Lady Scots Add Motivation for Second Title Defense

Soccer team cautiously optimistic after pandemic-shortened 2020 season

When we last saw Highland Park on the soccer field in March, the Lady Scots were steamrolling toward another district crown and preparing to defend their Class 5A state title.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly cut the season short, prematurely terminating those aspirations and ending the high school careers of HP’s seniors.

So this season begins with a certain finish-what-they-started mindset for the returning Lady Scots, albeit with a more cautious optimism given public health challenges.

“There was a big lesson there,” said HP head coach Jackie Hlavaty, the longtime assistant who took over when Stewart Brown left over the summer. “We’ve talked about things you take for granted.”

“The girls definitely have a feeling from last year of some unfinished business. They’re excited to be back on the field.”

Jackie Hlavaty

Besides the program’s first coaching change in more than a decade, HP had to adapt its offseason routine to account for health protocols — conducting workouts virtually or with social distancing in mind.

“Everything this year feels different,” Hlavaty said. “The girls definitely have a feeling from last year of some unfinished business. They’re excited to be back on the field.”

Despite the obvious hurdles, Hlavaty said the transition has been smooth, with the returnees eager to carve their legacy while still honoring tradition. Little has changed in that regard.

With the UIL’s blessing, the soccer campaign is expected to start on schedule, with HP slated to host its annual season-opening tournament in early January. The state tournament is planned for mid-April in Georgetown, where the Lady Scots topped Mansfield Legacy in the 2019 championship game.

The most experienced returnees for HP include Maja Davison Lardner (a Georgetown signee), Keller Matise (an Arkansas signee), Amelia Stevens, Josie Hart, and Maddy McNeely. Among the other top prospects is Grace Crowe, a newcomer from New Jersey.

Despite the talented and highly motivated roster, Hlavaty knows there might be some hurdles early as the Lady Scots try to settle into their usual rhythm. Regardless of how the season turns out, the Lady Scots intend to savor the experience and not take anything for granted.

“The girls are responding really well. They’ve been waiting for so long,” Hlavaty said. “The energy has been great.”

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