When talking about sports it seems to always come down to the numbers – who scored the most points, made the most tackles, had the most aces and so on. In the sporting environment where statistics don’t lie, Pikeville (Kentucky) High School’s Taunee Justice solidified her spot among the top volleyball setup artists in the Commonwealth, but it is how she managed to rack up her assist totals is the more impressive number.
The senior setter recently wrapped up a feat that required dedication and commitment to a sport and a team. When the final whistle sounded this season, Justice’s interscholastic athletics career ended with having played 19,483 consecutive varsity points for the Panthers, which equates to 482 sets in 180 matches. Throughout the streak, which began when Justice was in the eighth grade, Pikeville was 122-57-1.
“It is awesome to think of playing this many points in a row,” she said. “It is great to know that my coaches would let me do that and that they would not take me out no matter what.”
The consecutive streak totals or coming out of the game for that matter never crossed Justice’s mind. She said she just kept going out on the floor, despite the occasional bumps, bruises and sprains, simply for the love of the game and to play alongside her teammates.
“I never really thought about it until my coaches told me,” she said. “I never wanted to miss a game. Coming out of a game was never really a question for me.”
Other than playing through injuries, Justice had to maintain a lofty GPA and overcome the passing of her grandfather.
“I had to try and keep straight A’s, I have to keep a 4.0 GPA for my mom,” she said. “You have to keep a balance between life, volleyball and grades. It was difficult, but I managed to keep it all together pretty good.”
Kelly Cecil, who is Pikeville’s co-head coach along with her husband Drew, kept running Justice out on the court because she was a productive player and teammate, not to just pad the stat book.
Justice holds several Pikeville school records other than the consecutive point mark, including career assists (3,188) and single-game assists (54). She currently ranks second all-time at Pikeville with 1,125 career digs and 319 career aces. Her 2014 season concluded with 1,069 assists, which is near the top for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
“She is extremely coachable and wanted to get better every year,” Cecil said. “Even though she was having record-breaking seasons or matches, she knew that there were people out there better than her. She knew she was not perfect and strived to constantly improve.”
The hard work and time she put in showed by her assists rankings in Kentucky. Her first year playing varsity she finished No. 36, the only eighth grader in the top-50 for Class A, to being the third best her senior year.
Justice was a 2013 and 2014 Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association 1st Team All-State honoree and a three-time 15th Region All-Tournament Team, four-time 59th District All-Tournament Team designee and was named the 2013 59th District Tournament MVP.
She credits her family support system, friends and coaches for helping her throughout the journey. She added that playing interscholastic athletics will help her well in to her adulthood due to that need to have good time management skills, strong work ethic and working as a team.
Knowing that volleyball is a team sport, Justice acknowledged that her statistics are not just about her and noted that her teammates improved their play as well. But, she recognizes that her coach and the relationship she has with her is special.
“We (coach Kelly Cecil) started at the same time and she has been with me my entire varsity career,” she said. “She has made the team into what we are. She is a really good role model.”
While the NFHS does not have a record for consecutive points played, Justice is surely among high school volleyball’s iron women.
(NOTE: All statistical information was provided by Pikeville co-head coach Drew Cecil and confirmed through various entities when possible.)