Flower Mound girls cross country

Flower Mound's girls cross country team poses for photos with the Class 6A state championship trophy. The Lady Jags won their first state title in girls cross country on Tuesday.

With the book having closed on 2020, it’s time to look back on the year that was in Denton County athletics.

This year was like no other in recent memory, with high school sports around the country feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid the trying year, which included the cancellation of numerous UIL sports in the spring and the week-to-week uncertainties that plagued teams during the fall, programs from Lewisville ISD and Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD still managed to turn in their share of highlight moments.

The Star Local Media sports staff has compiled its top 10 sports stories of the year, concluding with the second half of that lineup.

5. Marcus’ big year cut short

Expectations were high for the Marcus football team heading into a strenuous 2020 season. The Marauders advanced three rounds in the playoffs the year prior, posting its deepest playoff run since 1997.

For the first two months of the season, Marcus couldn’t have envisioned a better encore. The Marauders went undefeated in the regular season for the first time since 1995, winning nine games by an average of 28.2 points per game. No team in District 6-6A finished closer than 14 points of the state-ranked Marauders, who rode the arm of senior Garrett Nussmeier and a deep cast of contributors at the skill positions and on defense to a repeat district title.

However, things turned sour on the final night of the regular season when Nussmeier sustained a hand injury in the team’s game against Plano East — a malady that sidelined the LSU commit for the team’s bi-district playoff game the following week against Prosper.

With their MVP signal-caller sidelined, the Marauders suffered a 38-19 loss that spelled an untimely end to their season.

4. Newman Smith posts perfect regular season

Newman Smith’s boys basketball team had a year to remember in 2019-20, posting an undefeated regular season and matching its deepest playoff run in program history. The Trojans, who won their first 29 games of the year, advanced to the regional quarterfinals before falling to state-ranked Kimball.

Smith was one of three boys basketball teams under the UIL umbrella to exit the regular season with a perfect record, going 27-0 and capturing an 11-5A district championship. The Trojans sported an enviable mix of talent, depth and chemistry that meshed for a special year — Smith scored at least 90 times on eight occasions and won 18 games by at least 20 points.

Alums Jarren Cook, Domani Villaruel, Bobby Smith III and senior Thibaut Tagnon were among the key contributors for a Smith squad that turned in the program’s best year ever and one of the best in recent Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD athletics history.

3. Lady Jags return to state semis

Since announcing its arrival as a state power in 2018 by winning its first-ever state title, Flower Mound’s volleyball team hasn’t let up. The Lady Jaguars proved as much with another impressive season in 2020 that saw that the club advance to the state semifinals for the second time in three years.

A razor-thin, three-set scrap against then-undefeated Klein spelled the end of Flower Mound’s run, capping a year that resulted in a 22-2 overall record and a 13-1 mark in District 6-6A. The Lady Jaguars captured a third consecutive district title, sweeping all but two teams across their 14 district matches.

Flower Mound was anchored by one of the state’s premier hitting tandems in seniors Kaylee Cox and Angelique Cyr — two players whose skill sets went far beyond hammering kills through the defense. Senior Caroline Dykes ran the show at setter, while the Lady Jaguars showcased an abundance of size and depth elsewhere in head coach Jamie Siegel’s lineup.

The result was another special year on the Flower Mound volleyball court.

2. Feels like the first time

Flower Mound’s cross country team has blossomed into one of the state’s elite programs in recent years. In November, the Lady Jaguars had that effort rewarded with their first-ever UIL state championship.

Flower Mound’s girls team racked up 75 points to distance from reigning state champion Southlake Carroll’s 96 and seize the top spot at the Class 6A state meet. The Lady Jaguars had been on the podium before, finishing as high as second place in 2018 before breaking through this year.

Junior Natalie Cook led the charge by placing seventh overall with a time of 18:05.94 and was joined in the top 10 by fellow junior Allison Buemi’s 18:19.37. Flower Mound was the only 6A program to place its first five finishers in the top 25.

Freshman Samantha Humphries, senior Miranda Vreeland, junior Virginia Knight and senior Hannah McLaughlin all chipped during the Lady Jaguars’ championship run — a season that also included championships won at the district and regional levels.

1. The COVID season

The COVID-19 pandemic defined 2020, and that includes a trying year for many involved in high school sports.

With the virus forcing professional and collegiate leagues around the country to suspend or cancel play in mid-March, high schools had the seasons for myriad sports put on hold. The UIL handed down multiple suspensions of play before making the call on April 17 to cancel the remainder of the sports calendar for the 2019-20 school year.

In just over one month’s time, seasons were left without closure and countless high school seniors were unable to end their athletics careers on their own terms.

With countywide shutdowns and stay-at-home policies implemented, athletic programs had to get creative to conduct their offseasons — turning to video conferencing an at-home workouts to keep athletes engaged and active.

Teams began to creep towards normalcy in June when the UIL allowed limited summer workouts — prefacing a school year where coaches, athletes and fans adapted to various protocols as teams tried to play during the pandemic.

Adversity was inevitable, with countless teams around the state battling game cancellations, postponements and in-season shutdowns due to virus outbreaks within their programs. 

The ride was indeed bumpy and riddled with uncertainty, but the UIL remained on track to conclude its fall sports schedule and, in November and December, crowned state champions in football, volleyball, cross country and tennis.

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter.

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