After a season that started with so much promise ended in heartbreak, Highland Park will look to reload behind a deep and experienced volleyball roster.
However, those familiar faces will meet a new landscape for the Lady Scots, whose jump to Class 6A presents daunting postseason obstacles.
Last season, HP established state tournament aspirations by defeating some of the top teams in Texas in August. However, the Lady Scots suffered a narrow loss to Frisco Reedy in the fourth round of the Class 5A Region II playoffs.
“That has not gone away in the minds of the returning players,” said longtime HP head coach Michael Dearman. “It’s not something we are dwelling on, but it’s something that is motivating us.”
The Lady Scots graduated just four players. They will have 12 returnees this year, including eight seniors, many with multiple years of experience on the varsity level.
“Everything we accomplished last year, we have built on that in the offseason,” Dearman said. “The continuity is going to be a big plus. They’ve learned a lot and have gotten better. Those returning players are coming in more skilled and more experienced than last year. It gives us a lot of hope for great things.”
The top returnees include outside hitter Sydney Breon (verbally committed to UCLA), middle blocker Ceci Gooch (committed to Michigan), and setter Gracie Braner. HP also will have senior transfer Zoe Winford (committed to Georgia Tech) at libero.
Also back are Margo Flint, Harper Hall, Alex Richter, Sydney Johnson, Nicole Mauser, and Bella Ocampo, who each gained significant varsity experience a year ago.
The non-district campaign will be grueling as usual for the Lady Scots, followed by a District 7-6A slate that includes opponents from Irving and Richardson ISD — an upgrade over the alignments at the 5A level.
“We’re looking forward to having some good competition,” Dearman said. “It’s going to be a different level in district than what we’ve experienced the last few years.”
Dearman hopes HP will be battle-tested for a potential 6A Region II playoff bracket that would likely include perennial powers Allen, Prosper, Southlake Carroll, and Plano West.
“This is a unique opportunity for us even though we’re moving up to 6A,” Dearman said. “It’s a matter of understanding the position that we were in and that we have another chance.”