Written by Corbett Smith
Highland Park girls soccer 1 win away from repeating as 4A champs after downing Cedar Park
GEORGETOWN – Highland Park can see the finish line. Its journey to repeat as Class 4A champions is nearly complete. Goalkeeper Sarah Howley made several key stops in the final 15 minutes, as the defending state champs held off a furious last-minute attempt by Cedar Park in a 2-1 win.
Unbeaten in its last 49 games, Highland Park (25-0-5) will face Denton Guyer (27-1-0) 11 a.m. Saturday for the title, the fifth time since the Class 4A playoffs started in 1999 where both girls finalists are from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
“Our ultimate goal at the beginning of the year was to win another state championship,” Highland Park coach Stewart Brown said. “I think we are playing some great soccer, we’re being resilient when we have to, being tenacious when we have to. It’s a group of girls who enjoy being successful for each other.”
Howley and Highland Park’s defense were tested in the closing minutes, after holding a two-goal lead from the 42 minute. In the 68 minute, Howley came off her line to claim a ball rolling near the feet of Cedar Park forward Neg Tambe – preventing a shot on goal. Highland Park’s senior keeper repeated the task four minutes later, stopping a possible attempt from Sophia Sanchez.
Erin Delony scored a header off a corner with 1:19 remaining in the game, but Cedar Park (22-4-2) couldn’t get another clean shot on goal in the final seconds.
“We knew it would be a battle, from start to finish,” Howley said.
Both of Highland Park’s goals came off headers.
In the 22 minute, Diana Kay Manley scored her first goal of the season, finding a back-post corner from Savanna Jones for Highland Park’s first goal.
“I usually get up there and head it and it goes kind of off,” Manley said. “So I’m glad I chose this game to finally get on goal.”
Jones – a freshman – scored on a header of her own less than two minutes into the second half to give Highland Park a 2-0 lead, sneaking the shot inside the near post off a corner from Sara Summers.
“I never thought I would be here,” Jones said. “It’s overwhelming. I’m so excited.”
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