Team effort leads to district title three-peat for Hawks

Viera tops Edgewood 10-8 in thrilling championship game


The Viera High girls lacrosse team celebrates after winning it's third straight district championship.


COCOA BEACH -- All season long, they’ve talked about how they are more of a team this year.

They trust in each other.

They play for each other.

Perhaps most importantly, they believe in each other to do the right thing, at the right time.

And that’s what it took Wednesday night for the Viera High girls lacrosse team to capture it’s third straight Class 1A, District 11 championship.

Locked in a close battle with Edgewood, the Hawks saw a four-goal lead disappear midway through the second half. But when they needed it most, they got clutch scoring, big-time defense and, eventually, the opportunity to run out the clock for an 10-8 victory at Cocoa Beach Jr/Sr High.

“It was just a true team effort tonight,” Viera coach Nick Bigerton said. “This has been the best season as a unit that I can remember in my three years of being here. The girls are so close. They’re so tight-knit.

“I’m so proud of them. I can’t say better things about this team. It’s been amazing.”

Sophomore Micki Pippett had two goals for Viera (16-2), including the go-ahead goal after Edgewood had tied the score at 7-7.

Senior Grace Blythe, junior Maddy Murawski and Freshman Lexi Fischer all scored twice. Sophomore Brianna Staerk and freshman Lia Arbeeny each scored once.

Pippet and Staerk also had two assists. Tristen Chang and Arbeeny also had an assist.

After a back-and-forth beginning to the first half, the Hawks seemed to create some breathing room on Staerk’s goal with 22 seconds remaining before the break. Viera then opened the second half with a Murawksi goal to make it a four-goal game and seemingly put the Hawks in full control.

But back came Edgewood, scoring four unanswered goals to tie it up with 10:53 to play.

“We were all nervous and afraid of making mistakes,” senior defender Brittany Dufresne said. “But it really worked out for us because we do work as a team. I think that definitely helped us. We don’t single each other out. We all work together.

“We just talked about keeping our cool and making good choices, because when you rush things, things just don’t go well.”

And just when the Hawks needed someone to step up, Pippett -- who said she tends to play better when she gets angry or nervous -- took the ball down the field and scored to put the Hawks back up 8-7.

“I was like, ‘all right, might as well put it in,’ so I just ran it in,” Pippett laughed.

It was just the kind of play the Hawks have come to expect from their top playmaker.

“It’s like Michael Jordan,” Bigerton said “When the game’s down, who are you going to hand it to? Who are you going to trust to run down there and change the momentum?”

Viera didn’t stop there, however, as the Hawks got two more goals from their freshmen – Arbeeny and Fischer. They got some clutch defense from goalie Tabby Caldwell, who made a couple of big saves in the second half. They got strong defensive play from the likes of Sammie Pippett, Kate Joyce, Dufresne and Jade Long.

Ellie DiSciullo came in and also played well.

“I told the girls, just like last year (when Viera edged Edgewood by a goal), we’re playing a tough team,” Bigerton said. “This is a team that’s going to come out, they’re going to fight and they’re going to play to win. The momentum is going to swing both ways. It’s like a pendulum.

“It’s going to come in our favor, and then we’ll lose it and it will start to gain momentum the other way, back and forth. I said if it starts to swing back (to them), we’ve got to swing it back our way.

“I was glad the girls stepped up because I could tell things were going not-so-great toward the middle of the second half. But luckily, we had some great saves, some great defensive checks and some good passing toward the end. We did what we had to do.”

Micki Pippett, who said she was confident throughout the game that she and her teammates would be able to pull out the win, credited the Hawks’ improved chemistry to the fact that she and her teammates played together over the summer and fall.

That familiarity with each other on and off the field is one of the big differences between the Viera team that won this year’s title and the one that took the championship last year.

“This year, it’s more (about) everyone’s effort,” Micki Pippett said. “It’s not just a couple of players who are doing all the things. It’s more everyone coming together.”

Viera’s next game will be on Thursday, when then Hawks will travel to Orlando to face Bishop Moore (20-1), which is ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 9 in the nation by MaxPreps.

No matter what happens in that one, the Hawks – particularly seniors Blythe, Sammie Pippett, Mackenzie Krassel, Dufresne, Caldwell and Nicole Blanchard – will know that they have really accomplished something.

They proved that Wednesday night.

“It feels really good,” Dufresne said. “Especially since I’m a senior. It’s so good to go out with a win.”