Finding reasons to celebrate the Warren County High School volleyball season was easy for coach Franklin Fisher. Stopping the celebration was the hard part.
The Lady Pioneers gathered with their coach one final time Thursday night for a banquet to honor a record-shattering season.
Coach Fisher handed out awards to his team, which set a school record for wins with 42, along with individual awards to players who established new career records at Warren County.
Coach Fisher, who completed his 17th season as head coach, spoke briefly before calling each member of the team up to present medals and plaques. The speech focused around how much joy coach Fisher took from leading the program to new heights with a special group of girls.
“I can’t really say I did much coaching with this team, aside from a few times where I called time-outs and just pleaded with them to play - just play,” said Fisher. “It’s been my pleasure to coach these girls. I’m glad I got to go along for the ride.”
The ceremony started with junior varsity awards. Freshman Lorren Cannon was named the JV Most Valuable Player, while sophomore Aubree Weitzel was awarded for being team captain. Mackenzie Magness, Samantha Howard, Bailey Martin, Hannah Wells, Hannah Turner and Hannah Smith received participation medals.
Senior Emily Newman, juniors Kelsey Lawrence, Lauren Wilson and Kayla Brown and sophomore Haley Johnson received starter awards for being a part of the regular rotation on the varsity squad.
Coach Fisher spoke highly of the group, praising their ability to fill roles that were left by the departing seniors from 2011. Newman, part of a senior class that leaves the school with a record 122 victories, was praised for her serving as she finished among the team lead in aces.
The final awards from the season went to seniors Blair Fisher, Megan Dishman, Kaitlin Lawrence, Karaline Deaton and Caroline McKinley. The group received plaques for being named to the All-District 6-AAA team, along with being the top five statistical leaders this season.
Fisher was the undisputed queen of assists for the Lady Pioneers, finishing the season with over 500 helpers. Fisher also was in the top five in aces as her serve was often too hot to handle for opponents.
Dishman finished in the top three in blocks, kills, assists, aces, digs and points as she concluded her senior year as a first-team All-District 6-AAA selection. It was the third straight year Dishman earned the distinction as one of the top players in the district.
Lawrence was also first-team all-district in her senior year as she finished third on the Lady Pioneers in kills. Lawrence flourished as the team’s outside hitter, giving the team multiple options on the front line to attack opponents.
Deaton filled the role as the team’s libero, a defensive-minded back-court player that always had to be ready to enter the game. Blessed with quick feet and good instincts, Deaton led the Lady Pioneers in points as a senior and was voted second-team all-district.
McKinley was the last person recognized with an individual award, but it was the biggest distinction a Lady Pioneer has received in the program’s history. McKinley was the first Warren County player to be named District 6-AAA MVP and her stats backed up the honor.
McKinley was first on the team in kills, blocks, digs and aces as she completed a four-year career that will be hard to top.
After the season presentations, coach Fisher called McKinley, Dishman and Fisher back to the front to present engraved volleyballs for setting career marks.
For the first time in over five years, coach Fisher saw all-time individual records fall as three seniors who had started for four years put their names in the record books.
McKinley became the all-time leaders in kills and blocks for the Lady Pioneer program. McKinley finished with 1,248 kills in her career, shattering the previous mark of 981 by Mary Kate Fisher.
McKinley and Dishman also surpassed the block record of 143. McKinley finished with 219 in her career, while Dishman became No. 2 with 161 blocks.
When it comes to passing, Fisher nearly hit a milestone few players in Tennessee have ever reached. Fisher finished just shy of 2,000 career assists, finishing with 1,956. Fisher broke the record held by her sister Mary Kate, who had 1,355 assists in her career. Coach Fisher estimated the mark set by his daughter Blair may rank in the top 25 all-time in the state.
The banquet concluded with one final huddle around the coach, but instead of Fisher speaking to his team, the Lady Pioneers hugged their coach and thanked him for his help over the years.
The group of players, who Fisher praised for their ability to celebrate playing the game no matter the outcome, celebrated one last time. After 42 wins and a District 6-AAA championship, the laughs and smiles were justified.