It’s safe to say 2020 has been one wild year for everyone. In the world of sports, we’ve seen the sacrifices being made and steps taken to make the games a possibility.
We’ve all suffered from the effects of COVID-19. Wylie athletics learned to adjust and battle through it all. The pandemic took a major toll on the athletic department and may have even spoiled one of the greatest stories of the year. Here is the Wylie High School sports year in review.
Wylie boys’ basketball has historic season cut short
Nobody expected the Pirates to be on a bus to San Antonio in the middle of March. A school that hadn’t won a district championship in 28 years, didn’t have the glamor of a top basketball recruit like some of its opponents and also were never ranked heading into the state playoffs.
That didn’t stop Wylie from winning a district title in the 2019-2020 season, setting a school record 32 wins and reaching the UIL 6A final four. The only thing that did stop them was COVID-19.
Halfway to San Antonio, head coach Stephen Pearce got notice of the cancellation. Wylie was forced to turn around and come home, unable to make history and win a championship this season.
“When the word came, I wasn’t surprised, given all the other cancellations – NBA, NCAA, March Madness,” Pearce said back in March. “I just tried not to show any hurt because I knew it would hit the boys hard. It was just such a missed opportunity.”
Overall, the Pirates reached the final four on the back of a team that played together on the defensive side of the ball. They held opponents to 48.6 points per game during the season, and 42 points per game during the playoffs. That, combined with the scoring of juniors Kobe Wiggins and Elijah Taylor, propelled Wylie to great heights. With a new roster and having to replace a lot of seniors, the Pirates will hope to find some magic once again.
Luke Lambert celebrates a state championship
Sometimes a little adversity can make all the difference.
In his senior season, Luke Lambert qualified for his fourth consecutive cross country state championship race. This time, he came on top, running a 15:03.45 time in Round Rock to earn himself the winning time and the individual state championship for 6A. He finished 14 seconds ahead of the next fastest runner. For head coach Calley Connor, it had been a culmination of four great years that culminated in a championship.
“He’s one of the hardest-working kids I have ever coached,” Connor said. “He’s continued to grow as an athlete and a person and works at every aspect of his life to get better. We used the Kaizen philosophy in training that says ‘continue to improve,’ and he’s definitely bought into that.”
This was Lambert’s fourth time qualifying for the state championship meet, and Lambert used that experience as a definite advantage for Lambert, whose approach going into the race was to focus primarily on the middle portion of the race between mile one and mile two.
“The middle section is usually the toughest part to me, as I usually start out pretty fast before picking it up again at the end,” Lambert said.
His execution was flawless. The Pirate started the race fast like anticipated, as after the first mile he was among the seven runners all within a second of each other, sitting at the 4:42.7 mark. He fell a little back midway through the race but kept himself within striking distance just eight seconds behind Martin David-Chavez of Duncanville.
That is when Lambert finished strong, running the final 1.1 miles in 5:47 to secure the victory. Despite all of the adversity, Lambert came out as a champion. As he finishes his career at Wylie, he’s still debating where to attend college, but he plans to run cross country as a Division 1 athlete.
Lambert’s athleticism helped lead the Pirates cross country team to another district championship. The boys’ team finished first overall by a significant margin, with the top five runners at the district meet. Following that up, they finished fourth overall at the regional meet, just outside of a place in the state competition that wrapped up a successful year.
The girls’ team, meanwhile, produced similar results with a young and talented roster. The Lady Pirates edged out Sacshe for the district championship, with sophomore Liv Lambert finishing second overall at the district meet. Wylie followed it up at the regional championship with an 11th place finish.
Spring sports: Baseball/Softball/Golf/Track and Field
The spring sports suffered the most from the coronavirus pandemic. Many were midway through non-district play and didn’t get a lot of opportunities on their respective fields. Overall, while everyone wanted to give the seniors an opportunity to continue playing, their health and safety became the top priority. Pirate baseball was midway through the season and heading into district play when news of COVID-19 halted the season. The Wylie Lady Pirates’ softball team was rolling through its season, standing at 9-3 with 84 runs scored compared to just 43 runs allowed on the season. They waited and waited, but ultimately the UIL decision to cancel the season didn’t work in its favor.
Lady Pirates volleyball reaches final eight
It was a season to remember for the Wylie Lady Pirates volleyball team, with its first playoff win in seven years, a district championship and also a memorable playoff run to the regional finals. Coming into the year, head coach Sherry Olivares saw the potential for a special team, with high level talent and veteran leadership all coming together. After finishing second in district with two losses to Sachse and being upset in the bi-district playoff round, Olivares knew this team could be better.
After a slow start due to COVID-19, the Lady Pirates started firing on all cylinders at the right time of the season. It began when they knocked off Sachse late in the district schedule to tie for first place. Then round by round, the Lady Pirates offense was unstoppable, winning four playoff games without dropping a single set. Ultimately, that run came to an end in the regional final, losing in straight sets to state runner-up Klein.
