It was a winding road that led five Lady Pioneers together for senior night Thursday, but coach Erin Blalock wouldn’t dream of another path for her eldest players. Warren County had a big celebration for its seniors on the final night of the regular season, punctuated with a resounding win over Cascade.
The Lady Pioneers defeated the visiting Lady Champions 25-23, 25-10 and 25-21 for their 10th win on the same night where Mia Hobbs, Jessie Young, Ally Beneke, Lydia Netherton and Marissa O’Hara were all honored. All five had a huge hand in the victory, which leaves Warren County 10-17 overall entering this week’s District 6AAA tournament.
Young and Hobbs were playing their final game at Charlie Dalton Gym after being four-year contributors to the program, while Beneke is wrapping up her second year as a Lady Pioneer. The co-op athlete from DeKalb County joined the team last year after moving to Tennessee and has made an immediate impact, earning all-district honors as a junior and serving as the team’s top offensive weapon this fall.
Netherton and O’Hara were the most recent additions, moving over from Covenant this year and working their way into the lineup.
No matter how long they were Lady Pioneers in the past, it was hard for coach Blalock to say her goodbyes to the star seniors.
“It’s always tough (seeing seniors graduate). These girls are very special,” said Blalock. I’ve known for all three years that they were going to be a good class. Those first two years weren’t normal with COVID, but we had to go through it together and they stepped up this year.”
Before the match, each senior had a short audio clip played as they reminisced about their favorite times as Lady Pioneers and gave advice to their teammates.
The common theme for all was talking about family, like Netherton noting how quickly see was embraced by teammates (and how they helped her search for a lost phone at Wendy’s shortly after she joined the team).
Hobbs and Young, teammates dating back to their time together on the Irving College basketball courts and WCMS volleyball squads, also pushed the family feel, while Beneke was awestruck by the open arms she was welcomed with when she moved into the area.
Blalock could feel the sense of family as all five were honored together before the victory.
“They’re unique. Mia and Jessie have been a foundation for years – they were playing varsity from the moment they stepped on this court,” said Blalock. “Lydia and Marissa are good players who have played for other programs and came in and played well for us. Ally – she’s so funny and she’s been such a great addition to the team. We’ve been so glad they’ve all been able to join us.”
In their final home matches, all five showed off their specialties. Netherton, a great setter, finished with 17 assists, many going to Beneke as she finished with a team-high 11 kills and two blocks. Hobbs, a jack-of-all-trades for years, added six kills, one block and 23 digs, while Young and O’Hara – defensive dynamos on the back row – had 16 and 14 digs, respectively. Beneke, Hobbs, Netherton and O’Hara all had two aces apiece as well.
Their well-rounded games, which can be seamlessly pieced together on the court, was something Blalock has celebrated all year – including in the big win Thursday. “It’s a great thing that they play all kind of positions and it helps on the court. They all bring their different skills and different talents. It’s diverse – they all give us something,” said Blalock.
Warren County will get back on the court in the District 6AAA tournament in Lincoln County this week. Keep reading the Southern Standard for more updates.