As we officially close down the 2020-21 school year this week, WCSA editor-in-chief Jeffery Simmons wanted to go back and hand out his final awards for the year. Simmons has been picking the defining athletes, teams and moments in high school sports for years, but this will be the first on our new website.
Welcome to the Simmons Superlatives!
Today, we start with the Best Moment for the girls!
For years, it felt like any season (in any sport) was a success if the Lady Pioneers beat Cookeville. The Lady Cavs have been a massive roadblock for years, standing in Warren County’s way of District 6AAA supremacy. This season, both programs knew they’d be taking their last shots at each other as district foes, so bragging rights would extend for years.
Warren County made sure Cookeville would never forget how their last year as district foes on the diamond went. The Lady Pioneers beat the Lady Cavs in all three meetings, but none were more forceful than a 19-2 shellacking in Cookeville.
What made it my favorite moment for high school girls sports this year wasn’t the stakes – though the victory did make sure the Lady Pioneers would take a share of the district title and gain the No. 1 seed in the tournament. It was the way Warren County did it.
Even as the balance of power swung toward Warren County in softball in the last 4-5 years, it still felt like people were surprised when the Lady Pioneers won. It was almost like Cookeville fans always thought it was luck when Warren County won, while it was just destiny if the Lady Cavs went home with a victory.
In this year’s meeting in Cookeville, there was no debating who was the better team. The Lady Pioneers left no doubt.
After Cookeville surprisingly tied the game at 2-2 after the third inning, breaking a span of 13 scoreless innings thrown by eventual District 6AAA MVP Madison Hollis, Warren County went to bat angry. The Lady Pioneers started swinging out of their shoes, launching balls that Cookeville had no chance of catching.
Hollis hit a towering two-run homer to make it 6-2 in the fourth, but the Lady Pioneers were just warming up. They were about to show just how good their offense was when it clicked fully in the fifth.
Warren County sent 16 batters to the plate in the fifth, ultimately rolling off 13 runs as Cookeville was helpless to stop the onslaught.
Senior Elia Atterson hit a two-run homer early in the inning, then added a two-run double in her second at-bat before the scoring stopped. Senior Rhealee Johnson, the District 6AAA co-Offensive MVP, also double dipped at the plate.
Johnson had a double in her first at-bat, then brought the scoring to a close when she hammered a two-run shot over the centerfield fence.
I’ve seen some great Lady Pioneer softball teams in the last five years. They’ve had some great runs in the postseason and other groups were (probably) better 1-9 than this year’s iteration, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them blow up like that in one inning.
And it was a calm beatdown. It wasn’t a program-altering victory. It wasn’t something that needed any postgame fireworks or a celebration through Main Street. The Lady Pioneers simply showed up to spank Cookeville, did it and then packed up their stuff to get ready to move the butt-kicking tour to the next town.
Boyd has been working for years to build its volleyball program, but the Lady Broncos could never get past local rival Covenant on the court. It had been that way for years until this year’s matchup at JK Stanley Gymnasium when Boyd sent off its seniors with a night they’ll all remember.
It took rallying from a two-set hole to do it, but the Lady Broncos were able to battle back and win the final three sets to take down Covenant for the first time.
Seniors Syd Durham, Adeline Travis and Anna Shrum played big roles in the comeback for Boyd, as did Anna Jones, Kendlee Ferrell, Audrey Durham and Sarah Woodruff.
It was fun to be there and watching it all unfold. The momentum really did swing in the third set, when Covenant looked like it took its foot of the pedal just a few points too early.
Boyd seized control and never looked back, sparking one of the biggest celebrations I’ve seen at JK Stanley Gym.
To their credit, the Lady Lions were able to battle back and beat Boyd on their way to a TNCAA championship a few weeks later.
We had the deciding fifth set on the Warren County Sports Authority Facebook page.
Playing through the rain and facing her first region tournament, Lady Pioneer golfer Lauren Slatton never let anything get her down. She was able to stare down Cleveland’s Hannah Nall on her own home course, ultimately winning on a second playoff hole by draining a birdie putt.
Slatton, who went on to finish 12th in the state tournament, chipped in two shots during the day, helping her card the lowest number she had ever scored in Cleveland. It also was enough to take down Nall on a day where the Cleveland junior shot her lowest score at the same course.
Something tells me Slatton is going to be a staple on the Simmons Superlatives for the next three years – we’re definitely going to see her name again this week.
4. WCHS sends five to state track tournament
This feels like cheating because it hasn’t happened yet, but the Lady Pioneers are going to be well represented at Thursday’s state meet. Freshman phenom Ella VanVranken is going for gold in the 800 and 1,600 meters, while Ally Beneke will be looking to outjump the competition in the high jump.
The 4x800 team, featuring VanVranken, Katie Toney, Cadee Griffith and Emma Randall, will also be trying to bring home a medal in Murfreesboro.
As I said before, it’s never a bad season when the Lady Pioneers beat Cookeville. The soccer team was able to do it on the road in the regular season, winning 3-1. The only thing that kept them from going higher up on this list was falling to the Lady Cavs in the tournament championship game at home later in the season.