April 1, 2014

  • HP Lacrosse Program Gets Some Love
    The Highland Park boys lacrosse program has a private practice facility in the shadow of Love Field (Photo: Chris McGathey)

    Highland Park Boys Lacrosse has a private practice facility in the shadow of Love Field. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

    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.”

    By Todd Jorgenson Apr. 1, 2014 | 4:44 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS
    • Lady Scots Face Rematch With Frisco
      Lauren Echols and the Lady Scots will face Frisco on Friday. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

      Lauren Echols and the Lady Scots will face Frisco on Friday. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

      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.

      By Todd Jorgenson Apr. 1, 2014 | 11:04 am | No Comments | Comments RSS
      • March 30, 2014

      • Gymnast Raises the Bar For HP
        Natalie Alkire won the all-around title for HP at the district meet on March 25.

        Natalie Alkire won the all-around title at the district meet on March 25. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

        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.”

        By Todd Jorgenson Mar. 30, 2014 | 10:15 am | No Comments | Comments RSS
        • March 28, 2014

        • Mariners Make Pitch to Young
          Former Highland Park standout Chris Young was signed by the Seattle Mariners on Thursday.

          Former Highland Park standout Chris Young was signed by the Seattle Mariners on Thursday.

          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.

          By Todd Jorgenson Mar. 28, 2014 | 5:12 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS
          • March 27, 2014

          • Lady Scots Set For Next Playoff Test
            Hope Hyde scored three goals for HP in a 10-0 win over Paris on Monday. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

            Hope Hyde scored three goals for Highland Park during a 10-0 win over Paris on Monday. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

            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.

            By Todd Jorgenson Mar. 27, 2014 | 11:17 am | No Comments | Comments RSS
            • March 26, 2014

            • Looney Throws No-Hitter For Scots
              Layne Looney isn't pitching here, but he threw a no-hitter against Carrollton Creekview on Tuesday. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

              Layne Looney isn’t pitching here, but he threw a no-hitter against Carrollton Creekview. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

              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.

              By Todd Jorgenson Mar. 26, 2014 | 3:53 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS
              • March 24, 2014

              • Lady Scots Will Kick Off Postseason Tonight
                Lauren Echols and the Lady Scots will open the Class 4A Region II playoffs today against Paris in Royse City.

                Lauren Echols and the Lady Scots will open the Class 4A Region II playoffs today against Paris in Royse City.

                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.”

                By Todd Jorgenson Mar. 24, 2014 | 1:17 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS
                • March 21, 2014

                • Kershaw Dealing Down Under
                  Clayton Kershaw will start the season opener for the Dodgers tonight in Australia.

                  Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw will start the season opener for the Dodgers tonight in Australia.

                  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.

                  By Todd Jorgenson Mar. 21, 2014 | 3:04 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS
                  • March 19, 2014

                  • Matlock Leaving HP For New Frisco School
                    Amy Matlock is leaving Highland Park after six seasons to become the head coach at Frisco Independence. (Photo: Rob Graham)

                    Amy Matlock is leaving Highland Park after six seasons to become the head coach at Frisco Independence. (Photo: Rob Graham)

                    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.

                    By Todd Jorgenson Mar. 19, 2014 | 2:21 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS
                    • March 17, 2014

                    • Lady Scots Have More Goals After 20-4A Title
                      Sara Summers and the HP girls soccer team will start the playoffs on March 24 against Paris.

                      Sara Summers and the Highland Park girls soccer team will start the playoffs on March 24 against Paris.

                      Having already clinched another District 20-4A title, the Highland Park girls soccer team won’t bring much drama to Tuesday’s regular-season finale.

                      After a week off for spring break, the Lady Scots (15-4-1, 7-0) will look to stay sharp and keep their momentum from a seven-game winning streak that dates back more than a month.

                      HP has outscored its opponents in seven league games by a combined 33-3, and has not allowed more than one goal in any game since a 4-0 loss to Wylie East on Jan. 21. The team has developed a balanced offensive attack led by Lauren Echols, Sara Summers, Hope Hyde, and Savanna Jones.

                      Tuesday’s contest against Carrollton Newman Smith — which is battling for one of the district’s final playoff spots — should provide a nice tuneup for the Lady Scots before the start of postseason play. In the bi-district round, HP will meet Paris at 5:30 p.m. March 24 at Royse City.

                      That’s where HP will begin its effort to avenge last season’s heartbreaking loss in the Class 4A state title game that spoiled an undefeated season.

                      The season finale also will feature a pregame ceremony to recognize a handful of seniors who will be playing their final game at Highlander Stadium.

                      At any rate, the Lady Scots seem to be peaking at the right time and playing their best soccer of the season.

                      By Todd Jorgenson Mar. 17, 2014 | 3:19 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS