The day Highland Park found out it was jumping to the new Class 6A in all University Interscholastic League sports beginning this fall, Michael Dearman called his volleyball players together for a meeting.
The reclassification wasn’t a surprise, necessarily, and Dearman felt his team could handle the challenge. But he wasn’t sure exactly how his players would react.
“The mood of the team was excitement,” said Dearman, who will begin his 11th season at HP on Tuesday when the Lady Scots open their season at Red Oak. “We’re going to be the first to lead Highland Park into this new era. We want to be the ones to set an example for our school and our community.”
The optimism of Dearman and his players could stem in part from the timing of the move, which coincides with a Lady Scots roster that will feature plenty of depth and experience coming off a 37-7 campaign in 2013 that included a historic 500th career win for Dearman.
Although three starters graduated, HP returns several regulars from a squad that won the District 10-4A title last season and reached the Region II quarterfinals before falling in four sets to Frisco Centennial.
Every projected starter for HP has at least one full year of varsity experience. Eleanor Watson and Grace Bonnet are each beginning their fourth varsity season, while Elizabeth Gilley and Caroline Downing are starting their third.
“The girls we’re going to be relying on for the most part are veterans,” Dearman said. “We’re still very deep on our bench.”
HP was placed in a district with the Richardson ISD schools and three Mesquite ISD schools, so Dearman plans to prepare his squad with a rigid nondistrict slate that includes matches against Red Oak, Coppell, and Southlake Carroll, in addition to the Texas Volleyball Inivtational tournament in Pearland that features 87 of the top programs in the country. The Lady Scots placed seventh in it last year.
“We want to be challenged by that, so our girls are already seasoned. It won’t be a shock to them,” Dearman said. “The competition from the rest of the district will be a step up from what we’ve seen in the past.”
The first official test for HP as a member of District 10-6A will come on Sept. 12 in the league opener against Richardson Berkner. The Lady Scots hope to make the transition as smooth as possible after a dominating run at the 4A level.
“We’re very confident in how we’re positioned to make this move up,” Dearman said. “It’s a natural progression for us.”