Wylie ended the season 21-5 and the best finish in school history. The Lady Pirates were led by district 9-6A Ana Heath, who had a team-leading 306 kills, along with nine seniors, including Niah Tucker, Victoria Vo, Niki Perry and Izzy Jones. All of whom helped create a winning culture in the program and were recoginized among the district awards..
“It’s been an unbelievable journey and a really fun group to coach,” Olivares said. “It’s been an incredible year with COVID going on and not losing a lot of players. It’s been a nice ride to be with them and be their coach.”
Football team rebounds to reach playoffs
Given the pandemic, new coach and young roster, it would have been easy for Wylie to cave in and give up after an 0-5 start. But the Pirates showed resiliency, using a hard working defense and strong running game to win their last three district games and reach the state playoffs. Due to rule changes because of COVID-19, Wylie was able to make the playoffs just by beating Rowlett, which they did in their third to last game of the season.
They followed that up with two more wins and it led to a bi-district playoff bout against Rockwall. That’s where the Pirates season ended, but head coach Jimmy Carter was pleased with the team’s ability to fight into the playoffs.
“These guys will hold a special place in my heart being my first year coaching,” Carter said. “They worked their tail off and I’m really proud of them. We called this the ‘CC’ year, with COVID and construction at the school. Something was always in this team’s way and they were able to overcome it.”
Girls’ basketball reaches first round of the playoffs
With a 16-15 record and three regular season games remaining, the margin of error was small in order for the Lady Pirates to reach the postseason. They won three games in a row, and just like that Wylie found themselves dancing into the postseason. The Last win of the regular season was a resounding 71-19 victory over South Garland to punch its ticket to the playoffs. After the victory, Wylie was tied for third with Rowlett, but a coin flipped placed Wylie into third place. They lost to Plano East, 49-37.
“Overall, I thought we had a good season. We were more competitive against upper level teams,” Zuniga said. “Our girls played with more intensity this season and set a standard for our returners to try and raise going forward.”
They tied Rowlett for third place at 9-5 in 10-6A. Above them were district champions Sachse at 14-0 and Lakeview at Centennial 12-2. Wylie lost Megan Shehane, Alissia Corona, Peyton Rush, Alyssa Sullivan, Kylee Smith and Macy Sisco to graduation.
Wrestlers finish season qualifying for state meet
The Pirates’ wrestling team finished fourth overall at the 6-6A tournament, finishing behind Allen, Prosper and Plano West. The finish qualified the team for a trip to the regional tournament and eventually allowed Aiden Nunn to qualify as an alternate for the 6A state meet. He finished fifth overall at the 6A Region II meet after losing a major decision, while the Pirates finished 12th overall.
Tracy Cleveland was named coach of the year for the district and the Pirates will look to build on the success of a good 2020 season.
Girls’ soccer loses opportunity to compete in playoffs
Going into the last two weeks of the season, the Lady Pirates were in striking distance of a district championship. Unfortunately, COVID-19 shot down the opportunity as the soccer season was halted just before playoffs began, and Wylie was in second place in the district standings. The Lady Pirates were 16-6-1 on the season and had a lead in district until a 3-1 loss to Rowlett moved them into second place. They were an offensive machine, scoring 81 goals in 23 games and used a senior roster to race towards a district title.
When news of the stoppage first happened, Ashley Parten was hopeful for a return to action.
“When I saw that they initially postponed all activities until March 29, I was very disappointed but the continuation of season seemed hopeful. When they extended the postponement through May 4 the doubt began to creep in,” she said. “It’s heart breaking. I hope we get to complete the season, as we have a playoff spot confirmed and are fighting for first place in district.”
The Lady Pirates will have a lot of talent to replace, including seniors Naia Smith, Ashley Vensel, Sophia Phipps, Michayla Turner, Kayley Parten, Aylisse Warren, Megan Emmert, Caitlin Dailey, Ava Leggett, Mireille Atemkeng, Evelyn Slaughter and Kylee Smith.
Boys’ soccer hopes to build towards more success
The Pirates’ soccer team had struggled through much of the season, with the district schedule not working in their favor. After starting the season 5-2-2 in non-district play, Wylie lost nine of their last 10 games before district play was halted from the pandemic.
With a lot of underclassmen, including Mason Monroe and Garrett Cooper, Wylie will look to bounce back after the 6-11-2 finish to the season.
Tennis team racks up district awards
Behind district 9-6A coach of the year Andy Cairens, the Pirates racked up multiple tennis awards for the fall season. After a district championship season, Alex Nguyen was named the 9-6A female tennis player of the year, while Faucy Lucart was named the male tennis player of the year. In total, the Pirates tennis team won 24 different awards from the district after another spectacular season.
By Kyle Grondin • [email protected]