Leaving 2020 disappointments behind, soccer players, other athletes cautiously optimistic
Within the scope of a global pandemic, perhaps playing sports isn’t the highest of priorities. Just don’t tell that to high school athletes.
In the year since COVID-19 disrupted daily life in every way, teenage competitors are among those who’ve had to adapt their routines to a new normal.
Yet, in many ways, like their peers at other schools, Highland Park athletes have been resilient, finding ways to thrive amid the uncertainty.
On April 17, 2020, the Highland Park girls soccer team was supposed to be at the Class 5A state tournament in Georgetown as the defending champion and favorite to repeat. Instead, the Lady Scots met online to share some somber news. Their suspended season would not resume.
“It might have been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a coach — tell 14 very talented seniors that their high school careers were over,” said former HP girls soccer coach Stewart Brown. “But the girls love each other and huddled around each other. What you get out of being a high school athlete is the friendships you create and the journey you get to share.”
“We’ve talked about things you take for granted. the girls definitely have a feeling from last year of some unfinished business.”Jackie Hlavaty
Although they never finished their seasons, spring programs — including soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse, and track and field — found creative ways to honor their outgoing seniors and keep a positive outlook.
A few months later, football and volleyball athletes began their campaigns with adapted schedules and strict protocols. Even then, HP had to cancel stretches of games in football, volleyball, and boys basketball because of quarantines and contact tracing.
“It’s been a challenge, but our guys met the challenge,” said HP football coach Randy Allen, whose team finished 11-1 and advanced to the fourth round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs. “We have great senior leadership and staff continuity. That helps you maintain consistency with adversity and change.”
On the soccer field, this season began with a certain finish-what-they-started mindset for the returning Lady Scots, albeit with a more cautious optimism given public health challenges. They, too, dealt with a two-week hiatus early in the year.
“We’ve talked about things you take for granted,” said Jackie Hlavaty, the longtime assistant who took over as head coach when Brown left over the summer. “The girls definitely have a feeling from last year of some unfinished business. They’re excited to be back on the field.”
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