How sweet it is … Viera girls win first district lacrosse title

Maggie Bowen, Maddie Murawski and Tristen Chang each score twice in 8-6 win over Rockledge


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The Viera High girls lacrosse team defeated Rockledge 8-6 Thursday night to win the first district championship in program history.

VIERA VOICE Carl Kotala

It was quite a moment, watching members of the Viera High lacrosse team hoist their newly-won district championship trophy in the air Thursday night.

Especially when you think about what the Hawks had to overcome to get here:

* Four different coaches in four years.

* Season-ending injuries to key players like goalie Jade Rodrigues and defender Lyana Thomas – the first Viera player to receive a lacrosse scholarship (Tennessee Wesleyan).

* A very good Rockledge team that had already beaten Viera twice this season and came into Thursday night’s District 11 championship game at McLarty Stadium as the clear favorite.

Overcoming all that is what made the Hawks’ 8-6 victory over the Raiders so sweet. It’s first district championship in the history of the Viera girls lacrosse program.

And it’s what made hoisting that trophy an act of pure joy.

“It was definitely the best night of my life,” Viera senior Maggie Bowen said. “I’ve waited four years for this. We definitely started off freshman year very weak, but with this coach, we really all worked together.”

That coach, Nick Bigerton, could barely contain his excitement after seeing his team jump out to an early lead, then score three of the game’s final four goals to pull away for the win.

“Despite all of our injuries, despite having a rough patch toward the end of the season, the girls found a way to bring it together and get motivated – even against all odds – to really pull it off in the most high-pressure, high-intensity situation,” Bigerton said. “It was unbelievable.”

Bowen and freshmen Maddie Murawski and Tristen Chang all had two goals for the Hawks. Sophomores Grace Blythe and Nicole Blanchard each scored once.

Bowen also added a pair of assists while senior Darienne Bell and Blythe each had one.

Sophomore Tabitha Caldwell, who had never picked up a stick before this season, had nine saves in goal.

Viera had lost to Rockledge 7-5 and 7-6 during the regular season, but the Hawks looked more determined than intimidated early on as they jumped out to a 3-1 halftime lead.

The lead grew to 4-1 early in the third quarter, and when Rockledge answered, the Hawks came right back to once again give themselves a three-goal cushion at 5-2.

That’s when the Raiders kicked it into gear, dominating possession and scoring three unanswered goals to tie the game up. And with the momentum clearly on Rockledge’s side, Bigerton called timeout.

“I said, ‘girls, we’ve been in this situation before,’” the Hawks coach said.

In Tuesday night’s district playoff game, Viera took an 8-3 lead on Edgewood only to see the game end up tied at 9-9 and go into overtime before the Hawks pulled it out.

There would be no overtime needed on this night, though. Murawski scored the go-ahead goal and Viera would get two more for an 8-5 advantage that Rockledge simply couldn’t overcome.

The victory puts the Hawks into the first round play-in game of the state tournament on Thursday (April 13). The opponent and site of the game have yet to be determined.

But you can bet the Hawks will be ready.

When Bigerton took the job this season, he talked about building stability and trust back into the program.

Well, he built a lot more than that.

For seniors like Bowen, Bell, Emily Wallace, Sam Kalman and the injured Thomas and Rodriguez, Thursday night was the ultimate prize for sticking with the program for four years through all the coaching turnover.

And for players like Murawski, Chang, Blythe, Blanchard Rhyan Sutherland, Sammie Pippett, Rylee Thomas, Lexi Osborn, Emma Koons, Mackenzie Krassel, Lia Hueckel, Caldwell and Brittany Dufresne – who also played a key role Thursday night – it was a glimpse into what could be in store for this program down the road:

More nights like this.

“This is unbelievable,” Bigerton said. “I can’t even fathom being a first-year coach and having this happen to us.”