In the playoffs, it’s not about how you win, but only whether you win. So the Highland Park girls won’t complain after a 3-2 overtime victory over Forney on Tuesday in a Class 4A Region II quarterfinal.
Sara Summers scored the game-winner in the first overtime for the Lady Scots (20-4-1), while Hope Hyde scored both of the regulation goals, giving her eight in four postseason games.
The win sends HP back to the regional tournament, where it will face Waxahachie, a 1-0 winner over Whitehouse in another regional quarterfinal on Tuesday. That game will start a semifinal doubleheader on Friday at Standridge Stadium in Carrollton.
It was the second time this season that the Lady Scots knocked off the Lady Jackrabbits, including a 2-1 win during a season-opening tournament in January at Highlander Stadium. It also marked HP’s 12th consecutive victory overall.
This is the biggest week of the track and field season for dozens of Highland Park athletes attempting to run, jump, and throw themselves one step closer to the state meet.
Their first postseason opportunity comes at the District 10-4A meet at Standridge Stadium in Carrollton, which is whittling the competition down to eight finalists in each event during today’s preliminaries.
The top four finishers in each event will advance to the area meet next week, also in Carrollton, which will combine districts 9-4A and 10-4A to determine regional qualifiers.
The 3,200-meter finals are slated for today, along with the finals in pole vault, shot put, and triple jump. The rest of the events will be tomorrow, with field events (long jump, high jump, and discus) starting at 10 a.m. and running finals getting underway at 3:15 p.m.
As the field continues to dwindle, the games get bigger for the Highland Park girls soccer team during its postseason run.
The next test for the Lady Scots will come on Tuesday, when HP faces Forney in the Class 4A Region II quarterfinals at 6 p.m. at Lake Highlands. It will be a rematch of a game that HP won 2-1 in January during a season-opening tournament at Highlander Stadium.
The Lady Scots (19-4-1) advanced to the regional quarterfinals with a 2-1 victory over Frisco on Friday, marking their 10th straight win overall. Hope Hyde and Megan Uhr scored the goals for HP, giving Hyde six goals in three playoff games.
Forney knocked off Wylie 2-1 in the sectional round on Friday. The Lady Jackrabbits (17-6-3) were the runner-up behind Mesquite Poteet in District 23-4A during the regular season. Forney’s Kayleigh Phillips is one of the top strikers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The winner will move on to the regional semifinals this weekend in Carrollton, and will meet either Waxahachie or Whitehouse on Friday.
By the way, in boys playoff action, Poteet and Frisco Wakeland will play their regional quarterfinal at Highlander Stadium at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Editor’s note: This story also appears in the April edition of Park Cities People.
Vaughn Miller thinks the sport of polo gets a bad rap.
The Highland Park resident is trying a more grassroots approach to spreading the popularity of a sport known for its royal roots and country-club reputation. He wants to open the game up to children, and to those families who might not own a stable full of horses.
That’s one reason why, in 2008, after more than a decade playing regularly at other clubs throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Miller founded Prestonwood Polo Club, located in the community of Oak Point, just north of Lewisville Lake near Little Elm.
“We wanted to be accessible to everyone. Polo has this reputation as an elitist sport,” Miller said. “We knew we had something special and wanted to build on that.”
Two years later, he started a youth camp with the help of a grant from the United States Polo Association. He said the summer program so far has hosted about 24 kids, who are provided with equipment and an equine partner.
Miller traces his love for polo back more than 20 years. He one played alongside Prince Charles of Wales in a charity match overseas, and even met his wife at a match.
He has passed that passion along to his two sons, Vaughn Jr., 14, and Vance, 13, who comprise two-thirds of Prestonwood’s youth select team that has become nationally recognized. The third is Ronnie Puente, who attends Little Elm High School.
“They both fell in love with the sport and became good at it,” said Miller, who also coaches a women’s club team at TCU.
The Prestonwood varsity team began competing at the USPA Open National Interscholastic Championships two years ago, and last year was the youngest team at the national event, which is played with three players instead of four, and on a much smaller field than traditional polo.
In February, Prestonwood won its second consecutive Central Regional Championship in Houston, with Vaughn Miller Jr. being named the tournament MVP. The younger Miller said he hopes to eventually earn a college scholarship in polo.
