By Mike Schoeffel / Special Contributor
ROUND ROCK — Highland Park is heading back to the state soccer tournament for the fourth time in five years.
The Lady Scots, who finished as Class 6A runners-up last season, defeated Rockwall 4-0 in the Class 6A Region II championship game on Saturday at the Reeves Athletic Complex.
HP dominated possession throughout the game, using crisp passes to create a barrage of scoring opportunities. The Lady Scots (23-2-2) will play in the state semifinals on April 15 in Georgetown against an opponent to be announced Monday.
“I’m excited for the seniors,” said Highland Park head coach Stewart Brown. “They’ve worked hard building the culture here and I’m excited they’ll have an opportunity to finish their high school careers with a state title.”
HP took a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute, when Riley Malone found the back of the net after the Rockwall goalkeeper worked her way out of position. That goal loosened up the Scots a bit, said Brown.
“We created some nice chances and took advantage of those chances,” he said. “Rockwall had a good game plan, but after we scored that first goal, we settled into a rhythm and started playing the game the way we wanted to play it.”
Malone’s goal indeed opened the floodgates for the Lady Scots. Just three minutes after the initial breach, Savanna Jones ripped a howitzer from 15 yards out to give HP a 2-0 lead.
That goal was followed by a lightning delay that lasted about an hour. Fans were ushered out of the stadium and made to wait in the parking lot until the threat passed. When play resumed, the final 10 or so minutes of the first half wound down without a goal.
Highland Park put the game out of reach in the second half.
Twelve minutes in, Malone beat the Rockwall keeper, who nearly made an acrobatic diving save to her left. The Lady Scots tacked on their fourth and final goal with just under 15 minutes remaining, when Claire Addison hooked a shot into the top right corner of the net.
After the game, just moments after the Scots rallied around championship trophy, Brown gave his team a pointed message — enjoy the ride.
“There’s going to be a lot of hoopla going on at the school throughout the week, and I told them to just soak it all in,” he said. “No matter what happens next week, they’ve already accomplished so much.”