Can you feel the high school sports excitement in the air?

Northridge goalie Hope Stacker should be one of the top returning soccer players in the area this fall. The 2019-20 high school sports season kicks off next week.

We're getting close.

If you listen closely, you can hear the roar of the crowd building.

Can you hear it?

Next week, the 2019-20 high school sport season kicks off with girls golf leading the way, while football, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country, volleyball and boys tennis will all begin practice on Monday, Aug. 5.

After a vacation trip to Nashville, I'm ready to get going. Honestly, it can't come fast enough.

The last time we saw an Elkhart County high school team in action, Mishawaka was handing Northridge a loss in the opening game of the Class 4A LaPorte Baseball Regional.

Now it's almost time to start anew.

My colleague Bob Oppenheim will soon start asking questions to try and find out what to expect this fall.

For instance:

How good will the NorthWood Panther football team be this season after the loss of Mr. Football finalist Bronson Yoder?

By the way, my guess is pretty darn good.

Can the return of senior goalie Hope Stacker keep the Northridge girls soccer team in contention in the always-tough Northern Lakes Conference?

Will the friendly rivalry featuring top cross country runners Lauren Dibley (Elkhart Central) and Morgan Dyer (Elkhart Memorial) heat up again after Dyer posted an outstanding tournament run?

Is it possible an Elkhart County team can step up to push Penn and Warsaw in the Class 4A volleyball sectional?

Are the younger players there to help Concord tennis coach Todd Denton replace nearly every player from a Minutemen team that reached the semistate last fall for the third straight year?

And if it's not Concord, then who?

With Cybil Stillson just entering her sophomore year, how long can NorthWood and girls golf coach Adam Yoder continue to dominate the NLC?

Jimtown will have boys soccer for the first time this fall, so how competitive will the Jimmies be? And with football, tennis and cross country teams already well established in Baugo Township, are there enough athletes to go around?

Leading scorer Grace Crocker returns, so will the Jimtown girls soccer team improve in its second season of competition?

If he stays healthy, how many yards will Elkhart Central senior halfback Mark Brownlee gain this fall after finishing with 1,547 yards last season, despite missing what amounted to nearly three full games with an ankle injury?

Speaking of the Blue Blazers, just how many scouts will be in the stands and press box at Rice Field to watch junior Rodney McGraw, who has caught the attention of (among others) Notre Dame, Michigan, Purdue and Indiana?

For that matter, what about Concord senior Carter Neveraski? After moving between halfback and quarterback for much of 2018, Neveraski could be a Class 5A All-State candidate at halfback for coach Craig Koehler this season with the full return to health of senior quarterback Ethan Cain.

With 6-foot Kate Rulli and 6-1 Maddy Payne returning as its top hitters, can the NorthWood volleyball team win a Class 3A sectional title? The Panthers and coach Hillary Laidig lost just two seniors from last season's 24-10 team.

Fairfield drops from 3A to 2A this fall, so how will the Falcons do in volleyball and football?

After reaching the Class A regional title game – and taking a game from eventual state runner-up Pioneer – what will coach Lois Mast and the Bethany Christian volleyball team do for an encore?

Can an Elkhart Memorial boys soccer team – which was on the cusp of shocking heavily favored Northridge in the Class 3A sectional title game last fall – earn a sectional title and advance in the state tournament?

Northridge golfer Braedyn O'Dell returns for her senior year and her battle for conference and state tournament supremacy with Stillson should be fun to watch. So, who ya got?

Which Indianapolis-based cross country teams do you think the IHSAA will send north this year?

Speaking of cross country, head coach Adam Homo led the Elkhart Memorial boys team to sectional and regional titles last fall at Ox Bow Park. After some key graduation losses, can the Crimson Chargers repeat those titles?

Brynn Shoup-Hill begins her junior year at Goshen as perhaps the best three-sport athlete in the area. So, how good will the 6-1 Shoup-Hill be on the volleyball court this fall?

Just like in volleyball, will there be an Elkhart County team strong enough to battle perennial state power Penn in the girls' 3A soccer sectional?

With a strong and deep senior class returning, how many games will the Jimtown football team win this fall?

And how great will Knepp Field look with field turf?

Who will emerge from what should be a balanced tennis sectional involving Goshen, Jimtown, NorthWood, Fairfield and Bethany Christian?

And finally ...

How many fans will make their way into Rice Field for the final Mangy Lion football game between Elkhart Central and Elkhart Memorial?

Come on Elkhart fans, pack that place. This is a historic final meeting in a great rivalry, and both teams should be good.

These and many other questions start to be answered next week.

I can't wait.

Ken Fox is the sports editor of the Elkhart Truth. He can be reached at kfox@elkharttruth.com or @KenFoxTruth on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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