FRISCO WAKELAND GIRLS SOCCER

The Wakeland girls soccer team celebrates after winning the third state championship in program history with a 3-2 victory over Grapevine in April.

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 some, that means a fresh start as they look to get back on the winning track, while for others, it represents an opportunity to build on what they accomplished in the past year.

Throughout the summer, Star Local Media will reflect on the year that was for the Frisco ISD, while also looking ahead to the district’s storylines and subplots for the 2022-23 school year.

1. Pound for pound, what was the best team in Frisco ISD during the past school year?

This is a question that is easier to answer for some areas than others.

As for FISD, there are plenty of contenders, as multiple teams made memorable playoff runs in a variety of different sports.

There were some close calls, as the Memorial girls basketball team advanced to the Class 5A state championship game before dropping a double-overtime heartbreaker to undefeated Cedar Park, and just this week, the Wakeland baseball team saw its historic run come to an end in the state semifinals.

In addition to those teams, several individuals put together standout performances to capture state championships of their own.

But when it comes down to the best team, or in this case, teams, in 2021-2022, that was determined in a one-week span in April as the Wakeland girls and boys soccer teams each brought home state championships.

As a testament to the strength of FISD soccer, neither of the Wolverines teams actually won their own district, as the Frisco girls and Lone Star boys captured those titles.

But as the programs have done time and time again, the Wakeland soccer teams saved their best for when it mattered most.

The Wolverine girls were making their fourth trip to the state tournament and were looking to avenge last year’s one-goal loss to Dripping Springs in the title match.

Wakeland featured midfield player of the year McKenna Jenkins, co-defensive player of the year Sophia Pehr, co-goalkeeper of the year Drew Stover, as well as all-district first-teamers in Cori Cochran, Brooke Hartshorn, Bella James, Katy Gregson and Olivia Bos.

After a runner-up finish in 9-5A, the Wolverines turned it up in the playoffs, particularly on defense.

They opened their run with a pair of 1-0 victories over Wylie East and Carrollton Creekview before using a 2-0 blanking of W.T. White to reach the regional tournament.

After edging Midlothian, 1-0, in the semifinals, Wakeland responded with one of its best all-around performances of the season, as Pehr scored twice in a 3-1 victory over Highland Park to win the Region II championship and return to state.

The Wolverines continued to roll with a 3-0 shutout of Magnolia in the semifinals to return to the title match, and there, Cochran scored twice on her way to tournament most valuable player honors and Wakeland outlasted Grapevine in overtime for a 3-2 victory to hoist the 5A state championship trophy.

While the girls had redemption on their minds, the Wolverine boys were thinking repeat.

Wakeland also had to settle for second place in 9-5A after Lone Star used a pair of head-to-head victories to propel it to its first district title.

But the Wolverines were still loaded heading into the postseason. That group included defensive player of the year Riley Garza, goalkeeper of the year Brad Shreve, newcomer of the year Hazani Torres and first-team honorees Brennan Bezdek, William Heidman, Evan Lupo and Micah Kelley.

Wakeland flipped a switch at the start of the playoffs and embarked on a dominant, historic run.

The Wolverines rolled over Wylie East and Hillcrest by identical 4-0 scores in the first two rounds and then cruised past W.T. White in a 7-2 rout in the regional quarterfinals.

At the Region II tournament, Wakeland had no problems with Mt. Pleasant in a 3-0 shutout and that set the stage for the third meeting with Lone Star.

Though the Rangers had the upper hand in the first two matches, the Wolverines won when it counted most, as after the teams battled to a 1-1 draw through regulation and two overtimes, Wakeland claimed a 4-2 edge in penalties to advance to the state tournament.

It would prove to be the Wolverines’ toughest test along the way, as they posted a 3-1 win over Fort Worth Trimble Tech in the semifinals and capped it with a 3-0 shutout of Dripping Springs to complete its defense of the Class 5A state title.

The run also strengthened Wakeland’s claim as the top boys soccer program in Texas, as since 2010, it was their eighth trip to the state tournament and they won their fifth state championship.

2. How big of an effect did the COVID-19 pandemic have on the 2021-2022 athletics season?

When the pandemic forced Texas high school athletics to come to a grinding half in March 2020, there was plenty of uncertainty regarding sports heading into the fall.

With concerns still high, safety was the primary goal for the University Interscholastic League, but athletic administrators, coaches and the athletes themselves were ready to move forward.

Though there were some issues to be handled, the 2020-2021 athletics year largely went on without any major issues.

The completion of the campaign created a much more optimistic outlook heading into 2021-2022.

Precautions still had to be taken during the last nine months, and while there were isolated incidents that teams had to deal with, the athletic seasons during the past school year largely went on as business as usual.

3. What are the early reactions to the 2022-2024 realignment?

For the past two years, Frisco ISD has enjoyed its own 10-team district in all sports other than football.

In addition to a number of crosstown rivalry games on any given night, it also guaranteed FISD four playoff teams in nearly every sport.

With the opening of two new high schools in Emerson and Panther Creek, however, FISD knew there would be some drastic changes when the University Interscholastic League announced its 2022-2024 realignment.

Taking a look at the gridiron first, there are eight FISD teams who will be in 5A Division I, up from six last season.

Centennial, Heritage, Lone Star, Reedy and Wakeland remain in the same district, with Frisco, Lebanon Trail and Liberty making the move up into the new 6-5A Division I.

The road to the playoffs opens up a little bit with the departure of perennial power Denton Ryan, who won the district championship a year ago, as well as a solid The Colony program.

That pair, along with Denton, is gone, with Sherman setting in as the final team in the nine-squad district.

Memorial is the lone FISD team that is staying in 5A Division II, with Independence dropping down one classification and Emerson joining the mix for its inaugural varsity campaign in 3-5A Division I.

Perhaps the biggest change for this trio is the shift to Region I, which sets up some potentially long road trips in the playoffs with the West Texas districts.

The seven-team district is an interesting mix. Perennial powerhouse Argyle makes the move up from 4A Division I as the two-time state champions look to continue their success, Lake Dallas remains part of the district fold, with Denton and Carrollton Creekview rounding out the field.

Panther Creek will be the lone FISD team in Class 4A, as it was slotted in 7-4A Division I.

The seven-team district will feature another perennial power in Celina, along with Carrollton Ranchview, Carter, Wilmer-Hutchins, Pinkston and North Dallas.

As for the other sports, FISD will be split up among two different districts in 9-5A and 10-5A, meaning there could be several head-to-head match-ups in the bi-district round.

Frisco, Lone Star, Reedy and Wakeland will make up half of the eight-team 9-5A. It is a promising road to the postseason in many sports. The Colony has a solid all-around program, but the trio of Carrollton ISD schools—Creekview, Newman Smith and R.L. Turner—have endured some struggles in recent years.

FISD will once again have a district to itself in the seven-team 10-5A, guaranteeing it four playoff teams.

That group is made up of Centennial, Emerson, Heritage, Independence, Lebanon Trail, Liberty and Memorial.

The FISD side of the region also sets up nicely in the playoffs, as not only is Highland Park no longer part of the path, but the early rounds will match them up against the three Mesquite ISD schools and 14 Dallas ISD programs.

Panther Creek will compete in 11-4A in the remaining sports. Celina boasts one of the top all-around athletics program, and Anna, Aubrey, Carrollton Ranchview and Van Alstyne round out the field, but it is only a six-team district, meaning two-thirds of the teams will qualify for the playoffs.

For continued coverage on the local sports scene, follow Devin Hasson on Twitter: @DevinHasson. Email Devin with sports story suggestions at dhasson@starlocalmedia.com.

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