By Chris Parry / Contributor
TYLER — Highland Park kept rolling through the Class 5A Region II soccer playoffs on Tuesday, with the girls cruising past Longview Pine Tree 4-0 and the boys holding off Jacksonville 1-0 in an area-round doubleheader at Rose Stadium.
Both squads move on to the regional quarterfinals on Friday. The unbeaten HP girls will meet Joshua in Kennedale, while the boys will face Longview in Athens.
In the opener on Tuesday, Lady Scots goalkeeper Claire Binns didn’t face a single shot in goal in the first half, but she was called into action early in the second, making a clean catch on a free kick and later on a long-range effort.
Meanwhile, it was a shooting gallery on the other end. Only the first-half brilliance of Pine Tree goalkeeper Rylie Waclawczyk kept the Lady Pirates from being obliterated by halftime.
The Lady Scots (23-0-2) broke through in the 18th minute thanks to great combination play from Elise Needleman, Elle Jones, and Kylie Bell. Needleman quickly turned defense to offense with a feed down the wing to Jones who raced in beat Pine Tree’s onrushing keeper to place a perfect cross to Bell for a tap-in and 1-0 lead.
A couple of minutes later, the Lady Scots doubled their advantage. A shot from outside the box from Hattie Patterson was deflected right to Jones, who tapped it into the empty net to make it 2-0.
“We came out and started well,” HP head coach Aaron McGough said. “The things that we have talked about working on — the pace that we play with, the movement off the ball, the talking, the leadership — the girls did all of those things, so honestly I am really happy.”
HP kept up its dominance throughout the game, producing 17 shots in the first half alone. Waclawczyk finished with 19 saves overall.
HP secured its third goal in the opening moments of the second half on a well-taken shot from Patterson. In the final 10 minutes, Hattie Speicher latched on to a deflected shot and looped one over the keeper and into the top-right corner.
In the nightcap, HP’s Richie Paulus was in the right place to capitalize on a deflection and score the first-half goal to move the Scots (18-2-3) past Jacksonville.
It all resulted from a free kick drawn by Gray Godfrey, who was shoved down on a clash that occurred 40 yards out from goal. But on the ensuing free kick, HPs Reid Valentine floated a ball into the box that was met by a head, but the shot clanged off the crossbar — right to Paulus who leapt up and headed into an open net.
After halftime, HP’s best opportunity was from Jack Krejs, who fired a shot that beat the Jacksonville keeper but couldn’t swerve enough to get inside the right post.
In the end, one goal was enough thanks to some brilliant goalkeeping from Kyle Barron, who twice denied Jacksonville with only him to beat, and resolute defensive work from HPs back four.
“They are very athletic … and kept numbers back quite a bit,” HP head coach Salvador Richie said. ”I thought we handled it super well. There was some heart [out there] and some kids who are willing to just run through walls. I was super proud of them.”