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 Mesquite, Rowlett, Sachse and Sunnyvale areas, while also looking ahead to the district’s storylines and subplots for the 2022-23 school year.
1. What local volleyball teams can contend for district titles?
When it comes to perennial contenders from this side of town, Sachse is the first name that comes to mind and for very good reason.
The Mustangs have won at least a share of the district championship in nine consecutive seasons and have advanced to back-to-back regional tournaments.
That type of consistency is due to the development within the program and there are plenty of reasons to believe that Sachse can maintain its winning ways in the fall.
While the Mustangs bid farewell to some key players, including defensive player of the year Zoria Heard, setter of the year Emily Westbrook and first-team outside hitter Macy Puckett, the cupboard is not bare for reigning 9-6A coach of the year Rikki Jones.
That includes outside hitter Macy Taylor, who was honored as the district most valuable player a season ago.
Taylor did a little bit of everything for the Mustangs, recording 432 kills, an average of 3.3 per set, with a .258 hitting percentage. She was also a standout on defense, with 390 digs, which is 3.0 per game, and 51 blocks and she added 54 aces behind the service line.
Taylor will be joined by junior Favor Anyanwu, last year’s offensive player of the year. Anyanwu registered 371 kills, an average of 2.9 per set, and 39 aces. She could have also been recognized for her defensive efforts, where she ranked among the state leaders with 167 blocks.
In addition to that pair, sophomore Kaelynn Sims made the all-district first team in her inaugural varsity campaign, and second-team setter Scarlette Young could also see a larger role.
Last season, the Mustangs dropped just one set en route to a perfect 14-0 run to the district crown.
Though somewhat overshadowed by its 9-6A rival, Rowlett has established its own history of success, having made the playoffs in 24 of the last 25 years.
The Eagles set out for their first district title since 2016 with first-team sophomore Alivia Cheatham and second-team junior Reese Davison expected to be back in the mix.
If Mesquite ISD is able to bring home a district title, it will represent a bit of history, as no MISD team has won a volleyball championship since North Mesquite in 2010.
Though MISD has had some good teams come through during the last decade, the lack of district titles has more to do with the quality of their opponents.
Horn, who has made nine consecutive playoff appearances, and Mesquite, have had to share a district with Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath, who once again claimed the top two spots last season.
The Jaguars return senior Ryan Henderson, last year’s outstanding libero, as well as junior first-teamer Madison Mosley and junior second-teamer Jada Shepherd, while the Skeeters will turn to junior setter Jasmin Williams and junior libero Emily Irizarry.
That landscape is not expected to get any easier, as that group will be joined by North Forney and Royse City, who both made the playoffs in Class 5A a year ago.
While realignment might have made 10-6A tougher, the door might be cracked for Poteet, West Mesquite and North Mesquite, who is dropping down in classification, in the new 12-4A.
The Pirates and Wranglers have generally had to contend with perennial power Highland Park, a good program in Forney, as well as the aforementioned North Forney and Royse City.
MISD bids farewell to all of those teams and instead looks forward to a new district that features five Dallas ISD programs.
Another area program to keep an eye on is Sunnyvale. Though the Raiders have not won a district championship since 2017, they are coming off a historical season in which they advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time ever.
2. What football teams will contend for district titles?
There are certainly plenty of opportunities in this area, with nine teams competing in five different districts.
While several teams put together playoff campaigns, no local team was able to hoist a district championship trophy.
Will that change in 2022?
The new University Interscholastic League realignment certainly creates some different possibilities.
Sachse and Rowlett do not fall under that category, as 9-6A remains largely the same with the exception of the addition of a solid Wylie East team.
Garland ruled the roost last season, topping the Mustangs in the biggest 9-6A of the season to win the outright district crown.
But the Owls were a senior-laden group that graduated 19 all-district performers, including most valuable player Cergio Perez, offensive MVP Jordan Hudson and two-way skill player of the year Aaron King.
The opens a door, but are the Mustangs or Eagles ready to step through it?
Sachse graduated 18 all-district honorees, including do-everything quarterback Alex Orji. Rowlett does have some nice players returning, but is also coming off a 2-8 season.
Mesquite saw a five-game difference in the win column under first-year head coach DeMarcus Harris, but has some holes to fill, especially under center with the loss of quarterback Chance Edwards, while Horn has not made the playoffs since 2018 and 10-6A will once again be tough with Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath.
In 7-5A Division I, West Mesquite will be joined by North Mesquite, with both teams looking to break lengthy playoff droughts.
That will be tough to do, though.
While last year’s district champion, Highland Park, has moved on, it is still a formidable group with Lancaster, Longview, Lufkin, McKinney North, Forney and Tyler.
Poteet has been the one playoff constant out of MISD with 10 consecutive postseason appearances, but the Pirates face a much tougher road.
Poteet leaves a district where its toughest competition was South Oak Cliff and joins an intriguing group with the likes of Lovejoy, Melissa and Denison.
Sunnyvale has made eight straight playoff appearances, winning five district championships along the way.
The Raiders finished second behind Quinlan Ford last season and that duo remains along with Wills Point and Caddo Mills.
Lincoln adds a new wrinkle as it drops down from Class 4A Division I after making the playoffs a year ago, and Roosevelt also joins the mix.
Sunnyvale could be poised to rise the top of this group, as it is expected to return 11 all-district performers, including co-newcomer of the year sophomore Alyric Brown, senior Ja’lon Gillaspie, the district offensive lineman of the year, and first-team all-district senior quarterback Rigdon Yates.
3. What are some football coaching milestones to keep an eye on?
This area has a history of long-tenured coaches, but that trend has changed as of late.
Last season featured a pair of head coaches new to the area in Rowlett’s Derek Alford and Mesquite’s DeMarcus Harris, and this year, Horn has a new leader in Courtney Allen.
In fact, in Mesquite ISD, the elder statesmen in terms of tenure within the school district are Poteet’s Rodney McLain and North Mesquite’s Tim Seder, who each only started in 2019.
Because of that, many of these coaches’ milestones are down the road in the future.
On the other side of the coin is Sachse’s Mark “Red” Behrens, the only head coach the program has known since beginning varsity play in 2004.
Behrens, and the Mustangs, surpassed the 100-win mark back in 2019 and another strong season could put them at 40 games over .500 for the first time ever, as they currently sit at 114-79.
Another interesting note in terms of all-time records is that Rowlett is one of the few GISD programs that is better than .500, but it enters the year at 139-138, meaning it will need another winning season to stay above that mark.
Though just in his third season with the Pirates, McLain, who is 21-14 in three seasons, is only five victories away from moving into the top 20 in MISD history.
Mesquite is moving into rarified air in terms of all-time programs. The Skeeters went 7-5 in Harris’ first season, moving their overall record to 496-463-34, meaning they are only four victories away from joining the 500-win club.
And over at Sunnyvale, a couple of milestones are in reach.
Since its inaugural campaign in 2010, the Raiders have compiled a 97-38 record, putting them well within reach of victory No. 100 this season.
Head coach John Settle has built a 143-69 record during his head coaching career. Sunnyvale has averaged 8.5 victories per season since taking over the Raiders in 2011, and another similar campaign will push him past the 150-win mark for his career.