In just a few years, the Storm Select Girls Lacrosse program has grown from a single rec league team to a powerhouse in Central Florida and beyond — much to the benefit of local varsity players for Dr. Phillips, West Orange, Ocoee and The First Academy.
DR. PHILLIPS A little more than six years ago, Storm Select girls lacrosse started as a recreational youth lacrosse team competing in a county league.
How quickly things change.
Within a few years, the program expanded to offer travel competition and what started as an organization with maybe 20 girls now has nearly 100 competing in either middle- or high school-age competition.
The program has flourished to the point coaches Ann Bomleny and Tara Moran have been taking the girls up north to regions where lacrosse is gospel — and the girls from Central Florida more than hold their own.
The Storm Select girls lacrosse program got an added feather in its cap recently when it announced that 100% of its Class of 2017 players have committed to play lacrosse at the Division I level, including five girls from West and Southwest Orange County from schools such as Ocoee, West Orange, Dr. Phillips and The First Academy.
“We’re really excited — this was a really great class,” Bomleny said. “Their style of play was really at a top level and we’ve been working with a lot of these girls since they were very young.”
In just a few short years, Storm Select has built a reputation with college coaches — in spite of traditional bias against girls coming out of Florida.
“We’ve gotten to the point where we’ve proven ourselves and (college coaches) know that if we’re putting girls out there, they can play,” Bomleny said.
Other local Storm Select standouts include Dr. Phillips duo Elyse Decker (Penn signee) and Piper Johnson (St. Mary’s College signee), West Orange’s Shea Moran (St. Francis signee) and Brooke Richards (East Carolina signee), a senior at The First Academy.
“Whatever your vision of ‘playing at the next level’ is — we want to help you accomplish that.”
— Ann Bomleny
More than just getting girls recruited, though, Bomleny and Moran have created a team culture where their games at showcases do not devolve into a one-on-one style of play meant only for college coaches on hand.
“A lot of clubs, it’s all about recruiting,” Decker said. “Coaches Ann and Tara, of course, want us to be recruited — but they’re also very competitive, and they’ve instilled in us a competitive spirit.”
Storm Select typically practices at Dr. Philips Community Park, where the team has access to lighted practice fields, and Bomleny said more than 75% of the girls participating hail from either West or Southwest Orange County. Nevertheless, some high-level athletes from Florida’s east and west coasts will commute to compete for the program because of its growing prestige.
For Bomleny, who grew up in the lacrosse hotbed of Baltimore, anything that helps grow the game and get her girls to college is welcome.
“My mission is always to grow the game, spread the game … we really believe in the sport and we really believe in these girls,” she said. “Whatever your vision of ‘playing at the next level’ is — we want to help you accomplish that.”
Ocoee’s Murphy excited for Butler
Ocoee High senior Katelyn Murphy has a hard time hiding her excitement about playing her college lacrosse at Butler University in Indiana.
Not only does the standout senior get the chance to help build a program that literally just played its first game Feb. 12, but also the program met her other criteria.
“They fit academically and their athletics is Division I and I couldn’t resist,” Murphy said.
Murphy, who wants to dual-major in computer science and biomedical engineering through a partnership program between Butler and Purdue University, said the improvements she has made while competing for Storm Select Lacrosse enabled her to be recruited at the Division I level.
“Playing for the Storm improved my speed — throwing the ball faster, reacting faster and getting up and down the field faster,” Murphy said.
Knowing the Storm organization was the vessel through which she would be recruited, Murphy chose to stay at Ocoee High instead of seeking out a varsity program with more tradition.
That decision has paid off both academically — Murphy is the salutatorian of her class — and in terms of growing as leader on a growing program.
“(At) Ocoee, I get to teach my teammates new skills and it’s fun to watch the team progress so greatly,” Murphy said.
From winning two games her freshman year to five in 2016, Murphy is hopeful her final season could be one that see the Knights put together a winning record.
“If we had a winning season, that would be crazy,” she said.
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].