarah Badger and Shelby Roberts, among others.

“Shelby is a quality player on defense and Natalie is a two-time, all-district performer back there,” said Willmore. “Sarah Badger is a senior who brings a lot of experience.”

Willmore said senior Journey Cowan, and juniors Breezy Wanamaker and Jaden Smartt are among the solid core of returning players with varsity experience.

“I’m expecting some players without much experience to step in and contribute too,” said Willmore.

There was an intentional effort made to beef up the schedule to contain more top-flight opponents. Willmore says the higher level of competition will better prepare the Lady Pioneers for tournament time.

The schedule, as it stands now, includes Baylor, Oakland, Stewarts Creek and Independence, which is the last game before the district tournament. Willmore said the Lady Pioneers are also scheduled to compete at Siegel Park in Murfreesboro in a three-day tournament Aug. 21-23 against some of the state’s top teams.