By Randy Jennings / Special Contributor
MESQUITE — Considering the firepower and individual skill of the Highland Park girls soccer team, a growing tactic for playoff opponents is to strike a defensive posture.
In a 2-0 win over Midlothian on Thursday, the overwhelming majority of shots, corner kicks and possession time belonged to the Lady Scots. Yet the game was scoreless until only 6:13 remained, when Quinn Cornog found the left corner of the net with a perfectly-placed shot from 18 yards right of the goal.
Four minutes later, Cornog added an insurance goal when she reacted quickly to a 50-50 ball in front of the Midlothian net in a Class 5A Region II quarterfinal at Mesquite Memorial Stadium.
“Defenses are bunching up on us and making it difficult,” said HP head coach Jackie Hlavaty. “We have to be patient.”
Patience can be hard to find sometimes for a team that has outscored opponents 131-5.
By packing the goal area with at times 10 defenders, HP opponents are trying to make direct attacks very difficult. More and more, the Lady Scots are playing the ball wide to Georgetown signee Maja Davison Lardner and attempting crosses in front of the goal.
Cornog, a Vanderbilt signee, was confident a goal would eventually happen, much like the 1-0 overtime victory over Red Oak in the bi-district round six days earlier, when she scored the game-winner. Ironically, Cornog’s soccer career at the club level has been spent mainly as a defender.
“It is fun to play on this side of the ball for a change,” she said.
The Lady Scots (20-0), who are the reigning 5A state champions from 2019, advance to the regional semifinals on April 6 against either Frisco Memorial or Carrollton R.L. Turner.
Midlothian (16-4-5) nearly made its defensive game plan play off 10 minutes after halftime when Bailey Wesco broke free at the midline and attempted a 15-yard shot that hit the post. Wesco was injured later and missed the final 18 minutes.
“Highland Park is a fantastic side, a vibrant attacking team,” said Midlothian head coach Austin Guest. “We had that chance with Bailey, but without her we had to change things.”
One of the best scoring chances of the first half belonged to HP’s Kylie Bell. The junior broke free with a determined run into the box, but Midlothian goalkeeper Landry Combs made a brave dive to grab the ball off Bell’s foot.
Texas signee EmJ Cox and sophomore Hattie Speicher had some near-misses for the Lady Scots. HP has yet to a surrender a playoff goal and the shutout was its 17th of the season.
“Our back four is playing phenomenal,’’ said Hlavaty, in her first campaign as head coach.
While HP keeper Claire Binns was not tested often, she stood tall on Wesco’s breakaway.
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