“I was always riding horses from a really young age,” said Vaughn Jr., a freshman at Highland Park High School. “I practiced a lot and got a lot better. My goal is to be one of the best players in the world, and I feel I can do that.”
The Highland Park girls soccer team continued its quest to make a return trip to the state tournament on Friday when it knocked off Frisco 2-1 in the Class 4A Region II sectional round in Richardson.
Hope Hyde and Megan Uhr scored the goals for the Lady Scots (19-4-1), who won their 11th consecutive game. Jordan Hill scored the only goal for the Lady Raccoons (22-3), as Frisco fell to HP in the sectional round for the second straight year.
The Lady Scots advance to the regional quarterfinals, where they will meet Forney, which knocked off Wylie 2-1 on Friday. Those teams have a history as well, as HP defeated Forney 2-1 in a season-opening tournament in February at Highlander Stadium.
As the District 10-4A baseball schedule hits the halfway mark, there’s little doubt who the MVP has been for Highland Park.
Layne Looney was the hero again during a 2-1 win over Terrell on Thursday at Scotland Yard. He pitched a complete game, allowing an unearned run while striking out 10. That gives him a 6-0 record this season and a 0.35 earned-run average. He has pitched 23 straight innings without allowing an earned run, and that stretch included a no-hitter last week against Carrollton Creekview.
He also came up with the game-winning hit at the plate last night against the Tigers, allowing HP to win its third straight game and climb back into contention for a playoff spot. In those three victories, the Scots (13-10, 4-3) have scored a total of just seven runs, but have allowed only one. Plus, Creekview and Terrell were tied for the district lead entering Thursday.
HP faces another crucial home game tonight when it opens the second half of the 10-4A slate against Forney.
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If recent history holds true, the District 10-4A tennis tournament this weekend should be little more than a tuneup for Highland Park.
The Scots have bigger goals in mind this spring, namely a repeat of their effort from a year ago at the Class 4A state tournament in Austin, where HP tied its own state record by winning titles in four of the five classifications.
“I’m hoping that we can do that again,” said HP head coach Dan Holden. “I think we’ve got a legitimate shot.”
But that opportunity is a few weeks away. First, the focus is on the district tournament, which begins Friday at Fair Oaks Tennis Center. The action shifts to Highland Park for the semifinals and finals on Saturday morning.
“We’re the favorites to win and finish second in every category at this point,” Holden said. “Any time you get into the playoffs, you want to start off well and progress on through the state championship.”
HP will have two entries in each of the five brackets. They include:
- Boys singles — Cole Hausman and Matt Wojtaszek
- Girls singles — Chandler Carter and Caitlyn Frankel
- Boys doubles — Hunter Holman/Connor LaFavre and Gardiner Perotti/Harrison Buford
- Girls doubles — Elizabeth Porter/Margo Taylor and Elizabeth Burgos/Jennifer Mee
- Mixed doubles — Mac McCullough/Elizabeth Tedford and Charlie Legg/Logan Lett
This spring, the Scots have picked up where they left off in the fall team season, when HP won another crown in its final season at the 4A classification. The Scots will move up to the new Class 6A later this year.
“It’s time to put everything together and get that snowball rolling downhill,” Holden said. “We’re heading toward that peak. The kids have worked hard all spring, and I think they’re playing good tennis.”
None of the three state championship doubles teams from 2013 will have the chance to repeat together, although LaFavre won a title a year ago in mixed doubles, while his new partner, Holman, earned gold in boys doubles.
One bracket in which the Scots lack experience is boys singles, a division in which they didn’t even have a state qualifier last season. Both Hausman and Wojtaszek are freshmen that could surprise this time around, Holden said.
“We’re looking for some good things from them, but they are young,” he said.
Holden said the high expectations this month for HP stem from the program’s consistent performance in years past.
“That’s something we talk about all the time. Every class that comes in has to be mindful of the tradition, and what they’ve been handed by their brothers and sisters before them,” Holden said. “They embrace that. They expect to win. It’s definitely about winning championships around here.”
When it comes to planes, trains, and automobiles, Steve Martin and John Candy have nothing on the Highland Park boys lacrosse program.
The program has made its home for the past several years at Southwest Fields, on a donated 14 acres of grass adjacent to Love Field.
