Lake Dallas celebrated a championship season and found its way atop the girls soccer all-district list in 8-5A once it concluded.
Senior Karina De Paoli was an integral force in the Lady Falcons’ run to clinching their first playoff berth since 2016 and winning an outright district title. The Arkansas-Little Rock bound star scored seven goals next to six assists en route to being named the district MVP and a first team honoree.
“I think one of the major things is her leadership,” said Nathan Davis, Lake Dallas head coach. “Her work ethic is outstanding. She goes out every day and works hard. The kids follow her because of her work ethic, and it carries on into games as well. She goes about her business 100 miles per hour. Doesn’t complain. She is insightful as a player.”
Davis was named the coach of the year in just his first full season at the helm, guiding the Lady Falcons to a district crown and what would have been their first No. 1 seed in the postseason since 2015 – when they advanced to the regional quarterfinals — if the playoffs were to be played.
“All these girls play on different teams, and every team has their own type of system,” Davis said. “But when they come into this team, they’re playing something else. It just kind of goes into their soccer ability and their soccer knowledge to be able to adjust to different coaching styles. For them to be able to adjust to the style that I wanted to play, the award goes more toward them than I think it does to me. I just get the accolade.”
Five other players tagged alongside De Paoli on the first team. Goal-scoring machines in sophomores Presleigh Thiessen and Chelsea Vilca cracked the selections, joining junior Addie Buesing, sophomore defender Dylan Drozd and senior goalie Sydney Frazier.
Thiessen and Vilca were the team leaders in goals, combing for 23 of Lake Dallas’ 50 goals over the duration of the year. Vilca boasted a team-high 15, and Thiessen put eight into the back of the next.
Buesing was an all-around threat offensively. She had a team-best nine first assists, adding two second assists and six goals altogether.
Drozd and Frazier were key figures in the back. Drozd, who also scored two goals, helped Lake Dallas allow just 18 goals in 22 games, while Frazier – headed to University of the Ozarks to continue her soccer career – posted 10 shutouts as a goalkeeper.
“It shows the balance,” Davis said. “When you have balance on the team, it makes it very difficult for teams to defend you. We’re able to handle the ball in all levels of the field – both the defense, midfield and the offense, which when you can keep the ball away from the other team, they can’t score. Being able to move the ball around and just the capability of all the girls to be able to strike at any point, that makes it hard for teams to defend, which makes it easier for us to be successful.”
Another five Lady Falcons were honored on the second team, giving them 11 total on the first and second teams alone to show just how deep this bunch was in its pursuit of a district title — sophomore defender Bailey Buckner, sophomore midfielder Pilar Flores, junior defender Ivelyn Jiminez, sophomore midfielder Grace Murray and senior midfielder Maradona Vilca.
Buckner and Jiminez bolstered the dominant defensive presence, with opponents scoring more than one goal all year and averaging 0.8 goals per game. Jiminez also had one goal, two first assists and three second assists.
Flores finished with one first assists and three second assists as a young varsity player. Murray followed suit with similar totals at one first assist and two second assists. Maradona Vilca scored once while posting a whopping six first assists and two second assists.
“Everybody has a role on the team when they’re on the field, and to be able to have that many players - I think I had 11 players first team, second team, and all of those at one point or another were on the field at a starting position, Davis said. “So, when you can get your starting 11 to have an award for the district just shows the balance, which leads to success.”
Three more players rounded out the lengthy list of Lake Dallas players to be honored for their efforts and versatility on the field by the district in junior midfielder/forward Gisele Garibay, sophomore midfielder/forward Olivia Trotter and junior midfielder Kelsi Vonnahme.
Garibay was one of six Lady Falcons to tally three or more goals this season, finishing with three in addition to her two first assists and one second assist. Trotter registered four goals and three first assists, and Vonnahme had two first assists and two second assists.
“They understood their role, and when they were on the field they understood and they knew what they needed to do to help the team win,” Davis said. “All three of them played different positions. Gisele would play at outside back and she would play up front. Chelsea played at outside forward. They all had motors, and they all had different things to help the team win.”