By Randy Jennings / Contributor
ARLINGTON — Finally dropping a set could be a blessing for Highland Park in its four-set victory over Flower Mound in a Class 6A Region I area-round playoff match on Friday at the Arlington ISD Athletics Center.
The team’s response to the loss of the third set was heartening, but not surprising, to HP head coach Michael Dearman.
“They are resilient,” said Dearman, “and we saw that early in the year when we were challenged in some tough matches, maybe losing the first set but then taking care of business. That experience helped us in this match.”
With seniors Sydney Breon and Ceci Gooch leading the charge, the Lady Scots rebounded with a solid fourth set to defeat Flower Mound 25-15, 26-24, 23-25, 25-17.
“We’ve been in situations like that before and we’ve practiced them,” said Breon, a 5-foot-9 outside hitter verbally committed to UCLA. “Other teams are starting to adjust to us. We were able to keep our focus.”
Breon, a four-year varsity contributor, finished with 23 kills, two blocks and two aces and was particularly lethal with attacks from behind the 10-foot line.
A block-kill by Michigan recruit Gooch, one of six for her in the match, ignited HP’s 7-1 run for a comfortable lead it would not relinquish in the final set.
The Lady Scots (42-2) came in having lost only one set in its previous 19 matches. Their bid for the first state championship in program history will continue with a regional quarterfinal showdown with Denton Guyer, which swept Arlington Martin on Friday.
The Lady Jaguars (26-16) posed a danger despite its misleading season record. After a 10-12 mark at midseason, the young team closed with 16 wins in 19 matches including notable triumphs over Plano West and Coppell. Flower Mound also has tradition in the form of a 2018 state championship and a semifinal appearance in 2020.
HP never trailed in taking the first two sets. Freshman Gigi Whann’s ace capped a stress-free first set. The second set followed a similar course until Flower Mound gained traction by fighting for a long point that eventually was decided on a block by sophomore Liz Goodspeed. It sparked an 8-4 run, allowing Flower Mound to pull level at 24-24.
After failing to convert on its first three set points, Breon’s spike that deflected off a Flower Mound block on game point gave the Scots a two-set lead.
In the third set, the Lady Jags never trailed and the Lady Scots fought off four set points before Flower Mound’s Ava Ciccarello registered a kill off a deflection to force a fourth set.
“We lost our focus a little in the third set,” Dearman said. “We got away from the game plan and made a few mental errors. But Flower Mound played at a much higher level and put pressure on us.”
One aspect of the team’s success that gets overlooked, according to the coach, is the leadership provided by the seniors. Plus, Dearman noted the Lady Scots missed only two serves for the match.
“We are so deep and talented it makes it hard for other teams to defend,” he said. “Opponents can’t focus on one player. Flower Mound did a good job stopping Gooch in the middle but it opened things up on the left and right sides.”
Said Breon: “Some of our best competition is in practice. We have so much depth. This is a fun year.”