TROPHY CLUB – Late in the first set of Tuesday’s bi-district match between Lake Dallas and 7-5A No. 1 seed Colleyville Heritage, the Lady Falcons had cut the Lady Panther lead to 17-15.
Then, in a match that Lake Dallas head coach Jason Roemer called a microcosm of the young Lady Falcons’ entire 2018 season, Heritage outscored Lake Dallas 58-33 over the remainder of a three-set sweep to move on in the 5A postseason.
As was the case so often this fall, Lake Dallas fell victim to late-set stumbles – after the first game reached 17-15, the Lady Panthers used an 8-2 run to put it away. Then, in set No. 2, a 7-0 Heritage burst from 18-15 salted the frame away to put Lake Dallas in an 0-2 hole it would never emerge from.
“That’s kind of the story of the year. We competed consistently. We just, for some reason, couldn’t overcome,” Roemer said. “The goal was to get to the playoffs, and we got here. The sad part is they’re going to remember that was a team that they felt like they could have beaten, and it didn’t happen.”
The Lady Falcons entered the match believing that, if they could play with controlled aggression, they could catch the top-seeded Lady Panthers looking past the first round.
The aggression was there, but the control was not – Lake Dallas committed seven errors on the attack in the first set alone and were high-error throughout the setback.
The missteps may have been numerous, but Roemer said they were also a product of continued lineup shuffling due to injury. The Lake Dallas bench boss specifically applauded sophomore Macie Banks, asked to play out of position within the last two weeks for the first time in her career, and junior Ruthie Forson, who has handled both middle blocker and setting duties with freshman Caelyn Gunn sidelined.
“I can’t say enough about what Ruthie has done. I don’t know of another middle-blocker-slash-setter in the state of Texas right now,” Roemer said. “What she’s done this last week has been admirable. Hopefully, next year, we’ll be healthy, and she won’t have to do that.”
Forson, Banks, Gunn and sophomore Candace Collier are part of a young core for Lake Dallas that Roemer said should make for some promising seasons ahead for the Lady Falcons.
To get there, Roemer and his program will take full advantage of the first-year coach’s inaugural offseason at the school.
“We’ve got to get stronger, we’ve got to start jumping higher and we’ve got to get quicker. Now that we’ve moved to offseason, we’ll have time to do that,” Roemer said. “We’ve got to get mentally tougher, and that stuff is done in the spring and offseason. These kids have shown me in these 13 weeks we’ve been together that they know how to work hard.”
While much of the Lake Dallas season was played with an eye toward the future, Roemer and his players with seasons still ahead of them stayed away from the term “rebuilding” out of respect for the team’s pair of seniors, Bailey Avila and Mercedes Zaragoza.
Roemer said he hopes the duo, who endured a coaching carousel during their time in the green and white and plenty of tough losses this fall, will take the lessons learned through that adversity with them as they exit the program.
“I’m proud of those seniors,” he said. “[I’m] the third coach in four years for them. They were open-minded all year, did what we asked and worked hard.”
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