Dallas/Ft. Worth teams that demand attention

Updated: August 20, 2008, 8:16 PM ET
ESPNRISE.com

Girls' Volleyball - Lake Highlands

It's strange to think that getting moved out of a district with Metroplex volleyball powers Plano West, Plano and Allen could be viewed as a challenge. But Lake Highlands coach Cory Williams has a good explanation for why she believes that's the case. "Playing against teams of that caliber every time out really keeps you sharp," she says. "You get used to being pushed. You learn how to come from behind. Come playoff time, you're really prepared for anything." The fact that Williams is worried about playoff success shows just how far the program has come since she took over in 2000. Back then, reaching the playoffs was reason for celebration. Now, coming off a regional finals appearance last fall, expectations have skyrocketed. The return of senior All-State outside hitter Tori Mellinger is certainly reason for Lake Highlands supporters to be excited. Mellinger stands just 5-foot-9, but she unleashed 660 kills last year to go with 694 digs. She forms a nearly unstoppable combo with senior setter Angie Morgan, who pilled up 1,372 assists last season. Experience will be a key for the Wildcats this fall, as 10 seniors return in all. Throw up-and-coming junior middle Caroline Henton into the mix, and it's clear Lake Highlands has the talent and depth to continue its rise to the top. "Last year, I think we all thought we exceeded expectations a little bit,"Williams says. "If we can stay focused and motivated throughout the season, I think we can repeat that success."



Boys' Cross Country - Coppell

The Cowboys didn't get a lot of press last year, but they quietly posted one of the state's best seasons. Coppell got a big boost by starting off the postseason with a victory at the District 6-5A meet. The Cowboys gave Southlake Carroll a run for its money at the Region I-5A meet, ultimately finishing a strong second. At the Class 5A state meet, Coppell stormed to a fourth-place showing. Five of the team's top runners are back this fall, led by seniors Tom Hudson and Will Whitehill and junior Colton Reese.



Girls' Cross Country - Nolan Catholic

The Vikings had been steadily climbing the ladder toward a state title the past few years, with three consecutive top-five finishes at the Class 6A state meet. The team made the final leap last fall, shooting up to the top spot to edge two-time defending champs Ursuline by nine points. Allison Flood (third at state) and Jacquelyn Batson (ninth) have graduated for Nolan Catholic, but seniors Ariel Ornelas (seventh) and Crystal Finley (11th) are back to help the team defend its title.



Football - Aledo

The Bearcats have played into December every year since moving up from 3A to 4A in 2002. That's six consecutive years of quality football. And it's a streak that looks to continue this fall as Aledo brings back eight All-District selections from a team that went 11-3 and reached the Class 4A, Division I state semifinals in 2007. Look for seniors Daniel Meyer and Austin Stockon to anchor the offense and seniors Jon Koontz and Jesse Wright to lead the defense.



BREAK OUT TEAMS

GIRLS' CROSS COUNTRY - FORNEY
The Jackrabbits should contend for a Class 4A state crown behind junior Melaney Ortega.

FOOTBALL - FOSSIL RIDGE
The Panthers have a playmaker on each side of the ball in LB Brandon Mahoney and WR Aaron Fisher.

GIRLS' VOLLEYBALL - EULESS TRINITY
All-State outside hitter Lauren Martin, a senior, looks to lead the Trojans deep into the playoffs.

BOYS' CROSS COUNTRY - MARCUS
Sophomore Craig Lutz and senior Brad Mazur form one of the state's best duos.