Taking on Highland Park in the regional quarterfinals for the second straight season, Lovejoy figured it would try to muscle its way to a win.
Good plan. Didn’t work.
Instead, the defending Class 4A state champion Lady Scots kept their poise and came away with a 2-0 victory that ran their unbeaten streak to 46 straight matches on Tuesday night at Wildcat-Ram Stadium. Highland Park (22-0-5) will take on Waxahachie (16-5-3) in a regional semifinal at noon Friday at Carrollton’s Standridge Stadium. The Lady Scots blasted the Lady Indians, 8-0, in a non-district game on Feb. 1 at Highlander Stadium.
“One thing we just talked about to the girls is they don’t know when to give up,” Highland Park head coach Stewart Brown said. “We were getting hammered physically. Some teams try to knock us out of our rhythm by beating us up. We just stick to our task and try not to get too frustrated with what’s going on around us.”
The Lady Leopards (12-7-3) played a stellar first half on the defensive end. But in the 38th minute, Highland Park’s Katie Martin sailed a beautiful free kick that hit the left post, leaving a fat rebound teammate Hope Hyde booted home for the first goal of the game. That late score in the first half seemed to take the wind out of Lovejoy’s sails.
“It hit the post and three of us were running in,” Lady Scots junior forward Sara Summers said. “It skipped off and Hope got it. When we put pressure on them, we can really get in there.”
The contest was littered with injuries, yellow cards, and players flying to the ground. Martin, who scored Highland Park’s lone goal in a 1-0 sectional win over Frisco Wakeland last Friday night, appeared to be frustrated after being knocked around all night. However, like Brown mentioned, she didn’t let it stop her. Martin got a perfect corner kick from Summers, jumped up, and headed the ball into the net in the 64th minute to effectively end the game.
“We want last year to serve as motivation and go a little bit higher and be even better than what we were before,” Summers said. “It’s starting to feel like last year. We were talking on the way over here about how we remember exactly what it was like to play [Lovejoy] on this field last year.”
Goalkeeper Sarah Howley also got her second straight shutout after returning from injury on Friday night. Highland Park has allowed just one goal — as time expired in a 10-1 blowout — in four postseason games.
“When we talk about how well we play defensively, we’ve got to talk about our back four and our goalkeeper, as well,” Brown said. “But really our midfield does a tremendous job up the field, which takes a lot of pressure off our back four. And our back four steps up when needed.”
In the other Class 4A Region II semifinal on Friday, Mabank will take on Wylie at 2:30 p.m. The winner of that match and the Highland Park-Waxahahcie match will square off in the regional final at 11 a.m. Saturday at Standridge Stadium. The winner advances to the state tournament in Georgetown April 18-20.
“We know what it’s like,” Brown said of playing in the regional tournament. “Last year, we were nervous that first game. We didn’t really start out too well in our first game against Pine Tree. We’ll talk about that Thursday and get everybody ready for a really good game on Friday.”