With the book about to close on 2020, it’s time to look back on the year that was in Lake Dallas-area athletics.
This year was like no other in recent memory, with high school sports around the country feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid the trying year, which included the cancellation of numerous UIL sports in the spring and the week-to-week uncertainties that plagued teams in the fall, Lake Dallas still managed to turn in its share of highlight moments.
The Lake Cities Sun sports staff has compiled its top 10 sports stories of the year, starting with the first half of that lineup.
6. Boys basketball enjoys turnaround
The Lake Dallas boys basketball team enjoyed its best season in more than a decade, finishing with a record of 17-17 for its first non-losing season since the 2006-07 campaign, when the Falcons posted an overall mark of 18-9.
The Falcons had great senior leadership from first-team all-district selection Yash Mattu, second-team honoree Jaden McGrew as well as Kobee Minor, who just completed his freshman season as a member of Texas Tech’s football team.
The tone for the breakthrough season for Lake Dallas was set from the opening tip as the Falcons started 6-1, which included victories over Carter-Riverside, Melissa, Wichita Falls, Fort Worth Polytechnic, Liberty Christian and Lubbock Cooper.
Lake Dallas also received significant contributions from underclassmen Kyle Sasser, Evan Weinberg and Jordan Williams. All three players are back in the fold this winter for the Falcons. Sasser is a senior guard. Williams is a junior guard. Weinberg is a sophomore forward. Senior guard Kenny Williams returns for Lake Dallas after being sidelined for all but four games last season due to an ankle injury.
7. Brahinsky named assistant coach of the year
Lake Dallas assistant coach Phyllis Brahinsky walked to another room in her house to share an announcement with her husband, Gerald.
A few tears rolled down the face of Brahinsky as she picked up the piece of paper that listed the award winners for top assistant high school coaches in Texas – her name appeared on that list, for which she was named the Class 5A/6A assistant coach of the year for volleyball for the 2019-20 school year by the Texas Girls Coaches Association.
Brahinsky is in her 15th season as a coach and biology teacher at Lake Dallas. In addition to her duties with the Lady Falcons’ volleyball team, she also coaches basketball and softball. She was nominated for the award by Lake Dallas head coach Kristin Holbrooks, who just completed her second season as the team’s bench boss.
“Coach B. is the epitome of what it means to be a plow horse,” Holbrooks wrote in her letter to the TGCA. “She is the first one to arrive at the gym with blinders on until she goes through her printed out checklist and ensures that everything is ready for the coaches and players for practice and matches.”
8. Softball team flashes potential
Before the season for the Lake Dallas softball team was halted by the pandemic in March, the Lady Falcons had plenty of reason to be optimistic about the present as well as the future of the program.
Lake Dallas started fast with six wins in its first nine contests and later a mark of 7-5-1 before the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the remainder of the spring sports season.
Lake Dallas had its moments of dominance.
The Lady Falcons posted four shutout victories, and none were close – 9-0 over Highland Park, 16-0 against Lake Highlands, 15-0 over RL Turner and 20-0 against Hillcrest.
Perhaps the biggest reason for optimism program was the Lady Falcons’ offensive efficiency – highlighted by a 13-hit attack against 8-5A foe Justin Northwest on March 9, which happened to be Lake Dallas’ final game of the season.
Sophomore Isabella DiDonato was one of the area’s top newcomers, finishing the shortened season with a whopping .586 batting average to go along with four home runs and 18 RBIs.
Juniors Edith Branch (.385) and Gracie Dover (.381), as well as sophomores Shelby Nelson (.355), Kennedy Dugan (.333) and Allie Buchanan (.333) all finished the season with batting averages over .300.
9. Golf team poised for run at regional tournament
Before their season was ended abruptly, the Lake Dallas boys and girls golf teams had positioned themselves to be in the mix for a berth in the Region I-5A tournament in Lubbock.
The cancellation of the season meant that senior Elliott Tucker, an all-district honorable mention selection, missed his final 8-5A tournament and junior Trent Pollard couldn’t defend his individual district championship from 2019.
Tucker was Lake Dallas’ lone senior.
Pollard had a scoring average of 75.8, won the Ranchview Classic at the Tribute with a score of 72, and finished in the top 10 in all but one tournament. He was named the boys’ team MVP and earned a place on the all-district team.
Junior Allison Strong and sophomore Anastasia White were named to the all-district team, while White also garnered team MVP honors after posting an 89 stroke average. Junior Allison Strong earned a spot on the all-district team. Fellow junior Caroline Puig and sophomore Chloe Reeves garnered honorable mention for their efforts.
10. Upgrades to athletics facilities
Significant upgrades have been made to athletics facilities at Lake Dallas High School while more are in the construction phase as part of a of the current $105 million Lake Dallas ISD bond package that was approved by voters in May 2019.
Among them are new turf fields, new protective netting behind home plate, the refurbishment of the batting cages for both the Lake Dallas baseball and softball teams and a new video board at Falcon Stadium.
The next phase of the bond project includes the construction of a multipurpose field house, scheduled for completion by spring break of 2021, and a new athletic wing in the middle school.
The multipurpose indoor facility will have a 100-yard field with one end zone, drop-down netting that can be used for batting practice and areas for storage and administration offices.
Lake Dallas head baseball coach Chris Haney said that he was blown away of the functionality of the new turf field.
“You can shoot ground balls to your [junior varsity] guys in the outfield and they will be exactly the same ground balls that you get at shortstop,” he said. “Your function space is through the roof with this turf field.”