The 2018-19 high school sports year was rife with new challenges for Allen, Plano ISD and McKinney ISD, which made the move to District 9-6A and welcomed Prosper and Jesuit along for the ride. The result was another year of quality athletics from several of the most prominent programs in the state.
Throughout the summer, Star Local Media will reflect on the year that was for 9-6A’s eight schools while also looking ahead to what lies in store for 2019-20.
With that said, here’s the eighth installment of Six Questions for District 9-6A.
1. Who is the preliminary favorite in 9-6A boys soccer?
Kendrick E. Johnson: McKinney Boyd, simply because the Broncos will be more experienced and better in all areas after figuring things out in the second half of district.
Talented, veteran head coach Colby Peek and his staff will be counting on Spencer Sarkissian, Ethan Boyd and Drew Reynolds to lead Boyd back to the top of the 9-6A standings after watching their two-year streak of consecutive district wins end last season.
However, it won’t be easy for Boyd to regain its throne as Allen, Prosper and Plano Senior all return ultra-talented teams.
2. Who is the preliminary favorite in 9-6A girls soccer?
Matt Welch: Allen repeated as district champions last spring and did so without much resistance. The Lady Eagles posted a 10-1-1 district record with a plus-21 goal differential and 31 overall points. For comparison’s sake, the margin in total points between first-place Allen and second-place McKinney Boyd (nine) was the same as the gap between Boyd and sixth-place Plano Senior.
The Lady Eagles no doubt have some holes to fill, mainly in goal where two-time district Goalkeeper of the Year Jennifer Peters has graduated, plus the versatile offensive attack of alum Jordan Colbert and the majority of its back line. But depth has long since been a calling card for Allen and players like junior Ashleigh Williams and seniors Cassie Taylor and Haylee Spray should help keep the Lady Eagles in the 9-6A driver’s seat.
Don’t be surprised if Prosper has its say in that conversation, though. Prosper was the top goal differential of any team in 9-6A outside of Allen last season and returns a staggering 11 players who were named to either the all-district first or second team. That experience alone makes their claim to the district throne as strong as any.
3. Who are early MVP candidates in 9-6A boys and girls soccer?
Bryan Murphy: As just a freshman, Prosper’sJordyn Herrera took the district by storm was named Forward of the Year. Players of that caliber could be scooped up by local soccer clubs and be ineligible for high school ball, but if she returns to the Lady Eagles next season she is a sure-fire MVP candidate.
On the boys side, Plano’s Jack Bender was named as a first-team forward as well as Newcomer of the Year in 9-6A.Bender notched 10 goals and three assists despite missing the final two district matches of the season and could be poised for an even bigger breakout season this winter.
4. Which first-year head coach within the district will have the most successful debut?
Kendrick E. Johnson: After going back and forth with this one, I’m going to go with Boyd head football coach Joe McBride, who inherits a 2-8 team.
McBride is a proven winner throughout his career and has brought in the right mentality and culture change the program needed to move on from last season’s disaster.
Many people aren’t high on Boyd heading into the season due all the recent changes and not being in the playoffs since 2015, but I expect the Broncos to be in the mix similar to the way McKinney was last season with a shot to slide into the playoffs down the stretch.
5. By that same token, which first-year head coach within the district has their work cut out for them the most?
Taylor Raglin: There’s an argument to be made that new Plano East volleyball coach Cathy Manderson will have the biggest uphill climb, but it’s hard to ignore a program that’s gone winless for more than two seasons.
Turning that program around is the task of new Plano West football head coach Tyler Soukup, whose program hasn’t been on the right side of a result in its last 26 tries. While there is certainly some talent returning for the Wolves and Soukup seems to have already engineered some level of buy-in among his athletes, breaking the team’s cycle of ineptitude will still require a mammoth effort and will likely come via baby steps, not leaps and bounds.
6. Who are some potential impact sophomores to keep an eye on in 9-6A?
Matt Welch: Alyssa Tarpley carved out a starting role in the backcourt for the Allen girls basketball team last season and showed plenty of promise as a 3-point threat for the Lady Eagles – converting 25 makes from beyond the arc as a freshman. NyahGreen’s graduation leaves nearly 16 shots per game to go around for Allen’s returners and Tarpley is one of several players who stands to benefit next season.
Bryan Murphy: As mentioned above in the third question, Herrera very well could be not just the top sophomore in the district, but she could make a case for District MVP if she can take that next step on the pitch.
Another sophomore to watch will be Prosper guard Hadley Murrell, who received extended minutes on the hardwood as the season went along last year during her freshman campaign.
Kendrick E. Johnson: McKinney’s Alex Anamekwewho averaged 14 points and eight rebounds while being named the district Newcomer of The Year last season. Anamekwe, if able to be more consistent, has a chance to be not only one of the best players in the district but one of the best in the area.
Taylor Raglin: There are several strong contenders on the Plano East girls basketball team, such as sophomore Tiana Amos, but I’ll go with Ada Anamekwe. The 5-foot-10-inch sophomore showed flashes of promise throughout her freshman campaign and will likely be asked to take on an even greater role moving forward with the Lady Panthers losing a lot to graduation.