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.”
Chris Young is not ready to retire from baseball just yet.
At age 34, and following several injury-plagued seasons, the former Highland Park High School standout will open the season in the starting rotation for the Seattle Mariners, who signed him yesterday.
The right-handed pitcher, who is one of the tallest players in MLB history at 6-foot-10, made the All-Star game as a member of the San Diego Padres in 2007. But he hasn’t pitched a full season in the big leagues since 2008 thanks to a variety of injuries.
Young has dealt with a variety of shoulder ailments in recent years, including last year, when he played in the minor leagues in the Washington Nationals organization before heading to the disabled list.
After a fresh diagnosis and offseason surgery, he signed another minor-league deal with the Nationals. He pitched well but was released earlier this week, clearing the way for the Mariners, who have suffered some injuries to their pitching staff.
“I feel completely different,” Young recently told the Washington Post. “I’ve battled shoulder stuff for really the last five years, and last year when they finally said this isn’t your shoulder, this is a nerve issue, thoracic outlet syndrome, my shoulder feels like it did five, six years ago. I’m really excited about it. I expect it to stay that way. It’s the best it’s felt in a long time. I want to get back to being the pitcher I can be.”
Young has 53 victories and 755 strikeouts in his MLB career, which includes stints with the Texas Rangers, Padres and New York Mets. He was a two-sport standout in baseball and basketball both at Highland Park and Princeton University.
It’s on to Round 2 in the soccer playoffs for the Highland Park girls, in the absurdly large Class 4A bracket in which lopsided matchups tend to reign supreme in the first few rounds.
The Lady Scots (17-4-1) hope to keep their momentum against McKinney North at 6 p.m. Friday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco.
HP easily dispatched Paris 10-0 in the bi-district round on Monday behind a hat trick from Hope Hyde, and have won nine straight games overall. Natalie Dargene added two goals in the playoff opener.
McKinney North could provide a solid test after sharing the District 17-4A title with Prosper during the regular season. The Lady Bulldogs, who topped Frisco Liberty 1-0 in the first round, are led offensively by the combination of Belicia Mendiola (20 goals this season) and Sabrina Martineau (14 goals).
The winner of Friday’s game will face either heavily favored Frisco or Little Elm in the sectional round next week.
Let’s flash back to 2012, when the Lady Scots also opened the postseason with a 10-0 thrashing of Paris, then followed with a 1-0 win over McKinney North. They went on to win the 4A state title that spring. Whether that’s an omen, of course, remains to be seen.
By the way, there will be a public send-off for the team at 3:40 p.m. Friday at Highland Park High School.
It was a night for great pitching on Tuesday at Scotland Yard, and Layne Looney reached an individual milestone to which all hurlers aspire.
Looney pitched a no-hitter for the Scots (11-10, 2-3), with two walks and 12 strikeouts, while tossing his second consecutive shutout in District 10-4A play. Looney also blanked Mesquite Poteet last week.
Highland Park had just two hits in the game, but the Scots were able to take advantage of four Creekview errors to scratch out a run in both the fourth and fifth innings.
Forget the four nondistrict losses during an inconsistent start to the season. The Highland Park girls soccer team knows when it’s playoff time.
The Lady Scots are carrying plenty of momentum into postseason play after another undefeated run through the District 20-4A schedule, and head coach Stewart Brown said he thinks HP is capable of another deep run.
“We’ve learned a lot over the early part of the season, and we’re peaking at the right time,” Brown said. “We’ve been working on a lot of stuff all year. Some of that is coming together very nicely. Our confidence is high now, and the energy level is higher as well.”
The Lady Scots (16-4-1) will face Paris in the bi-district round of the Class 4A Region II playoffs at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Royse City. It will be the third time in the last four seasons that HP has opened postseason play against the Lady Cats, with the Lady Scots winning 8-0 in 2011 and 10-0 in 2012.
HP outscored its opponents in eight league games by a combined 43-3, and has not allowed more than one goal in any game since a 4-0 loss to Wylie East on Jan. 21.
If it reaches the state tournament, scheduled for April 17-19 in Georgetown, HP will get its opportunity to avenge last season’s heartbreaking loss in the Class 4A state title game that spoiled an undefeated season. That came one year after the Lady Scots took home the crown in 2012.
Brown said the current roster has the talent and experience to make another run in the program’s final season at the 4A level.
“We’re very deep talent-wise, and the girls are very hungry,” he said. “This team is certainly as good as those teams, and maybe better in some aspects. We have the experience of the last couple of years to help us when things get tough.”
For all but two of the teams in Major League Baseball, the season opener is more than a week away.
However, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks will start the regular season tonight when they open a two-game series at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia.
As expected, former Highland Park standout Clayton Kershaw will start the opener for the Dodgers. Kershaw, of course, won his second National League Cy Young Award over the winter and signed a record contract extension.
In the other dugout, former HP pitcher Bo Schultz is on the active roster for the Diamondbacks and could make his MLB debut during the series.
Most of us will have to adjust our sleep patterns to see the game, however. It will air live on MLB Network at 3 a.m.
Highland Park girls basketball coach Amy Matlock said she is leaving the school to become the head coach and girls athletic coordinator at the new Independence High School in Frisco.
Matlock just wrapped up her sixth season with the Lady Scots, who finished with a 17-10 record and fell to The Colony in the bi-district round of the Class 4A Region II playoffs. HP will move up to the new Class 6A next season.
After coming to HP from Wylie, Matlock led the Lady Scots to the playoffs in five of her six seasons at the helm, including a trip to the regional semifinals in 2012 to cap a 25-8 season that was one of the most successful campaigns in program history.
Independence will open in the fall as the seventh high school in Frisco ISD, and will be part of a nine-team alignment in District 9-5A.
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