Despite losing a district-ending 2-1 nail-biter to Plano on the road, the Lady Wildcats ended the season tied for the District 21 title with a 12-1-2, 7-1-2 record.
The Lady Wildcats qualified for the regional playoffs, which began in late March.
Lake Highlands took a narrow 1-0 lead into half-time of the final regular-season game on the strength of Laura McClendon’s 37-yard free kick.
Plano’s Katy Green rose to the occasion in the second half as the home Wildcats outshot the visiting Wildcats, 16-3.
Becky Wendt, who had allowed only one goal in eight district games, batted away 14 of 16 Plano shots in the second half, but the two that she missed proved to be the difference.
Interim coach Alicia Hurd, filling in for Mary Jacobi the past five games, says there was nothing Wendt could have done on either play.
Earlier in the year at home, Lake Highlands had beaten Plano, 3-0. Coming into the district finale, the girls were averaging three goals per game while allowing only two goals per game. Hurd says she expected the team to be district contenders this season.
“We’ve had an excellent year,” Hurd says. “All 11 starters are really strong and we’ve played well as a team all season. There are no weak links out there.”
Rachel Wilkerson has led the offensive attack with seven goals. Caren Vaughn, Alicia Dooley, Misty Landry, Camille Gaddis, and Laura McClendon contributed three goals apiece.
Defensively, Erin Hamm and McClendon have kept opposition offenses at bay.
Boys Varsity Soccer
As with the girls, the District 21 championship came down to Plano and Lake Highlands doing battle in the cold and wind of Plano’s home field.
As the last big winter storm whipped around the field, the home team struck early and often on its way to a 7-2 victory.
Jake Joy scored two goals and Plano jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead at half-time. Lake Highlands, behind goals by Eric Lindh and Justin Lemmon, pulled to within 5-2, but could come no closer.
Despite the loss, Lake Highlands qualified for the regionals with a solid second place finish (13-6-2, 6-2-2).
Coach Frank Gidwani has relied on two senior goalkeepers to thwart the enemy attack. Keegan McConnell, who is headed to Centenary College to play soccer next season, and Aaron Sockwell have both provided quality play in goal. Until the Plano outburst, they had combined to allow district opponents only 1.3 goals per contest.
Lemmon led the Wildcats in regular-season scoring with 12 goals. Brad Flanagan added 11 goals and six assists.
Jay Young easily led the squad with 13 assists, to go along with his four goals. Alan Gearing delivered six goals and three assists, and Paul Broome blasted in five goals and two assists for the district runner-ups.
For coach David Wood and company, this year has been a season of rebuilding. Gone is superstar May Beth Laing, and in her place are various players intent on improving their games.
On the boys side, senior Jack Coleman has battled his way to a .500 mark in singles. Another senior, Jeff Strawn, has compiled a similar record.
Murphy Yates and Chris Davidson comprise Lake Highlands’ top-ranked doubles team. Wood says the boys have played up to their talent level against some of District 11-5A’s best competition.
For the girls, Ginna Ladd has emerged as the top singles player on the squad. The junior has compiled a 6-6 match record, matched by No. 2 player Julie Rhodes, a sophomore.
Wood says since the girls team has no seniors, he expects this squad to win matches for seasons to come.
Britt Ashley and Jenny Purma, both sophomores, are the doubles representatives for the Lake Highlands girls.
“The girls have played over their heads for most of the year,” says Wood.
“Considering that we don’t have any players in super-championship or championship right now, I’m real pleased with their progress.”
The district tournament will be held April 16-17 in Richardson.
Head coach Jay Higgins enters his 26th year at the helm of the baseball program at Lake Highlands with optimism.
The Dallas Morning News pre-season area poll ranked the Wildcats second.
Lake Highlands has missed the District 11-5A playoffs the past two seasons, but this year, the team should have a solid chance to return to post-season action.
Higgins, who has won more than 460 games during his tenure with the red and black, has an outstanding offensive attack led by outfielder Ryan Smith, who batted .454 last year with 17 RBI.
Catcher Casey Smith (.312, 31 runs scored) and outfielder Kyle Goldstein (.323, 16 RBI) also are expected to contribute.
The Wildcats jumped out to a respectable 5-1 non-district start, with the district slate right around the corner. Casey Smith was batting .420 with at least one hit in every game, Ryan Smith was hitting .400, while Stewart Huffnagle had stolen six bases.
Higgins also mentions Che Hendrix and David Handel as key players for the Wildcats.
The key to the Wildcats’ diamond fortunes may well rest on the arms of their talented pitching staff.
Senior Ceb Hudson, a second-team all-district selection as a junior, when he won six of eight decisions, is expected to be one of the key starters.
Other pitching staff members are starters Scott Hilland, Greg Ewing and closer Brian Thompson.