Viera lacrosse programs raising the bar this season


Published:

Viera's Tristen Chang gets the Hawks' offense started by winning the draw. She is also an effective scorer. Viera will be looking for its third straight district title this season.

CARL KOTALA

Whether it’s a tougher schedule, or just its level of play, the Viera High School boys and girls lacrosse teams are raising the bar this season.

“We keep building. We keep growing,” Viera girls coach Nick Bigerton said. “The girls are playing outside of the season. They’re playing travel ball. They’re playing fall ball with me.

“They just love the game. They’re continuing to work at it and they realize if they put the work and effort in, we are a good team.”

The Hawks, who have won the past two district titles, are the clear favorite to make it three in a row thanks to the play of top scorers Micki Pippett, Grace Blythe and Brianna Staerk, plus the defense of Sammie Pippett and goalkeeper Tabby Caldwell.

Viera also has benefited greatly from the addition of two experienced freshmen — Lexi Fischer and Lia Arbeeny — who already have had a big impact.

“I think everything is pretty (much) the same (as last season), but I think we work better together,” Blythe said. “We’re more of a team than individuals.”

Should Viera, off to an 8-1 start, claim another district title and get back to the postseason, the next challenge will be to make a deep playoff run.

That’s the goal of Viera’s boys team, too, which appears ready to get back to the postseason after losing to Merritt Island in the district finals each of the past two years.

To that end, the Hawks — who already have beaten the Mustangs during the regular season  — are playing a more challenging schedule.

“We went 15-1 last year and wanted to challenge them with some good teams from out of the county, including IMG (Academy), the fourth-best team in the nation,” Viera boys coach Charlie Crawford said. “If you want to get better, you’ve got to play better.”

Viera has been getting solid contributions from players such as Dallas Thomas, Nate DePlancke, Jared Weiss and goalkeeper Austin Jensen.

DePlancke, who thinks the Hawks’ schedule will help “open our minds a little more and show us where we need to be,” said Viera must learn to play together and focus on the future, not the past.

“We can’t really go off of what the past has brought us,” he said. “We’ve got a whole new bunch of younger guys that are going to help us a lot. We’ve got to build them up and just take it from there.”

Crawford believes the Hawks have a chance to go far if they can continue to tighten up their game.

“I think we’re capable of winning the district and going pretty deep in the playoffs, if they can just maintain their discipline,” he said.