So the average practice or game there features jet engines in full roar, DART trains in spectator sightlines, and plenty of SUVs in the parking lot driven by Park Cities commuters.
“It’s just vital to our program,” said Richard Crow, president of Highland Park Boys Lacrosse. “In the Park Cities, we have limited fields. We just have to be creative with where we can play.”
Southwest Fields was the brainchild of a few fathers of players in the program who worked with Southwest Airlines. The company had some spare land, and agreed to lease it to HPBL for free.
The complex includes four fields. The lease, which took effect in 2006, requires the program to maintain the fields, which costs about $2,000 per month, Crow said. Three of the four fields have irrigation systems.
Still, it’s well worth that cost for unlimited use by an organization that has grown to include more than 500 kids ranging from 5-year-olds to the varsity level.
“There’s a big sense of pride,” Crow said. “ Not only do we appreciate using it, but we take great care of it.”
The natural-grass fields are most commonly used for practices for the high school teams, who play their home games on turf at Highlander Stadium.
During the season, the varsity squad usually schedules one workout each week at the complex, while the junior varsity team practices there about four times a week. In the offseason, the varsity squad heads over there more frequently.
It also can host games for younger age groups, some of which have practices at other HPISD facilities.
In exchange for the generosity, HPBL makes an effort to publicize Southwest on its website and in its printed materials.
Crow said that with available land at a premium in the Park Cities, having a private practice facility has been ideal to support the local growth of the sport — even if it’s not exactly quiet given its proximity to an active runway.
“It’s a great sport, and kids tell their friends,” Crow said. “We have a really great group of volunteer parents and coaches that make a huge difference. The growth of our youth program has led to a lot of success at the high school level.”
Highland Park will face its toughest test so far in the Class 4A girls soccer playoffs when it meets Frisco in the Region II sectional round at 6 p.m. Friday at Eagle-Mustang Stadium in Richardson.
The Lady Scots (18-4-1), surged past McKinney North 4-1 on Friday in the area round, led by two goals from sophomore Hope Hyde, who has scored five times so far in the playoffs. Lauren Echols and Savanna Jones each added goals for HP, which has won 10 straight games overall.
The Lady Raccoons (22-2) have outscored Denison and Little Elm by a combined 13-0 in their two postseason victories. Jordan Hill, one of the top sophomore goal scorers in the state, found the net twice during a 4-0 win over Little Elm on Friday.
It will be a rematch of a sectional-round game from 2013, which the Lady Scots won 3-0 on their way to the 4A state tournament.
She might be the new girl at Highland Park High School, but Natalie Alkire hasn’t fit in among her gymnastics teammates. She stands out.
The University Park resident enrolled at HPHS as a junior after several years of homeschooling and immediately joined the school’s program in gymnastics, a sport in which she’s excelled for more than a decade.
She hasn’t been fazed by the transition, winning the all-around title in almost every meet this season for the Lady Scots, including their district meet on March 25. She is expected to qualify for the Texas High School Gymnastics Coaches Association state meet in April in suburban Houston, where she will be a legitimate all-around medal contender.
“For Natalie to be coming into high school gymnastics for the first time and be among the best is really good,” said HP head coach Brandi Wren. “I think some of the girls were pretty amazed.”
Alkire typically competes year-round for Texas Champion Gymnastics in Plano, but said the support of her new teammates has increased her enjoyment of the sport. Her success also has eased the transition to public school.
“It was overwhelming the first day. I wasn’t used to walking to class, and there were a lot of people,” Alkire said. “You still have the same nerves [during competitions], but it’s really nice to have a team there to support you.”
For the Lady Scots, Alkire’s arrival was timely following the graduation of Arielle Iola, who won an all-around state title last year as a senior. Alkire has provided a boost — both physically and psychologically — during what would have been a rebuilding year for the team.
“She’s continued to improve,” Wren said. “She’s much more confident than she was when she first walked in here.”
Alkire said floor exercise and uneven bars are her two favorite events, while balance beam is most often her nemesis. Although she still is passionate about the sport she started at age 5, she isn’t sure whether she wants to keep twisting and tumbling after her high school days are over.
Still, she has high hopes for the postseason, including the Region I meet on April 9-10 at Rockwall-Heath and the state meet on April 25-26 in Alvin.
“For the most part, I’ve been consistent,” Alkire said. “I just want to make my routines and do well.”
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