The 29th ESPY Awards, the annual ceremony devoted to honoring standout professional and collegiate athletes and teams of the past year, aired on July 10.
It's the sports equivalent to the Oscars or Grammys, so Star Local Media has decided in recent years to put a high school spin on the concept.
Last year was one that will not be soon forgotten, with the COVID-19 pandemic touching every facet of life, including high school sports, which saw its athletic year truncated on Mar. 12.
Though the pandemic continued into the start of the 2020-2021 school year, high school sports took precautions, and while there were a few hiccups along the way, every sport was able to complete their respective seasons and crown state champions.
Frisco ISD has showcased no shortage of notable individual and team athletic achievements, so it is only appropriate to put the last year of local varsity sports into an award-winning perspective.
In the coming weeks, the city's top athletes, teams and games will be recognized among nine different awards.
With that said Star Local Media presents its ninth edition of The Varsitys, the first of a three-part series.
Co-Female Breakthrough Athletes of the Year
Hannah Pfiffner, Fr., Volleyball and Track and Field, Wakeland; Emilee Prochaska, Fr., Softball, Lone Star
Though there are several worthy candidates, including Lone Star’s Hannah Carr in basketball and Reedy’s Maeve Jones in soccer, Pfiffner and Prochaska get the slight nod here.
Pfiffner emerged as a key member of the Wolverines’ rotation on the volleyball court, as she was tabbed newcomer of the year after recording 210 kills, an average of 2.7 per game, and 43 blocks.
What adds to Pfiffner’s resume is that not only did she thrive in the fall, she also excelled in the spring, where she served notice when captured the 9-5A championship in the high jump by clearing 5-5.
Pfiffner was just getting started, as she added area and regional titles to the case and then to top it off, she cleared 5-07 in Austin to bring home an individual state championship.
Though the Rangers finished in a tie for sixth place in the softball race and have not been to the playoffs since 2019, Prochaska could be a building block for returning to the postseason.
Prochaska made an immediate splash on the 9-5A scene on her way to winning newcomer of the year honors. She led the team in hitting with a .509 batting average. She also had some pop, contributing eight doubles, one triple, six home runs, 22 runs scored and 34 runs batted in.
Male Breakthrough Athlete of the Year
Keldric Luster, So., Football, Liberty
Liberty was one of the big stories of the gridiron season. After winning just three total games from 2017-2019, including a winless 0-10 campaign two years ago, the Redhawks completely turned things around, posting a 6-5 record to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
One of the big reasons was Luster, who despite playing in only six games, was voted as the district offensive newcomer of the year.
The dual-threat sophomore put up eye-popping numbers in a short amount of time, completing 93-of-155 passes for 1,603 yards and nine touchdowns through the air and adding 93 carries for 798 yards and seven scores on the ground. Though it ended in a 35-27 loss to Reedy, Luster set the tone in the season opener when he threw for 261 yards and rushed for 123 more.
He would follow that up by throwing for 308 yards and a score and rushing for 110 and three touchdowns in a 39-20 win over Greenville that helped spark a four-game winning streak.
With his return alongside dynamic wide receiver Evan Stewart on the outside, Liberty could be poised for one of the best seasons in program history.
Game of the Year
Wakeland vs. Humble Kingwood Park Boys Soccer
There were a number of notable candidates for this honor, but when a state championship is on the line, and is ultimately brought home, that tends to tip the scales in its favor.
Wakeland headed to Georgetown eyeing its fourth state championship and still had the sting of not only falling 2-1 to El Paso Bel Air two years ago in the title match, but also being denied an opportunity to make a run last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several of the Wolverine players were taking the state stage for the first time, and nerves are to be expected, but those were allayed a bit when they were able to strike first, as Marlon Williams set up Brennan Bezdek in the Kingwood Park box and the junior did the rest, beating the keeper to his right to take a 1-0 lead less than 10 minutes in.
Wakeland (24-1-1) expected Kingwood Park (26-3-2), who had recorded 37 goals in five playoff matches, to respond and it did, but a handful of key saves from Connor Pettigrew kept them in the lead.
It remained that way until the second half, when the Panthers finally broke through in the 49th minute on a score by Andrew Guerra to knot it at 1-1, but it did not take the Wolverines long to answer.
Less than two minutes later, Micah Kelley collected a pass from Williams and put the ball in the back of the net to surge back ahead, 2-1.
Wakeland did not let off the gas and Bezdek was again in the middle of the action, as he fed Jak Keith, who was able to provide the finish on an 18-yard blast to extend it to 3-1 with 22:42 left.
Kingwood Park would make things interesting, as Guerra tallied his second goal off an assist from Walter Rodee to close to within 3-2 with 5:46 remaining, but the Wolverines would make sure that would stand up until the end.
“It was tough last year because we had a real good group of seniors … and they were devastated, they were crushed not getting a chance to get back there,” Holt said. “This is a newer group with a lot of younger guys who are here for the first time, but they have the talent, they worked hard and got after it. They felt like they wanted to prove something and they went out and did it.”
Wakeland closed the season on a 12-match winning streak. In a testament to the depth and quality of soccer in Frisco ISD, the Wolverines’ lone setback was a 2-0 loss to Lone Star, who finished last in 9-5A, and Holt credited the toughness of the district in preparing the team for the playoff grind.
“Their closeness, just their camaraderie, and you saw that in the final and you saw it all year long,” Wakeland head coach Andy Holt said. “Any time somebody scores a goal, the other guys are excited for them, it never matters who, they are excited about what it means for the team. That is why this group has been special to coach. They wanted to get to a certain level and they did it and they did it together.”