Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Dent: Highland Park girls soccer leaning on defense in hopes of capturing state title
UNIVERSITY PARK — Highland Park has allowed only one goal this postseason, and that was on a free kick, a well-placed shot from just outside of the box that found its way past the back line and goalkeeper. Otherwise, the Scots’ defense has been perfect.
In their run to the state tournament, the Scots have won games 10-0, 1-0, 4-0, 1-0, 3-1 and 3-0. The defense is experienced, communicates and has assigned a sense of destiny to this season that everything will and should work out for them.
“We’re all just on the same level,” senior defender A.K. Bonnett said. “We all really want it.”
Highland Park in a state tournament can seem like a foregone conclusion, particularly in the spring, when the golf and tennis teams regularly dominate.
But the girls soccer team had not reached the state tournament since 2006. The last two years, the Scots had the talent and the experience but lost early, to Rockwall in the regional quarterfinal each season. This season had to be different. They knew it would.
Even back in eighth grade, some of these midfielders and defenders pointed toward this senior year. Bonnet, fellow defender Kelsey Bass, midfielder Ellen Heighten and forward Megan Gittins had played with each other for at least part of their youth soccer careers on the same premier teams.
At the beginning of the year and during fall practices, Highland Park coach Stewart Brown focused primarily on two areas of improvement for the defense. He wanted them to communicate better, and he wanted them to be the best conditioned group possible.
Goalkeeper Sarah Howley called those preparations a process. Though the core group had played together for years, some of the others were still getting used to each other’s styles and quirks.
By the time the playoffs rolled around, nearly everything was set, except for all of the confidence. Highland Park played in a relatively easy district. Its only real test was against Richardson Pearce, which it tied.
In the second round of the playoffs, Highland Park defeated McKinney North, 1-0. It scored the lone goal late in the second half on a penalty kick. That victory further strengthened the sense of destiny the Scots had carried into the year.
“We’ve always wanted to win as seniors,” Heighten said. “It’s something we’ve always talked about for so long. Now that it’s finally happening, it’s just really exciting.”