Westlake athlete kicks it up a notch

Lauren Acker, No. 86, grew up playing soccer in Westlake. Today she is the kicker and wide receiver for the Cleveland Fusion women's football team. Photo by Carol Maat

Growing up in Westlake, Lauren Acker was well-recognized for her achievements on the soccer field. But today she is making a name for herself in a different sport – tackle football.

This past March, Lauren was contacted with a tryout offer from the Cleveland Fusion, a women’s full-tackle football team. The Fusion is one of 40 teams in the country that make up the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) league, one of the largest in the history of women’s football. 

Lauren, who has played sports for as long as she can remember, thought it would be a great experience. She played basketball and soccer in elementary and middle school; when she entered high school, she decided to devote her time solely to soccer.

While at Westlake High School, Lauren was recruited by Tim Carter, a nationally renowned soccer coach, to live and play soccer year-round for Shattuck St. Mary’s, a coed boarding school in Faribault, Minnesota. This required a lot of hard work and dedication and there was little time for rest or visits home.

Lauren considers this to be one of her greatest experiences as an athlete, but the distance from her family was difficult. After one year at Shattuck, she decided to return to Westlake for her junior and senior years. She joined the WHS soccer team and credits assistant coach Shaun Koski with helping her both on and off the field.

"As a student athlete at Westlake High School, I learned discipline and perseverance," Lauren said. "Coach Koski always made sure I got the help I needed with any classes I was struggling with and kept me on the right track. I learned how to balance school and work while playing sports."

After graduating in 2008, Lauren continued her soccer career by playing for Notre Dame College in South Euclid. She started as a defender her freshman year but played midfield and forward her last few years.

Lauren credits her family's support in helping her to always strive for greatness. "My family was always behind me in every decision I made," Lauren said. "They inspired me to be tough and never back down from any challenge."

Lauren’s soccer skills are now being put to the test in her new sport. She plays wide receiver and is the kicker for the Fusion. She is 19-for-20 in PATs (points after touchdowns) and ranks as one of the top three kickers in the country for the WFA. Players do not get paid for playing, but their travel expenses are covered. Lauren works full-time as an educational specialist in inner-city Cleveland and coaches soccer at Brush High School.

Currently the Cleveland Fusion is in second place in their division. They are 4-1 and have scored 186 points, with only 30 points scored against them. Their home field is Maple Heights High School stadium and games are played on Saturday nights. Following a bye week and two away games, the final Fusion home game is June 13 against the West Michigan Mayhem.

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Volume 7, Issue 10, Posted 9:44 AM, 05.19.2015