Football won't be the only sport with a completely revamped schedule next fall. The Lady Pioneer volleyball team is also going to be seeing plenty of new foes after winning an appeal with the TSSAA.
Warren County was originally slated to play in District 8-AAA against Oakland, Riverdale, Blackman, Siegel and Rockvale, but successfully petitioned to be moved to District 7-AAA. With the move, Warren County will keep Cookeville and White County as perennial district rivals while also adding LaVergne, Lebanon, Smyrna, Stewarts Creek and Wilson Central.
"I think in any direction we were sent, we were going to be facing different and difficult opponents," said coach Erin Blalock. "We are familiar with Sparta and Cookeville as we had been in the same district as them up until two years ago. I definitely feel some frustration that our sport will no longer be district rivals as the same teams as every other girls sports in Warren County, but that's just part of high school sports."
Director of Schools Grant Swallows, who is also part of the TSSAA Board of Control, noted that Warren County's requests in football and volleyball allowed both to pick up similar teams for new district rivalries. Swallows abstained from voting on the measure.
Blalock knows the challenge to make it to region will grow now that Warren County must make the top two out of eight teams (instead of five, like the last two years), but she hopes her Lady Pioneers are ready to embrace the challenge.
"It's going to be a battle to get to region. I think our program can be competitive with several of our new opponents. We've got to get to work," said Blalock. "We know there will be good teams to compete with, but if we take advantage of those opportunities, I believe playing against good teams makes us better. That's what our goal should always be - to get better."
Blalock also noted that the request, presented at the TSSAA by athletic director Todd Willmore, was a coordinated decision and she feels grateful for the support during the discussions about her program. "I'm thankful to have principal (Chris) Hobbs, coach Willmore and Dr. Swallows battling for our sport. We all want what is best for our athletes," said Blalock.
Tryouts will be held for the 2023 team in May.