Katie Toney didn’t have to learn how to compete. It was engrained in her DNA. She was racing her brothers at everything by the time she could stand and she hasn’t stopped fighting for wins since.
Tennessee Tech couldn’t pass up adding Toney’s tenacity to its soccer program. Getting a bonified goal scorer and great teammate didn’t hurt either.
Toney made the pledge Wednesday to continue her illustrious soccer career at the next level, signing with the Golden Eagles in front of teammates and family in the WCHS auditorium. The best player to ever put on a Warren County soccer uniform will soon be battling Division 1 athletes in the OVC.
“Katie is phenomenal at everything she does. This is a testament to what hard work and perseverance can do for you. It pays off. We can all learn from that,” said Lady Pioneer soccer coach Todd Willmore. “Katie is a great teammate, a great student and an even better person. We’re extremely happy to see her continue her academic and athletic career and it’s great she’ll be close by so we can go see her.”
It’s no wonder why Tennessee Tech wanted the Warren County star. Her accolades are undeniable.
Toney is a four-time, all-district 6AAA, four-time, all-region 3AAA, three-time District 6AAA Most Valuable Player and the Region 3AAA MVP in 2020. She’s also a two-time (and, likely, three-time) all-state selection. She leaves the program as the all-time scoring champion, netting 113 goals over four seasons while also dishing out 57 assists.
By the time Toney played her final game, everybody in the state knew how good she was – and Tech was already working to make sure she would be a Golden Eagle. For Willmore, it only took one day to figure out he had someone special on the roster.
“Her tryout her freshman year, there was no doubt. When she came out, she had a different pace of play, a different gear and she was technically sound,” Willmore recalled about Toney’s first foray into high school soccer. “The great thing about Katie is that each year there is a skill she’s worked on to improve. In Year 1, we were super excited about her as a freshman. How she has progressed is unbelievable.”
Her family knew it even earlier. Toney was dominating co-ed leagues the moment she made her debut at Pistole Park at age 4. Her parents marveled at how Katie could take over games in an instant, though they weren’t surprised by her competitiveness.
They knew she had the will to win at everything, whether it was a soccer game, racing her brother or being the best at brushing her teeth. If Katie was challenged, she came through.
Toney always loved the sport, even when she didn’t know much about it.
“I started playing when I was 4 at Pistole Park. I remember my dad coaching us and having no idea what we were doing. We knew nothing about soccer,” recalled Toney about her early games.
By middle school, Toney started realizing soccer was going to be in her future. At the time, she was also a successful basketball player, but the grind to be great was always more alluring on the soccer pitch than the hardwood.
“When I was in middle school, I liked basketball and soccer a lot. Around then, I noticed I enjoyed soccer practices and I did not enjoy basketball practices. So then, I thought soccer was my sport. I realized how much I loved soccer,” said Toney.
Every coach who was lucky enough to have Toney on their team loved her too. And they won – a lot.
Warren County has been super successful with Toney leading the way the last four years. She’s been the driving force behind back-to-back, 10-plus win seasons for the Lady Pioneers and helped the team win a regular season title during her career.
She was honored several times for her success as a Lady Pioneer, including this September when she broke Ansley Mullican’s scoring record of 95 goals. Toney did in style, netting five goals in a 7-2 victory over Summit. Just days later, she would become the first Warren County player to ever reach 100 goals with two goals against Coffee County.
Despite all the personal accolades and the many crucial plays she made to help the Lady Pioneers over the years, nothing she did stood out as the thing she’ll remember most about Warren County. Instead, Toney is happy to take with her the people who were there to share in the success.
“Honestly, I made so many friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life. It’s such a great community of people supporting me,” said Toney when asked about her best memories.
It didn’t take long for Toney to come to a decision about committing to Tennessee Tech once she received the offer. She had conversations with MTSU and UT Chattanooga, while also holding an offer from a D2 school in Mississippi, but Tech felt right after seeing the campus.
“I went for an unofficial visit and got a tour. Coach made the offer and a couple weeks later, I was in,” said Toney, who isn’t in a rush to declare a major. “I really liked the environment and the coach, so I was ready to make the decision.”
Warren County will have a hard time saying goodbye to Toney, who wore No. 1 and will likely be No. 1 in the record books and No. 1 in the hearts of her family, coaches and teammates for a long time.
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