Motivation won’t be a problem this season for the Highland Park girls soccer team, and neither will optimism.
The Lady Scots suffered a heartbreaking shootout loss to Flower Mound in the Class 6A state championship game last spring, and have several players returning who were on the field that day.
That group will be eager to atone for that defeat this season, which would allow HP to claim its first state title since 2012, after coming up short at the state tournament in each of the past two seasons.
Those are lofty ambitions, but such expectations are common for a program that head coach Stewart Brown has developed into a perennial state power.
HP must replace Savanna Jones, who signed with Texas Tech after tallying a team-high 29 goals and dishing out a remarkable 41 assists last year as the high-scoring Lady Scots finished with a 24-3-2 record.
However, a handful of top scorers return this season, including Jones’ younger sister, Sierra, along with Rachel Wasserman, Sarah O’Neal, Riley Malone, and others. There will be plenty of firepower in front of returning goalkeeper K.K. Callahan.
If that’s not enough to inspire confidence, HP is dropping to Class 5A this season after playing the past two years at the 6A level — and earning state runner-up finishes both times.
On the boys side, HP will try to reverse its recent fortunes during 2017 after struggling at the 6A level. In fact, the Scots haven’t qualified for the playoffs since 2013, when they advanced to the regional semifinals in Class 4A (now 5A).
However, the Scots have reason to expect improvement this spring, with a solid core of returnees who contributed to a team that was victimized by numerous close losses a year ago. Plus, there’s the drop to 5A, which could pay dividends.
The HP boys and girls will host their season-opening tournament on Jan. 5-7, and start District 15-5A play on Jan. 24. The playoffs are slated to begin in late March.