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 Allen, Prosper, Little Elm, McKinney Boyd and McKinney, however, will share the same district for at least two more years.
The UIL's biennial realignment dealt those five high schools a similar district make-up, again slotted into 5-6A alongside Denton Guyer and Denton Braswell while also welcoming upstart Prosper Rock Hill to Class 6A.
Throughout the summer, Star Local Media will reflect on the year that was for 5-6A’s seven schools while also looking ahead to what lies in store for 2022-23.
1. Who is the preliminary favorite in 5-6A girls soccer?
Matt Welch: For the first two years of this district alignment, all roads to the 5-6A girls soccer championship have run through Prosper. The Lady Eagles are yet to lose a match in district play since joining 5-6A, complementing their back-to-back conference titles with an absurd goal differential of plus-101 against district opponents during that stretch.
Despite that number, Prosper has been pushed on several occasions by Allen and McKinney Boyd. Of the eight meetings in district play between those two and Prosper, seven have been decided by one goal or less.
Two perennially strong programs in their own rights, Allen and Boyd have demonstrated the ability to hang with Prosper, but getting over the hump and actually handing the Lady Eagles a loss remains elusive for both teams.
That three-horse race should once again be the top storyline in the district heading into the 2023 season, given the plethora of talent that all three programs are projected to return, but until proven otherwise, Prosper has earned the leg up on the competition with respect to the 5-6A championship.
But as has been the case before, expect Allen and Boyd to have their say.
2. Who is the preliminary favorite in 5-6A boys soccer?
David Wolman: The 2021 Allen boys soccer team reached new heights. The Eagles compiled their best season in program history but lost 19 seniors to graduation from that team that reached the 6A state semifinals.
Heavy turnover and all, Allen used it as motivation heading into this year. The Eagles turned it into a 5-6A regular-season championship and an appearance in the regional quarterfinals, where they lost in penalty kicks to eventual state runner-up Plano.
While other teams will look to knock Allen off its throne atop the 5-6A standings, the Eagles should be the preliminary favorite to win the district title.
Allen has two players returning that were recognized by TASCO following the conclusion of this past season. Senior goalkeeper Alec Setterberg and senior defender Ryoma Colyar were named all-region first team. Setterberg tallied nine shutouts in goal and was named 5-6A goalkeeper of the year, operating behind a back line anchored by Colyar, who was named the district's defensive player of the year. Those two helped Allen surrender just 10 goals during district play.
3. Who are a few early MVP candidates in 5-6A boys and girls soccer?
Matt Welch: There's no shortage of star power on the pitch in either district, including the reigning 5-6A MVP on the girls side.
Although Prosper had big shoes to fill following the graduations of Hadley Murrell and Kaitlyn Giametta, Emma Yolinsky stepped up to deliver a monster sophomore year that included 19 goals and eight assists en route to picking up MVP honors. She'll get the opportunity to reprise a similar role next season.
Yolinsky should have some worthy competition, however. Boyd senior Lauren Omholt was impressive in her own right in leading the Lady Broncos to the regional quarterfinals, named 5-6A forward of the year after scoring 19 goals and tallying six assists. Allen sports one of the top midfielders in the district in senior Melania Fullerton, a recent Vanderbilt commit, and blue-chip forward Ava McDonald, who earned offensive newcomer of the year honors as a freshman last season.
With Boyd alum Spencer Sarkissian graduating, there will be a new 5-6A boys MVP next spring. Expect reigning district champion Allen to be a factor, projected to return players like 5-6A co-sophomore of the year Osi Iyamah (three goals, nine assists) and all-district second-teamer Evan Pustejovsky (five goals, three assists).
Prosper's Caden Berg is in an advantageous spot as well. Named 5-6A newcomer of the year, Berg scored 14 goals and seven assists, and he'll have plenty of opportunity to build on that production with offensive player of the year Dunes Nielsen and first-teamer Gavyn Rosales having graduated.
4. Which first-year head coach will make the most immediate impact in 5-6A?
Matt Welch: A longstanding model of program stability, the Allen football team will be on its third head coach in three years following the resignation of Chad Morris after one season at the helm. Morris' decision came one day after the Eagles concluded spring practices.
Allen ISD moved quickly to get Lee Wiginton hired as its next head football coach, and although it's been an unorthodox offseason, Wiginton has plenty to work with in his first season. The early stages of Allen's schedule won't do the new head coach any favors — the Eagles have the nation's No. 1-ranked team, St. John Bosco, on the docket for their Aug. 26 opener in the Tom Landry Classic — but Allen should find its footing in due time.
Another first-year coaching situation to monitor is with Prosper softball, which brought in Ali Baird to lead their program following a season that produced an undefeated 5-6A championship. Baird previously served as co-head coach at her alma mater, Flower Mound, and learned under the wing of Mark Larriba to help develop the Lady Jaguars into a perennial contender.
Prosper graduated a loaded senior class, but Baird has a promising group to work with in her first season, including district pitcher of the year Lyndsey Hooker and utility player of the year Reese Renfrow. The Lady Eagles should still be a force under their new head coach.