Highland Park’s Lauren McMahon, left, and Kendyl Reaugh attempt a block during Thursday’s playoff match against Frisco Wakeland. The Lady Scots lost in five sets. (Photo: Chris McGathey)
By Michael Finnegan / Special Contributor
RICHARDSON — In the type of seesaw thriller usually reserved for later rounds of the playoffs, Highland Park was narrowly eliminated by Frisco Wakeland, 16-25, 25-22, 25-16, 20-25, 19-17, in the Class 5A Region II area round on Thursday.
The Scots were ousted in the second round for the third consecutive season. HP dominated District 11-5A play with a perfect 14-0 record and was coming off a bi-district sweep of Sunset. And early on, it looked as if the Lady Scots (30-16) would keep rolling.
In the first set, Lauren McMahon had two early kills and HP went ahead 11-4 after a service ace by sophomore Carter Ching. She set up a blistering spike by Emily Hellmuth, and Wakeland was forced to call a timeout after McMahon’s tip pushed the lead to 20-11.
Rylee Williams’ deep spike capped a short run by the Wolverines (35-5), but a hard slam followed by strong block by Reaugh sealed the opening set for the Lady Scots. Reaugh, who is verbally committed to Alabama, amassed 25 kills and several crucial blocks at the net.
“Kendyl is the leader of this team,” said HP head coach Michael Dearman. “She played great tonight just as she did all year.”
The momentum shifted in the second set as Wakeland led most of the way, but with Reaugh serving, the Lady Scots went on a 4-0 run and cut the lead to 24-22 before Wakeland tied the match. With Williams leading the way, the Wolverines never trailed in the next frame. A block by Katherine Sudderth and subsequent kill by Williams gave Wakeland a 25-16 third set win.
“Wakeland is a very talented team,” Dearman said. “They did exactly what we thought, what we scouted, but we came up just short.”
The Lady Scots needed to capture the next set to extend the match. Thanks to some pinpoint serving by Kennedy Westendorff and Kennedy Proctor, they did just that.
Clinging to a 16-14 lead, the two sophomores combined for four service aces. With HP leading 24-20, Anna Claire Nichol, another sophomore, pushed the match to a fifth and final set with a crushing kill.
“We’re very young,” Dearman said. “We have only three seniors, with several sophomores and two freshman seeing lots of playing time.”
The deciding set was even more thrilling than the previous four. HP took its first lead at 7-6 on another powerful spike by Reaugh. However, the Wolverines went on a 6-0 tear to go up 12-7. Kate Nugent’s slam stopped the run and cut the lead to 12-8. Nugent finished with six kills and five digs.
The Lady Scots tied the score at 13-13, then saved five match points before the Wolverines finally advanced.
“I am so proud of this team,” said Dearman, who just recently notched his 600th win in 15 seasons as the program’s head coach. “Through any adversity, any deficit, anywhere, this bunch never gave up.”