The spring season for Tennessee high school sports officially begins Monday, with the Chattanooga area's schedule on opening day highlighted by a soccer match between two nationally ranked programs.
With a record of 70-10-11 over the past five seasons and coming off last year's Division II-AA state title, McCallie appears to have one of its best teams yet. The Blue Tornado are ranked No. 2 in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer and will kick off their schedule by facing perennial Georgia and national power Dalton at 7 p.m. at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's intramural complex.
GHSA soccer teams have been playing since early February, and Dalton enters the matchup 5-1. The Catamounts are five-time state champions, including last year's Class AAAAAA title, and No. 14 in the Top Drawer rankings. Their loss was to No. 13 Harrison.
McCallie has four of the area's six players who are on the All-America watch list according to Top Drawer Soccer: Neal Carlson, Andrew Prescott, Noah Tremain and Gui Vivaldini, who was the only sophomore in the country to earn All-America honors last season, when he scored 22 goals and assisted on 12 others.
Baylor sophomore David Danquah and Dalton's Manny Prieto are on the All-America watch list as well.
Baylor's baseball team also appears loaded and is expected to be the state favorite once again. The Red Raiders, who have won the past two DII-AA titles, return nine players who have either committed or signed Division I scholarships. Tennessee signee and 2019 Mr. Baseball finalist Colin Ahearn looks to star on the mound and at the plate again, while smooth-fielding and switch-hitting shortstop Danny Corona is rated as one of the top 80 juniors in the country by USA Baseball.
Bradley Central returns versatile standout Riley Black after a Class AAA runner-up finish last season, and Sequatchie County brings back ace Austin Mitchell, who went 9-1 with a 1.70 ERA in 2019 while helping the Indians reach the Class AA state tournament for the first time in more than 20 years.
Gordon Lee, which is aiming for its third straight GHSA Class A championship, has talented starting pitching duo Jake Wright and Jake Poindexter back this season. Wright was 4-0 in the 2019 postseason with two shutouts, while Poindexter struck out 15 in a playoff win and is committed to Georgia.
The Chattanooga area has been dominant in softball for more than three decades and should have another group of strong state contenders, led by Baylor, which has won five straight DII-AA championships and eight state titles in the past nine years. Sydney Berzon struck out 241 batters and posted a 0.75 ERA last season as a freshman, and the LSU-committed pitcher will be backed in the field and at the plate by a dangerous lineup that includes future Auburn speedster Makayla Packer, who has won multiple state titles in track and field.
Sequatchie County, which reached the Class AA state tournament last year, returns multiple contributors, led by pitcher MacKenzie Turner, who won 23 games in 2019, and Ella Edgmon who stole 47 bases, hit better than .500 and is committed to UTC. Marion County's Sara Muir, who is committed to Tennessee, is one of the strongest hitters in the area and a talented pitcher, too.
On the tennis court, Will Leathers, Charlie Park and Colin Tuttle return for McCallie after playing key roles to help the Blue Tornado win a team state championship. Leathers was a state runner-up in singles last year as a freshman. Baylor's Hunter Smith is back after winning a doubles state title last year, and Signal Mountain returns standout Gabe Williams, a runner-up in doubles.
Silverdale Baptist Academy sophomore Addison Horton and Arts and Sciences junior Sunshine Finnell were both runners-up in their divisions last season. In Georgia, Calhoun's Carly Briggs is ranked the No. 11 overall high school girls' tennis player in the nation, while Dade County junior Jayda Woods has not lost a set in her prep career.
Arts and Sciences' track team returns a pair of all-state athletes in Alayah Dozier and Brevin Sims, who each has signed with a Division I college program. Sims, who signed with Syracuse, has eight overall state titles and is the state record holder in the 110-meter hurdles. Dozier, who signed with Alabama-Birmingham, sprinted her way to state titles in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes last spring.
Lacrosse is still one year from becoming a TSSAA-sanctioned sport, but several area schools have already begun programs.