Lydia Celani listens to her lacrosse coach, Jessica Somers, during the first day of practice at Edward Little High School in Auburn on Monday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — The first day of lacrosse was sweeter for Edward Little’s Lydia Celani.

“I am excited to just play,” she said Monday before the season’s first practice. “Just shoot, score, run around, play with a team again.”

The sophomore’s freshman season ended before it technically started, coming to a mysterious halt following the Red Eddies’ final preseason game in 2017.

When she woke up the next morning, she couldn’t walk. Certain it was a knot, she tried to rub it out.

“It wouldn’t go anywhere,” Celani said. “That one day, it came and it stayed.”

It took about four weeks to figure out exactly what the problem was — it was originally thought to be a hematoma — but the truth was terrifying: Celani had a tumor.

More specifically, a rare form of a benign tumor called Fibro-Adipose Vascular Anomaly.

The tumor was benign, but it still kept Celani on the sidelines for the entire season, and she spent the rest of the school year and most of the summer on crutches because she was unable to put her heel down and was forced to walk on her toes.

Celani also plays soccer, but lacrosse is her main game, so missing her freshman season was rough — especially considering how much she was looking forward to playing at the high school level.

“It was hard,” she said. “I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

She couldn’t play, but Celani still remained an active member of the Edward Little girls’ lacrosse team. Junior midfielder Megan Steele said Celani was at every practice and game.

“She helps people out,” Steele said. “Even last year, when she didn’t play, she would help people out (while) sitting on the bench.”

“She’s also such a positive kid,” Red Eddies coach Jessica Somers said. “Just having her there could be uplifting at times.”

Somers has coached Celani in soccer dating back to middle school, and the two are also neighbors. She said it was hard to hear about Celani’s health problem.

“It was one of those things that, it’s not like an injury that you can come back from really quick. It was up in the air not knowing how this was going to impact the rest of her life,” Somers said. “It was just important for her to understand that her coaches and her teammates, we supported her and we were going to be there no matter what ended up coming out in terms of her medical needs. So just making sure that she understood that we supported her and cared for her, not just on the field, and that she had that support system.”

Celani said that support didn’t go unnoticed.

“And being in that environment was really good,” she said, “because sitting at home, I was just in my head. They were really, really good to me.”

Celani had surgery in July, and was able to play for the soccer team this past fall. She also has participated in lacrosse clinics since her surgery.

Somers said that in the brief time Celani played for the Red Eddies in last year’s preseason, she showed she’ll be a strong addition to the midfield alongside Steele and Piper Norcross this season.

“She’s fast,” Somers said. “She’s very quick, and she has great stick work.”

Celani also brings savvy as a lacrosse-first player, which are rare among the Red Eddies.

“I played with her in middle school,” Steele, another EL player whose favorite sport is lacrosse, said. “I think she’s an aggressive player, and I really liked playing with her because she knows the game. She’s just really knowledgeable and she knows what to do at the right time.”

Somers anticipates that Celani, with her knowledge of lacrosse, will be someone for the Red Eddies’ younger players to look up to.

And, with seven key players back from last season, Celani should be an integral part of a team that went 6-6 last year and should again be in the thick of the Class A North postseason race.

“I think we’re just trying to grow the team,” Celani said. “Get better, get our fundamentals down, and hopefully win some games.”

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