The 2020-21 high school sports year was rife with challenges for Plano ISD, Lewisville ISD and Coppell, from navigating athletics during the COVID-19 pandemic to acclimating to a revamped district landscape as part of 6-6A.
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 6-6A’s eight schools while also looking ahead to what lies in store for 2021-22.
1. Which 6-6A school had the most impressive athletics year in 2020-21?
Matt Welch: It’s only fitting that the parting sight of Flower Mound’s 2020-21 athletics year was a trip to the state semifinals for its softball team.
Just on the strength of its girls programs alone, Flower Mound had a year that stacks up among the best of any high school in the state. The Lady Jaguars accounted for Class 6A state championship wins in soccer and cross country and advanced to the state semifinals in volleyball and softball.
Adding to that ledger was another strong year for high school’s swim team, with the girls placing second at regionals and ninth at state, as well as the first district championship in program history for Flower Mound’s girls track and field team.
Even on the wrestling mats, the Lady Jaguars made history with junior Poorna Babu becoming the team’s first-ever regional champion.
On the boys side, Flower Mound’s soccer team enjoyed a bounce-back year with a third-place district finish and senior golfer Rohit Madireddi had a postseason to remember after amassing a fifth-place finish at state.
Those accolades have placed the Jaguars in lofty company, checking in at No. 6 in the UIL’s latest Lone Star Cup standings — the only school in 6-6A to crack the list’s top 25.
2. Which sport best showcased the depth of 6-6A in 2020-21?
Matt Welch: Although the district sported the best girls soccer team in the state, as Flower Mound roared to the second title in program history, the rest of the conference held up its end quite well.
The postseason reflected that, with three teams from 6-6A advancing at least three rounds deep in Flower Mound, Marcus and Hebron. Two of those three teams — Marcus and Hebron — had their seasons ended against one of their fellow district bunkmates.
Even the state champion Lady Jaguars’ path to a district title was met with some hurdles along the way — scoring draws against Marcus and Coppell and even dropping a surprising 3-0 verdict to Hebron.
In total, the district had five of its eight teams ranked among 6A’s top 25 by the Texas Girls Coaches Association at some point during the summer, including playoff qualifiers Flower Mound, Marcus, Hebron and Coppell, as well as Plano, which fell short of a playoff spot despite either drawing with or defeating three of the aforementioned postseason teams.
It was just that kind of year in perhaps the state’s top girls soccer district.
3. What was the biggest surprise from the first year of this 6-6A grouping?
David Wolman: While there were certainly many surprises across all sports that made 6-6A competitive across the board, Hebron's rise in girls golf was the biggest surprise from the first year of the 6-6A grouping.
First-year head coach Mercedes Trent set a goal to bring the first-ever state championship in girls golf to Hebron. She needed only one season to watch her squad to fulfill that goal. The Lady Hawks shot identical scores of 299 on both days of the Class 6A state tournament in Georgetown as Hebron captured the state championship in the state's top classification on May 11.
Plano East senior Meagan Winans finished in second place in the overall standings to cap off an outstanding prep career for the Lady Panthers.
4. What did we enjoy most about covering the first year of 6-6A?
Matt Welch: It’s always a memorable occasion to be front and center for a historic playoff run, and although 6-6A had plenty of programs make noise in the postseason, the run that stands out above the others is the trip to the regional finals for Plano East’s girls basketball team.
The Lady Panthers amassed their deepest playoff run since 1993 and became just the high school’s third team to play in a regional final over the past decade.
There’s some pretty rarified air to what East accomplished on the hardwood last season, particularly for a team whose core has started or played together since they were freshmen. Watching that group grow and achieve that level of success made for a fun ride, and they’ll be back for another go in 2021-22.
David Wolman: In a normal year, I would say that what I enjoyed the most about covering any one district would be the new rivalries that were created. You don't have to look any further than baseball where the same two teams will play each other in the same week. The team that lost the first game of that series needs only a few days to seek redemption.
But, given the current pandemic, the thing that I enjoyed most about covering the first year of 6-6A was being able to see the coaches and the student-athletes receive the opportunity to play. COVID forced several teams to have to postpone or cancel some of their games, but the UIL made sure that everyone was given a chance to play this year after the 2020 spring sports season was shut down last April.