Heading in to Friday’s playoff game against Windermere, the Celebration girls’ lacrosse team was looking for their first regional post-season lacrosse victory in school history. And despite fighting back from a five-goal deficit in the second half, the drought continues as the Storm dropped a 16-15 decision in a FHSAA Class 2A Region 2 quarterfinal game.

“It’s frustrating but this as close as we have come to winning a game in the regional round,” Storm head coach Laura Jones said. “It was a tough loss but I was so proud of how this team kept their composure and fought back. We had a real chance to win this game tonight, we just couldn’t get that equalizer at the end.”

The Storm, which won a district championship and finished the season with a 13-4 record, jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the game but watched as Windermere scored five of the next six goals to take a 5-3 lead.

It was an advantage they would not relinquish for the remainder of the game.

Although Windermere, 13-5, kept a ton of offensive pressure on Celebration in the first half they could not pull away as Storm goalie Isabella Phillips recorded nine first half saves. An Erin Beah-Balboatin goal cut the Windermere lead to one late in the half but Lauren Pfleger responded with her fourth goal of the half in the final seconds to give the Wolverines a 9-7 lead at intermission.

Pfleger would tally two more times in the first 18 minutes of the second half, as Windermere built a five-goal lead at 13-8. Two quick Celebration goals made it a 13-10 game, but Wolverines sandwiched two goals around a Beah-Balbontin goal as they maintained a four-goal cushion at the eight minute mark.

“Few things were working for us to start the second half and there was a danger of them pulling away,” Jones said. “But I told our kids at the water break that four goals was not an insurmountable lead and we had come back from four goals before. I told them to keep their composure and play their game.”

After the break, Ayla Moffitt scored a quick goal and Abigael Locher scored two – including one on a fantastic assist from Moffitt as Celebration made it a 15-14 lead with just five minutes remaining. Playing with patience, Windermere showed excellent ball movement to set up Amelia Sewell for an easy goal in front of the Storm net to make it 16-14. Beah-Balbontin would then be fouled in box and converted a penalty shot as Celebration again closed to one at 16-15 with two minutes to go.

The Storm would then win the faceoff and would once again be fouled in front the net. This time, Beah-Balbontin’s penalty shot hit the post and although the Storm would gather the ground ball to maintain possession, they would eventually turn it over with an errant pass without getting another shot off. Gaining possession with less than a minute to go, Windermere raced the ball down to the Storm defensive end and was able to control the ball as time expired.

For the game, Celebration had a balanced scoring attack as Locher had five goals and Moffitt and Beah-Balbontin had four each; while Abria Moffett tallied twice on offense. Phillips finished the game with 13 saves.

Windermere’s Pflegler led all players with six goals.

Despite the loss, Jones remained upbeat. “Our goalie is only a sophomore and a lot of our offensive firepower tonight came from younger players,” Jones said. “I know we have a lot of young players coming up from our youth program, so Celebration has a chance to field a pretty good team for the immediate future.”

The goalie Phillips is just a sophomore. Locher and Moffitt, who finished the season 47 and 38 goals respectively, are just freshmen and Beah-Balbontin, who finished with a team-leading 51 goals, has one season of eligibility left.