District 8-5A boys and girls soccer begins Tuesday, marking the first of 14 nights spent jockeying for one of the conference’s four playoff spots.
The Lake Dallas boys and Little Elm girls will begin their district title defenses as well, with the Falcons looking to build off a 2019 campaign that resulted in a regional finals berth while the Lady Lobos eye brighter pastures after stringing together their best season in years.
Where those two sides will meet resistance remains to be seen, but prior to Tuesday’s kickoff, Star Local Media collaborated to project the four playoff teams that will emerge from both 8-5A boys and girls soccer.
1. Little Elm
Bryan Murphy: To no surprise, the Lady Lobos are far and beyond the favorite in 8-5A and are fresh off of a first-place finish at the Richardson Ice Bowl in which senior forward Landri Townsend was named MVP of the tournament.
Little Elm now looks to carry that head of steam into district play, which kicks off Tuesday at home against rival The Colony.
The Lady Cougars were the Lady Lobos’ toughest district test a year ago and we will find out a lot more about both teams after next week.
2. The Colony
Matt Welch: Much like their counterparts on the boys side, the Lady Cougars enter district play on a roll after winning consecutive matches over Arlington Martin, Colleyville Heritage and McKinney North.
The Colony is led by one of the area’s top defensive players in senior Reagan Keiser, who headlines a roster that’s otherwise fairly light on seniors with only four, compared to seven freshmen, six juniors and four sophomores.
As the Lady Cougars’ youth continues to grow, the results should follow.
3. Denton Ryan
Matt Welch: The Lady Raiders will certainly enter the district slate feeling battle-tested after playing one of the conference’s more challenging preseason schedules, including recent matchups with state-ranked foes Flower Mound and Prosper.
Although Ryan didn’t procure a win against either side, last season’s bi-district finalists still sport plenty of talent in each phase of the pitch, be it the attack-minded play of sophomore Kendall Wright and senior Kionna Simon or the airtight work in goal of senior Kendall Dowling, who netted 8-5A’s Goalkeeper of the Year accolade last year.
Expect Ryan to remain firmly in the postseason mix.
Bryan Murphy: Denton has had its fare share of impressive blowout wins, including a 9-0 pounding over Kileen Shoemaker, but has also endured many grueling defeats.
The Lady Broncos have been led by dynamic senior goal scorer Ashley Meza, who has notched seven goals already this season, as she looks to take Denton back to the playoffs again this season.
1. The Colony
Matt Welch: After trading ties and losses for the first week of the season, the Cougars built some positive momentum toward district play by stringing together a three-match winning streak, highlighted by a 4-0 shutout of Denison. Senior Kolton Chacon and junior Franklin Corona have shined early on the offensive for The Colony.
The Cougars’ defense has shown promise as well, surrendering only 1.2 goals per match prior to allowing four on Tuesday against Highland Park, and if that early mark remains steady, expect The Colony to remain near the top in 8-5A.
The schedule also works in the Cougars’ favor, afforded a matchup Friday against a Lake Dallas team that, while formidable, is still trying to figure out its identity.
2. Lake Dallas
Matt Welch: For a team that was just one win shy of qualifying for the state tournament last season, building off that success has been a challenge for Lake Dallas early into its 2020 campaign. The Falcons enter district play both winless and staring down the barrel of a gaudy minus-14 goal differential.
The pieces haven’t changed much from last season, with senior Brock Pope and junior Anthony Patti back to lead a veteran group, but things are yet to click for the Falcons, despite an overwhelming edge in big-game experience versus the rest of the district.
If Lake Dallas can hit its stride, a repeat atop the conference table is in the cards.
3. Little Elm
Bryan Murphy: The Lobos got back into the playoffs a year ago after a brief drought and nearly advanced to the second round before losing to Grapevine in shootouts.
Little Elm has carried that momentum into 2020 with a few key victories over Northwest Eaton, Creekview and Prosper and is among the favorites to land a spot back in the postseason.
So far through non-district and tournament play, the Lobos have been led by Damian and Santiago Castorena, who have both filled up at the stat sheet this season.
Bryan Murphy: The Bengals have made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and very well could be on their way back to the big dance in 2020.
In preparation for the upcoming district slate, Braswell has faced a plethora of talented teams from far and wide in the Aledo Tournament and Carrolton-Farmers Branch ISD Tournament, as well traveling to Wichita Falls and Sherman for non-district bouts.