Girls volleyball player bumps a ball in front of the net
Fredericktown senior Julia Partington sets the ball during the third set of Thursday's KMAC match against Danville. Partington is the Knox Pages Athlete of the Month. Credit: Bill Davis

Knox Pages will select one student athlete to be recognized as the Park National Bank Athlete of the Month during the 2023-24 school year. Nominations for Athlete of the Month are accepted from Athletic Directors and Coaches, but are ultimately chosen by Knox Pages and are based on the student’s exceptional athletic performance, effective teamwork and achievement in their communities. Park National Bank is proud to support this initiative and is giving the athletic department of each school $1,000 in honor of each athlete chosen.

FREDERICKTOWN – Julia Partington stood in the huddle as the timeout expired. Her words to her teammates, as always, were positive and encouraging. Usually, they are energetic and inspiring.

But that wasn’t necessary on this night. The Fredericktown Freddies were well out in front, having won two sets already, and they were comfortably ahead in the third set.

Instead, Partington relaxed as she prepared for her team’s seventh straight victory. Fredericktown’s volleyball team had been steadily improving for years.

On this night, it was the Danville Blue Devils who fell victim to Fredericktown’s winning streak. The Freddies hope the Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference win is another step in what could become a landmark season: A conference title, a district title and maybe more.

And Partington will play a major role in it.

“Over the years, I’ve grown and become more outgoing,” said Partington, Knox County’s Park National Bank Athlete of the Month for August. “Being a senior, I like to direct practices, leading the cheers. And if we’re down, I give them encouraging words.”

Last season, as a junior, Partington surpassed 1,000 career assists, just the third Freddie to do so. She and head coach Cassandra Vaughn are currently researching the school record.

“There were a signs in the stands with a big fan section,” Partington said. “My teammates did stuff for me in the locker room. That whole day was so great.”

This is the fifth year that Vaughn is Partington’s coach. Vaughn’s first year with the Fredericktown program was as the eighth-grade coach, with Partington as one of her players.

“It’s been awesome seeing her grow since the eighth grade,” Vaughn said. “It’s been great seeing her go from being a silent leader to a vocal one. She’s got a bright personality. She’s really stepped it up through the years.”

Partington’s high school career began under the shadow of COVID-19 restrictions. Matches were moved, postponed, switched buildings or canceled altogether.

There were days the players sat in their classrooms not knowing where – or if – there would be a match that evening.

The young freshman still found time to enjoy her time on the court, though she wasn’t quite the vocal team leader just yet.

“I was pretty much the lone underclassman on the team, so it was a little scary,” Partington said. “The covid stuff was a little weird.”

By her sophomore year, Partington had settled in as a leader, both on and off the court. Last season, she was named Central District Player of the Year as well as First Team All-KMAC.

Partington currently attends the Knox County Career Center in the College U business program. She will have already earned an associate degree in business by the spring.

Fredericktown’s recent success can be attributed to student-athletes such as Partington and coaches like Vaughn.

Long-term success comes from building a program from the ground up. Partington helps with that aspect by volunteering with the Fredericktown youth volleyball league and various local youth volleyball camps.

Off the court, Partington assists with Safety Town, a program that uses local police and fire departments to teach safety practices to youngsters. She also recently went on a mission trip to Honduras through her church.

“It was life-changing. Eye-opening,” Partington said. “The people were so happy, even though they had so little.”

With all of Partington’s successes, one of the few things she hasn’t achieved is a KMAC championship. In her freshman year, she had to watch the Highland Scots win the title. The past two seasons, it was Cardington who won gold.

With a 7-0 start, the Freddies hope it’s finally their turn to shine.

“It’s great to see this team working hard, trying hard,” Partington said. “It’s great to be with this team.”

On this night, Fredericktown made short work of a younger, less experienced Danville team, 25-9, 25-18, 25-1. Partington posted 26 assists to add to her career mark.

Just another step.

Bill Davis was born and raised in California. He is a graduate of Ball State with a degree in Journalism. The former sports editor of the Mount Vernon News, his three children attend Mount Vernon City...