HP Girls Take Perfect Mark Into Playoffs

Highland Park's quest for perfection continues on Thursday with its playoff opener against Longview Pine Tree. (Photo: Chris McGathey)
Highland Park’s quest for perfection continues on Thursday with its playoff opener against Longview Pine Tree. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

Even as Highland Park has transformed itself over the last decade into a perennial state powerhouse in girls soccer, the Lady Scots never had a perfect regular season on their resume.

Notice the past tense. That changed this year. Twenty victories. No losses. No ties.

Obviously, HP would like to keep that zero in the loss column through April 15. Doing so would give the Lady Scots their first state title since 2012.

Their playoff opener is a bi-district matchup against Longview Pine Tree, slated for 6 p.m. Thursday in Royse City. A boys game between the same two teams will follow at 7:30 p.m.

HP appears well positioned for a deep run, returning several top players after consecutive runner-up finishes at the Class 6A level. This year, the Lady Scots are in Class 5A.

They have outscored their 20 opponents this season by a combined margin of 99-6. That’s an average of almost five goals per game, with 16 shutouts on the defensive end. They swept to the District 15-5A title without any serious challenge.

HP has earned recognition from various pollsters this season, even holding a No. 1 national ranking for the winter season on TopDrawerSoccer.com. However, head coach Stewart Brown knows that all of the accolades can disappear with just one slip-up in postseason play.

“We’re going to have to play at such a high level and get some luck along the way,” Brown said. “We’re very fortunate to we have a group of girls who know how to navigate the system through the playoffs. They know what it takes to win big games.”

The Lady Scots have shown balance on offense this season, led by the trio of senior Riley Malone, junior Rachel Wasserman — who has verbally committed to Penn State — and freshman Presley Echols. The three have combined for more than 60 goals. Frances Ann Matise and Sarah O’Neal have double-digit goal totals.

“If a team is bold enough to try and shut down Rachel, then we have others who can step up and fill in,” Brown said. “They know what to expect. Different teams have tried to slow us down in different ways. But we’re very flexible in terms of how we play.”

Plenty of depth and experience might give HP an advantage, but it also puts the proverbial target on the backs of the Lady Scots during the playoffs.

“We have a great balance of experience and youth. It’s worked out really well for us,” Brown said. “This team has a really good focus.”

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