By Rick Pedone
Celebration is the only school in Osceola County to field lacrosse teams, and both the girls and boys programs are making significant strides.
Celebration, Lake Gibson, Lakeland, Winter Haven, Bartow and All Saints Academy compete in District 13, a change from last season when the Storm were in the same district with powerhouse Dr. Phillips and several other Orange County programs.
The Lady Storm, under Coach Beverly Alksninis, who started the program three years ago, are enjoying their best season at 12-2 as the district tournament looms next week. Only Dr. Phillips has defeated Celebration by more than one goal.
“It’s been a very good season for us. We have been playing very well, and with Polk County just starting their programs recently, it gives us a very good chance to advance from our district tournament,” she said.
The top four teams in the district qualify for the district tournament. The district champion advances to the state play-in round. Celebration hosts the girls tournament Tuesday and April 6.
The Lady Storm have a youthful lineup with only two senior starters, but they are dynamic.
Charlotte Spencer, a captain who has earned an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, scored 73 of the team’s 268 goals. She will play for the Army lacrosse team next year.
Senior Abigale Ackart, who plays midfield, has had an excellent season, Alksninis said. She will go to Iowa State next year.
Junior Katie Arce, another captain, leads the attack in assists and she normally takes the draws due to her strong ball-handling skills, said Coach Alksninis. Junior Olivia Warner is the team’s third captain. Freshman goalie Vivian Spencer has 66 saves.
“The 12-2 record is the most wins in the program’s history. I’m proud of Celebration High School for introducing a new sport to female athletes,” she said. “Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport at the college levels. We’re a start-up team that’s quickly become a force to be reckoned with in Central Florida.”
Like Alksninis, David Shearer returned to lead the boys squad which also is enjoying unprecedented success.
The boys team also is in the new District 13 with Polk County and should qualify for the district tournament, he said.
“Based on our performance and the remaining games on our schedule we are looking to finish the season 7-7,” he said.
The Storm finished with a district record of 2-3.
“This should place in the district tournament. This year overall has been a great success for the program,” he said. “We have rebuilt from graduating 12 seniors, including starting goalies, to achieving our first victory in program history. We have grown a lot over the three years of the program and I hope to continue our growth and success into the future.”
All Saints is hosting the boys district tournament next week.