The weight of expectations haven’t crushed the Warren County High School volleyball team.
The Lady Pioneers showed over the weekend at the Chattanooga Choo Choo tournament that the team can hang with many of the top teams in the state, as evidenced by Warren County going 4-1 and advancing the to quarterfinals of the event.
The four wins, coupled with a District 6-AAA victory over White County last Thursday, improves the Lady Pioneers’ record to 17-3 this season as the senior class nears 100 wins in their career.
Coach Franklin Fisher has been taking his team to Chattanooga for a long time to compete in the Choo Choo tournament. This year’s finish was the second-best performance by the Lady Pioneers and the competition was as fierce as ever.
“This tournament is a great experience for our team every year,” said Fisher. “A lot of volleyball is about mental toughness as well as physical readiness.
“To get a chance to face the top teams in the state and compete as well as we did is a testament to the ability our team has and the preparation they put into every practice to get ready for matches.”
Warren County opened play in Chattanooga by sweeping through its pool. Warren County lost the opening set to Grace Christian School 25-14 before rallying to win 25-20 and 15-12.
It started an eight-set winning streak for the Lady Pioneers as the team defeated Rigland County from Georgia 25-10 and 25-11, then followed it up by defeating Coffee County 25-14 and 25-15.
It was the second win over the Lady Raiders in the span of five days, but the victory doesn’t count toward the District 6-AAA standings, where Warren County currently sits at the top with a 2-0 record.
Tournament play began with the Lady Pioneers facing East Ridge, which is coached by Hall of Famer Catherine Neely. Neely is the winningiest high school volleyball coach in the country, but her team didn’t add to her total against the Lady Pioneers.
Warren County won 25-14 and 25-12, setting up another meeting with perennial powerhouse Soddy Daisy.
The Lady Pioneers, who have been eliminated by the Lady Trojans in the regionals the past two seasons, fell 25-13 and 25-15.
Coach Fisher thinks the gap between the two programs is closing and hopes in three weeks, when his team makes the trip to Soddy Daisy, the improvement keeps showing.
“We played them close in the first 15 points, but they pulled away,” said Fisher. “We were fatigued by that point, plus we’re still growing as a team.
“We’ll see Soddy Daisy again and we hope to continue to close the distance between them and us.”
The Lady Pioneers were once again led statistically by a solid group of seniors, who currently have 97 career wins.
Senior Blair Fisher was one assist shy of 100 as she finished the tournament with 99. Fisher also had 14 kills. Senior Caroline McKinley added 13 helpers.
McKinley was the team’s leader in kills with 49 and finished second in blocks with five. Megan Dishman, another senior, led the team with six blocks to go along with 24 kills.
Senior Kaitlin Lawrence had a team-high 10 aces to go along with 36 kills. Emily Newman added seven aces.
Warren County went into the Choo Choo tournament riding high after its second District 6-AAA win over White County last Thursday.
The Lady Pioneers defeated the Warriorettes 25-14, 22-25, 25-17 and 25-14. Fisher led the team with 34 assists, most going to McKinley as the duo connected 28 times.
Warren County returned to action last night with a District 6-AAA match against Cumberland County at Charlie Dalton Gym. Results were unavailable at press time.
The Lady Pioneers will try to bring home their biggest win of the season tomorrow when the team travels to Cookeville to play the three-time defending district champions.
Tomorrow’s match against the Lady Cavaliers is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.