Following its final emergency meeting before the winter break, the Arizona Interscholastic Association approved an official starting date of Jan. 18 for winter competition.
This date comes after about a two-week delay, as the AIA had initially announced a starting date of Jan. 5 but postponed competition due to COVID-19 numbers in Arizona.
AIA playoffs are still set to happen for winter sports, but teams are not able to compete in regular tournaments or invitationals during the regular season.
Tentative plans are for no spectators for basketball or wrestling as indoor sports.
Soccer crowds will likely be limited.
AIA Executive Director David Hines said the starting date of Jan. 18 will stand unless Arizona is forced to shut down schools with surging coronavirus numbers.
Here are a few West Valley teams to watch this winter.
Millennium begins the 2020-21 season as back-to-back 5A state champions. The Tigers defeated Sunrise Mountain 59-30 in the 2020 championship game and are led by first-year head coach Kevin Thomas. Kassidy Dixon, a Grand Canyon University commit, is the team’s returning scoring and emotional leader.
Sunrise Mountain reached the 5A championship game for the first time last season and recorded a 26-5 record. Coach Jenn Tolle leads the Mustangs, who lost just two seniors from last year’s team. Julie Diveney is the Mustangs’ leading scorer (11.8) from last season.
Ironwood boasted a 28-2 record and won its first 5A title last season under coach Jordan Augustine. Seniors Bailon Black (12.8) and JJ White (12.7) are the top returning scorers and team captains as the Eagles attempt to repeat as champions.
Trivium Prep, Peoria and Millennium finished the 2019-20 season as runners-up in 2A, 4A and 5A. Peoria sophomore Andrew Camacho was one of the state’s top freshmen last season after averaging 14.7 points per game.
Millennium High finished 13-3-1 and reached the 5A quarterfinals, after finishing as runners-up the year before. Trivium Prep reached the 3A semifinals before bowing out.
Estrella Foothills’ Cassidy Sims (19) and Jami O’brien (15) led 4A freshmen in goals in 2019-20.
Washington won the 4A championship last season with a last-minute goal to defeat Arcadia 2-1 in the title game. The Rams will try to repeat that success under coach Adam Roberts. Also in 4A, Thunderbird senior goalkeeper David De Haro led the conference in saves (158) as a junior.
Ironwood and Sunrise Mountain reached the 5A semifinals in 2019-20. Both teams return several contributors to last year’s postseason runs.
Copper Canyon returns nine seniors from last season’s 6A quarterfinal team under first-year coach Brian Buttler. However, it is uncertain when and if the Tolleson Union High School District teams will be allowed to play, after TUHSD canceled most of fall’s sports seasons.
Liberty returns to 2020-21 as defending champions, after winning the Division 1 team title for the second consecutive season.