Down 0-2 to Weatherford and staring the end of the season in the face, Lamar senior libero Emily Dondero made a decision. She wasn’t going to let her team’s 6A bi-district playoff match Nov. 1 at Mansfield Legacy High School be her last varsity game.
“I told [Kayla Whetstone], ‘I’m not playing my best game,’ ” Dondero said. “ ‘I don’t want this to be the last game I ever play.’ ”
It wasn’t. Dondero and her Lady Vikings teammates rallied to down the Lady Roos in five sets, 14-25, 12-25, 25-16, 25-21, 15-13. Lamar advanced to an area round matchup against San Angelo Central on Friday in Brownwood. The Lady Vikings were the only Arlington school to make it past the first round.
“It’s funny: We’ve found ourselves in this type of situation more than once this season,” Lamar coach Heather Woodman said. “We’ve found ourselves down 0-2, backs against the wall. They like being the underdog. They fight and try to prove everybody wrong.”
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The doubters included some Lamar supporters who left after the Lady Vikings dropped the first two sets in lopsided fashion. “I said, ‘I don’t blame you,’ ” Woodman said. “The scores were atrocious.”
The match began to shift in Lamar’s favor in the third game. Whetstone said the team corrected some unforced errors that plagued the Lady Vikings in the first two sets. “We really cleaned up our side a lot more,” the senior said. “We were making a lot of unforced errors the first and second game. And by the third game, we had picked ourselves up.”
Whetstone, Dondero and their fellow seniors — eight in total — decided that, if they lost, they were going to go down swinging. “I think a lot of that was realizing, if we lost, it was over,” Whetstone said. “I know it hit us hard and we were like, ‘That’s not happening.’ ”
Dondero said her team knew what it needed to do to create easier scoring opportunities. And they made some small adjustments based on Weatherford’s tendencies. But the main part of the winning formula was improved execution.
“We knew what we had to do to be better the next couple of sets, and we executed and did what we needed to do,” Dondero said.
By the decisive fifth set, Lamar played like the team expecting to win the match. The Lady Vikings built a 12-6 lead and needed just three more points to clinch the victory.
“We came out and got the lead we needed to,” Whetstone said. “And then we thought we had it.”
They didn’t have it. Not quite yet. Weatherford rallied to tie the set and then take a 13-12 lead. However, the Lady Vikings had yet another rally in them. They scored the match’s final three points.
“I think it says a lot to be down 0-2 and to come back and fight,” Dondero said.
It says Dondero and her teammates won’t be an easy matchup for any team they face the rest of the way.
The Martin, Arlington and Lamar football teams entered their season finales deadlocked at 5-4 each and tied for third place in District 4-6A. Only two could claim the second and third playoff seeds. For Martin and Lamar, it was straightforward, as they faced one another last Thursday with Martin downing Lamar 41-33 to advance to the playoffs and end Lamar’s season.
Arlington had it a bit easier, as Thursday’s Martin victory guaranteed the Colts a playoff berth. Finishing against a struggling Sam Houston squad, Arlington won 28-21 last Friday.
Seguin needed a victory against Granbury in its finale to hang onto at least the fourth-place berth in 9-5A, and the Cougars won 28-21 to make the playoffs. Seguin actually vaulted past Cleburne to claim third place.
See bi-district playoff pairings at www.dfwvarsity.com.
The Arlington ISD girls basketball teams enter their first full week of nondistrict competition this week, as the squads tune up for their holiday tournaments and the start of district competition on Dec. 13.
Bowie will be looking for another strong season after advancing all the way to the regional quarterfinals last season, where it lost by two points to Midland Lee.
Lamar advanced to the second round of the playoffs last season, while Martin was eliminated in bi-district.
New district rival Mansfield could prove an easy matchup for the Arlington teams, as the Lady Tigers haven’t won more than 10 games in a season since 2012-13.
Seguin will be looking for another solid season as a team that has not won fewer than 20 games since the 2010-2011 season.
Stephen English: firstname.lastname@example.org, @sbenglish74