The end of one chapter gives way to the start of another, and such is the case as teams around the state begin preparations for the 2022-23 school year.
For many, that’ll mean making the move to a new district. Schools like Coppell, Plano ISD and Lewisville ISD, however, will share the same district for at least two more years.
The UIL's biennial realignment dealt those eight high schools an identical district make-up, again slotted into 6-6A for two more years of hyper-competitive play across all sports.
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 2022-23.
1. Who is the preliminary favorite in 6-6A volleyball?
Matt Welch: Last season amounted to one giant ice cream headache trying to keep tabs on this district, which wound up producing three-way ties for both first and fourth place. As the dust settled, Flower Mound, Plano West, and Marcus emerged as co-district champions, and it's not a stretch to expect one of those three to remain on top of 6-6A next season.
All three are perennially strong programs, but it's hard to overlook the top-end consistency that Flower Mound has showcased under head coach Jamie Siegel. From winning a state title in Siegel's first year in 2018 with a state semifinal appearance following in 2020, and several district titles won in between, the Lady Jaguars have earned their place among the area's volleyball elite. With pivotal returners like 6-6A newcomer of the year Jaida Sione back, as well as a towering front line that includes Maddie Cox and Brianna Watson, Flower Mound should be strong once again.
West will have its say with Blaire Bayless at the helm, entering her senior season as perhaps the top overall hitter in 6-6A, but the Lady Wolves, like Marcus, will have to replace quite a bit of production lost to graduation.
2. Who are the early MVP candidates in 6-6A volleyball?
David Wolman: Flower Mound senior Jaida Sione made quite the splash last year in her inaugural season with the Lady Jaguars. Named the district's newcomer of the year, she logged 86 blocks and 155 blocks to help Flower Mound win the 6-6A title with a 36-6 record.
Another Lady Jaguar that is an early MVP candidate is senior Maddie Cox. Cox swatted home 316 kills in addition to 46 blocks.
At Coppell, there is the potential for sisters to be named district MVPs in the same calendar year — albeit in different sports. This past winter, senior Jules LaMendola, an Indiana commit, garnered the award for the top girls basketball player in 6-6A. This fall, her sister, Skye, is an early favorite for conference MVP in volleyball. Skye, a senior outside hitter, has provided versatility for the Cowgirls. As a junior, Skye finished with 297 kills, 45 service aces, 36 blocks and 293 digs.
3. What lies ahead in the 6-6A track and field landscape?
David Wolman: To say that the Flower Mound girls track and field team had a memorable season this spring could be considered an understatement. Just 14 months after the Lady Jaguars won their first-ever district title, they captured their first state championship.
Alum Natalie Cook was named the Texas Gatorade Track and Field Player of the Year in late June after she capped a historic season by winning 6A state titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. Although Cook is now at Oklahoma State, the Lady Jaguars have a lot of talent available at their disposal, including in the long-distance runs.
Flower Mound accounted for the top three finishes in the state in both events. Junior Samantha Humphries ran to silver in both the one-mile and two-mile runs and won the state title in the 800, while her twin sister, junior Nicole Humphries, claimed third in the 1,600.
Senior Riley Ward is fresh off winning the state title in the high jump, while sophomore Alexandra Fox is another up-and-coming Lady Jaguar distance runner, having taken third in the one-mile run at the state meet.
Across town, Marcus senior Emma Sralla has established herself as the best high school girls discus thrower in the country. She is the reigning state champion after uncorking a throw of 174-3 in Austin at the state meet.
Coppell senior Skyler Schuller is another one to watch. This spring, she became the first female to clear 14 feet in the high school girls pole vault at the state meet.
On the boys' side, Lewisville senior Xavier Lewis will look to build upon a pair of top-four finishes in the state meet. He, Leon Williams, Caden Jenkins, Cameren Jenkins took third in the boys 4x200 relay. Lewis added a fourth-place finish in the 100.
4. What are a few of the most intriguing bi-district matchups to look forward to in 2022-23?
Matt Welch: There's no lack of compelling candidates here, considering that these districts will often pit two state-ranked opponents against each other in the first round of the playoffs.
One matchup that has gained steam in recent years is between the Prosper and Flower Mound girls soccer teams, which have met each of the past two seasons. The Lady Eagles entered both meetings with an undefeated record, only to fall short against the Lady Jaguars during the postseason. Last year's encounter came in the bi-district round with Flower Mound eking out a 1-0 victory.
In fact, those two schools have a bit of history elsewhere. Prosper's volleyball team, seeded fourth, knocked out 6-6A champ Flower Mound last season, and longtime Lady Jaguar co-head softball coach Ali Baird recently took over Prosper's next head softball coach.
You can't go wrong with pairing 5-6A against 6-6A in boys soccer, as last year's field featured three first-round matches that needed either overtime or a shootout to decide a victor.
And sign me up for another meeting on the basketball court between the Plano and Little Elm girls. The Lady Wildcats and Lady Lobos are led by two of the most prolific scorers in the area in Salese Blow and Amarachi Kimpson, respectively, and those two combined for 52 points in last year's bi-district matchup won by Plano, 66-54.