Prior to last season, everything seemed new for the Highland Park girls basketball team — a new coach installing a new system with a handful of new players.
Combine that with enduring their first season at the Class 6A level, and there would have been plenty of excuses for the Lady Scots to stumble.
Yet the first season under head coach Nicole Villarreal instead wound up with HP winning 20 games, including one in the playoffs, and finishing as the runner-up in District 10-6A.
Now, with the up-tempo system firmly installed and eight returnees who played significant minutes a year ago, players and coaches expect to build off their success.
“It was exciting to watch them progress,” Villarreal said. “Now the expectations are higher and everyone knows their role.
There will be plenty of depth and experience within a group that includes returnees Mikaela Read, Caroline Van Kirk, Julia Jenevein, Emily Weisfeld, Morgan Smith, Eve Loewe, and Mary Margaret Roberts. Many of them played together this summer on the Highland Park Hurricanes select team.
“It was hard in the beginning of last year because we were learning the offense and defense, and learning our positions,” Van Kirk said. “Now we’re already used to everything. It’s really a team effort.”
Indeed, balanced scoring benefited the Lady Scots last season as they adjusted to a game plan that incorporates quick ball movement, pressure defense, and aggressiveness on both ends of the court.
“We don’t have a star,” Villarreal said. “No one’s selfish and everyone knows we need to have each other.”
Villarreal has elected to upgrade the nondistrict schedule this season to better prepare HP for the rigors of a league schedule that includes two games against state power Richardson and other tough opponents.
The Lady Scots will open the season on Tuesday against Rockwall, the team that ended HP’s season in the area round of the playoffs last year. And in December, they will travel to Lincoln and will play in the prestigious Sandra Meadows Classic tournament in Duncanville during the holidays.
“We’ve been able to pick up where we left off,” Villarreal said. “It’s been a lot smoother. It’s starting to look like a program now.”