Apologies for not just getting straight to the fall sports predictions. But with a new school year upon us, I thought I'd answer a few more general questions about how and why I do predictions.
It's time again for my fall sports predictions, in which I try to make the safest pick possible after as much research as possible.
You may ask: why so "much research" -- aren't predictions just opinions?
That may be true, but high school athletes care -- a lot -- about predictions and rankings. It gives them an idea on where they stand in their field. It's not like you can buy one of 50 preseason publications predicting and breaking down each team like you see for pro and college sports. A lot of times, this (the N&O family) is the only place they get to see them - so it's not enough for me to just throw them out there without serious thought.
Your next question may be: so why the safest pick?
Because if a team adopts a "nobody thinks we can do it" attitude, it should at least be legitmate. If I did something crazy, like say Lee County boys soccer will beat Green Hope 8-0 this year, you'd better believe the Green Hope players who found out would be a little extra pumped up for that game just to prove "doubters" (me) wrong. Did I mention high school athletes care -- a lot -- about predictions? Of course, such a prediction would be risky of me -- and would create a false sense of who is and is not the underdog.
Predictions carry a lot of weight in high school sports. It's why most writers don't do them -- and I respect that more than someone who wants to do them just because.
But I'm confident in mine, which is why I'm bringing back fall sports predictions for another year. For each of the fall sports I will list the number of teams I expect to advance to the state playoffs.
In the case of golf and cross country, I will list the teams I expect to advance to regionals from the conference meet.
In the case of football, that will be its own blog tomorrow.
Boys Soccer (top 5 have playoff berths): As noted in my boys soccer preview, the conference has seen 4 different champs in 4 years. I don't think we'll go 5-for-5. Instead, Green Hope is my No. 1. I've got Fuquay-Varina second, Apex third, Athens Drive fourth and Holly Springs fifth as the last playoff team. Area preview for boys soccer.
Volleyball (top 5 have playoff berths): I think Green Hope breaks through here to win the league. My No. 2 team was hard, but I like Panther Creek, followed by Cary for third. My final two playoff spots go to Apex (yeah, I can see myself eating crow for having the defending state champs fourth) and Athens Drive (fifth). This may be the hardest one to predict. The top four teams could win just about any other 4-A conference in the East. Area preview for volleyball.
Girls Tennis (top 2 have playoff berths): I think we see a changing of the guard here, with Panther Creek winning its first league championship. It won't be easy though. Green Hope is my No. 2, and they're trying to make it a four-peat of the conference title. A lot of times the Tri-Nine gets a third team in as a wild card. I think Holly Springs is the most likely candidate for that (would have been Cary before Jamie Rogers' injury). Area preview for girls tennis.
Boys Cross Country: I know Panther Creek is ranked one spot higher than Green Hope in the NCRunners.com rankings, but I think GH will improve as the season goes along and win the Tri-Nine. Those two plus Cary and Athens should all qualify for the Mideast regional. I don't see Athens qualifying for states, but the other three could. Area preview for cross country.
Girls Cross Country: I could go ahead and say that Green Hope will win a third straight title and it STILL not qualify as "going out on a limb." That's when you know you're good. Anyway, I think only Green Hope will make it to states from the Tri-Nine. Area preview for cross country.
Girls Golf: Athens Drive wins the league easily. Middle Creek is my No. 2. Area preview for girls golf coming Wednesday.