By Jeremy McDonald
EUGENE, Ore.–Lining up for her serve with the game ties at 23, Makayali Laizure and her Dallas teammates were faced with something improbable:
Going to the Elite 8, and they were two points away from doing just that tied at 23 with the sixth-ranked team in the State of Oregon in Marist Catholic and the game on the line.
“I was nervous but I knew that I had to do it for my team,” said Laizure on preparing for those last two serves of the game. “I don’t know, I just had to get the ball in.”
Up to this point, it was anything but easy for the Dragons to go up two sets to none and on the verge of the sweep and moving on to the trophy round in Hillsboro this upcoming week.
They were down nearly ten points in the first set, they rallied back for the 25-22 set one win as the cheers of their traveling home crowd continulously got louder andn louder and louder every point that the Dallas Dragons got in there comeback win.
Dallas duplicated that in Set 2, coming back from a several point deficit to tie it late in the set. Not just they did that, they battled the Lady Spartans into extra points, overtime of the second set in a marathon enviornment in a race to see who will get to a two-point lead first to end the set.
In front of the home-crowd of Marist Catholic, the Dragons put the 2016 third-place team in a 2-0 hole with a 30-28 victory to put a cushion on the match.
Tristen Savage had said that in order for change to happen for this program, it has to start with their mentality; and it surely did show during the first two sets and yet again in that decisive third set as well.
“I think our mentality has definitely changed, I think after that we totally stepped it up,” said the six-foot-six senior. “Our mindset on every single game was, ‘we came here to win and we’re going to fight every single play no matter what’,”
“So I think it was definitely our mindset and our skill is just out of the roof.”104
And you knew that when they were down 13-7, 19-14, that if the Lady Spartans did not put a end to this run somehow, Dallas was going to step right into Liberty High School instead of them.
But, the Dragons, riding the momentum train from the previous last two sets, did it again starting with a Savage kill.
Timeouts by Marist Catholic in hopes to ice the run did not work as when Dallas hit that last point, they forgot about starting this season 2-5 start.
They forgot that 5-14 season in 2016, they remembered what this win means so much for the program and to the community by the large number of family and the community that came down from Dallas to watch them play that cheered from them all game long.
For those seven seniors like Savage and Laizure, it was something special.
“It’s awesome, I don’t know it’s just feels great to make it this far with the girls I love so much,” said Laizure on moving on as a senior to be now fighting for a trophy.
“Amazing,” smiled and said a very excited Savage. “It’s so awesome. I’m so excited it’s almost to the point that I want to cry. Like I’m so jittery, like this is is amazing, I can’t wait. I think that this is the first time Dallas has made to State in a very long time.”
For this team, for the community west of the Marion Bridge and along Highway 22, there were smiles around as they took pictures, hugged and cheer in knowing what is to come November 3 when they open up Elite 8 play against Bend.
Though they are focusing on the here and now of the moment that they worked so hard for and this end result they are in that is worth so much of this excitement, they too know that this energy is just building for the Lava Bears at 3:15 pm on the 3rd.
“We’re going to go off the energy we have right now and then carry it on to State and do our best there and fight for as long as we can and see how it ends,” said Hailey VanWell.
Anything is possible. Just keep fighting and grinding!
Photos By Jeremy McDonald