Lake Highlands put together a strong boys varsity soccer team once again this year. It was strong enough, in fact, to force a final showdown with eventual state-champion Plano to decide the district title.
Although they lost to Plano in the regular season finale, the Wildcats still finished second in the district race and easily vaulted into the playoffs.
Coach Frank Gidwani’s team opened the playoff with a bi-district duel against North Mesquite. Gidwani credits the team’s aggressive defense, led by Aaron Sockwell, for spurring his team to victory.
In the next round, a Region II-qualifying 4-1 victory over Mesquite, Lake Highlands scored three goals in a seven-minute span to break open a close game. Forward Justin Lemmon scored two goals while Rene Gonzales and Spencer Moorhead added one goal each.
The magical run ended against Allen, where the Wildcats came out on the short end of a 2-1 game. “Allen was strong,” says Gidwani. “There was no doubt about that. But overall, it was a pretty even game. We had our chances.”
A plethora of players received post-season accolades for Lake Highlands. Senior Brad Flanagan, Lemmon, Alan Gearing and Brad Grundy all were first-team all-district selections. Lemmon and Sockwell both made all-region, and Flanagan went on to make second-team all-state. The “assist-king,” Gearing, was selected as the district MVP.
Second-team all-district selections included Paul Broome, Jeff Johnson and Sockwell. Honorable-mention all-district honors went to Jay Young, Scott Damon, John Waters, Moorhead, Adam Jaffe, Ryan Smith, Andy White, Brett Daily and Keegan McConnell.
Lemmon accepted an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. The senior was recruited by collegiate soccer powerhouses, including Notre Dame, SMU, San Diego and North Carolina.
When asked what he wants to accomplish at the Naval Academy, Lemmon is very specific for a high school senior. “Get a superior education, a Navy commission, acceptance to Flight School, and maybe, just maybe, a shot at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team,” he says.
Girls Varsity Soccer Edged by One Goal
After tying Plano for the district crown, it was playoff time and nail-biting time for the Lady Wildcats. They edged their first-round opponent, 1-0, behind a Rachel Wilkinson goal, and prepared for two of their biggest rivals of recent years, Newman Smith and Plano, for a shot at the state Final Four.
At Eagle-Mustard Field against the Trojans, the teams waged one of the year’s best defensive battles. After regulation ended, neither team had found the back of the net. After one 15-minute overtime period, the scoreboard still read 0-0.
With 7:22 remaining in the second overtime period, sophomore defender Laura McClendon squeezed a 19-yard free kick around Newman Smith’s wall to give Lake Highlands a hard-fought 1-0 victory. Erin Hamm, Sarah Moore, Liz Priskitt and McClendon led the defense along with goalie Becky Wendt.
Next was a Region II final against arch-rival Plano at John Clark Field. Karen Garland scored the game’s only goal with 14:17 to play, on a play that started with a penalty kick. “It’s frustrating to lose 1-0,” says Lake Highlands coach Mary Jacobi. “But that’s soccer.”
Boys Varsity Baseball Led by Smith, Knox and Henry
The Wildcats struggled on the mound and at the plate during parts of the first half of district play. Still, they put together a 4-3 District 11-5A record, good enough to tie for third place with R.L. Turner and Plano East. Newman Smith finished 7-0 during district action to take the first-half crown, and Plano finished second.
Lake Highlands coach Jay Higgins says he often starts five sophomores – which explains, in part, the team’s inconsistency. “At the beginning of the season, our pitching was strong,” says Higgins. “Now our hitting is coming on, but the pitching has dropped off. Maybe in the second half we can put it all together.”
Junior catcher Casey Smith has put together an 18-game hitting streak and is carrying an impressive season average of .500. Ryan Smith has also been hot at the plate. The senior center fielder is batting .375 with 16 RBI. Jeff Knox has also knocked in 16 runs through the first half of district.
Team statistical leaders include Kenny Henry and Will Ridgway with two homers apiece, Henry with 18 RBI, and Ryan Smith with 13 stolen bases. Pitchers Brian Thompson and Blake Newsome are each 3-0 for the Wildcats.