What a season it was for Fishers High School basketball coach Lauren Votaw and her Lady Tigers.
“Ha, yes,’’ she said, quite excitedly. “It's been a crazy ride. I still don't believe it at times!’’
And what a ride it was, winning 21 straight games and finishing the season 23-2.
Votaw was selected District 2 Coach of the Year and Hoosier Crossroads Conference Coach of the Year. In posting that 23-2 record, her 2019-20 team was the best in Hamilton County. Not just for girls basketball . . . but for ALL varsity basketball!
The Lady Tigers also finished No. 3 in the Class 4A coaches association poll.
Not bad for a former assistant Fishers girls basketball coach whose future might not have seemed so secure four years ago. She was named interim varsity coach after head coach Michael Gaines resigned to become an administrator in the Shelbyville school system.
“When I went into coaching I really wasn’t thinking about becoming varsity coach. I really didn’t have a desire to do it,’’ she said. “I coached the JV team for five years and loved it, and I enjoyed working with Michael as varsity assistant for three years . . . then all of a sudden Michael resigned (in August) before the season got under way.
“I really didn’t have a desire to be head coach, but I realized I didn’t want anyone else to have the job . . . and that I really wanted the job.
“I was told I would be re-evaluated in the second year. The only other times I had coached the varsity were maybe two or three times when Michael was either sick or when his wife was delivering twins. I knew the program and the players well and it proved to be an easy transition.’’
It didn’t take long for her to prove herself.
Votaw is 51-24 in three years as the girls varsity coach at FHS. In addition to winning the Westfield Sectional and defeating cross-town rival Hamilton Southeastern twice this past season, the Lady Tigers also went unbeaten to claim the Hoosier Crossroads Conference championship.
She began her coaching career as a Noblesville High School assistant in 2008-09. She moved to Fishers a year later, serving as a Tigers’ assistant for eight seasons.
She certainly knows a great deal about preparation and competition, since the 2004 Greenfield-Central graduate competed in three sports: basketball, volleyball and softball.
“Basketball and volleyball were somewhat similar and I did coach some volleyball early on at Fishers, but basketball was the sport I truly loved; I just wanted to watch and be around it,’’ she said.
Obviously she’s glad things are working out for her and her players.
“We just had such a special year this season,’’ she said.
“The first two years we got the kids to believe they belonged in the conference and belonged overall against such a competitive schedule. We got over the hump . . . and now we believe we belong and just how good we could be,’’ Votaw said.
“So what’s next for the 2020-21 season?’’ I asked.
“Well, we lost a ton. We graduated three starters, all so vital to our team,’’ she said.
“Center Lydia Stullken was the vocal leader on and off the court. Kaitlynn Feagan led the conference in 3-point shooting. Tamia Perryman was a rock for us, leading the team in rebounds and assists.’’
But the cupboard certainly is not bare.
The Lady Tigers bring back Katie Burton, the top scorer (15.4 points) as a junior. She also averaged 4.8 rebounds,1.8 assists and 2.0 steals.
“Defensively, Katie was a force. She always took on the other team’s best player,’’ Votaw said. “We return another key starter in Audra Emmerson (7.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists).’’
Fishers also returns talented Katie Howard, along with twins Hailey and Olivia Smith, both of whom provided valuable minutes off the bench as freshmen.
“The twins will be a big part of it for us. They really played key roles,’’ Votaw said. “I’ve had coaches tell me they thought that the twins coming off bench didn’t miss a beat and (at times) that they played as well as the ones who came out.
“Hailey and Olivia are physical and quick and ultra-competitive.’’
Votaw said she loves the attitude of the returning players.
“We talked about how we wanted to let this season give them confidence,” Votaw said – adding that now they have to start thinking about the future. “We’ll be smaller but really quick . . . and we’ve got lot of good players coming back.’’
Can the Lady Tigers be headed for another superb and exciting season?
Sure sounds like another “special” season could be a possibility.
The enthusiasm won’t be lacking . . . that’s for sure!

*—Mark Morrow is the Times sports editor and a Hall of Fame Indiana sportswriter. You can follow him in The Times, and on Twitter at mmediamarko12. He can be reached at mediamarko5@gmail.com or by calling (317) 460-8018.