By Sean Bowes
Thanks to the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association (WCAA) Tampa Tribe, a group of girl lacrosse players who play hard and give generously, St. Joseph’s Children’s Heart Center now has an extra $1,800 in its coffers.
On October 29-30, eleven teams from around the state, some from as far away as Jupiter, gathered at the lacrosse fields at Wesley Chapel District Park on Boyette Rd. to play the “fastest game on two feet” during the inaugural “I Lacrosse My Heart Tournament.” The event’s purpose was to raise money for the Heart Center during the last days of October, which is “Sudden Cardiac Awareness Month.”
All of the girls obviously wanted to win the tournament (the Tribe is a competitive team of girls ages 12-18 years old) but for some, it had a special meaning, as two of the girls’ coaches had children who had been treated at the Heart Center. From tournament fees and donations for admission, the girls were able raise $1,800 to donate to the hospital.
On the field, the Tribe, which had enough players to fill two teams, Tribe Carolina and Tribe Navy, showed the competition that they wanted to win at-home. Both teams battled through their brackets over the two-day tournament, winning the majority of their games and battling it out in the championship game.
When the Tribe Carolina played the Tribe Navy, it was a battle between the Tribes’ top goal scorers ¬¬¬¬- freshman Michaela Diaz, of the Carolinas and sophomore Nichole Sarginger, of the Navy, who each put in seven goals in the final game.
The game was neck and neck the entire match. The Carolinas would pull ahead by one goal and the Navy would answer right back until the score reached 9-9. In the final two minutes, Sarginger buried the ball in the back of the net. Leading by just one point and with only a minute remaining, Navy midfielder Ariana Wenglarski, an eighth grader, fired a shot that bounced off the Carolinas goalie and into the goal. The final score was Navy 11 – Carolina 9.
On December 1, the girls presented the check to the St. Joseph’s Children’s Heart Center at the lobby of the pediatric center; the girls and the hospital’s staff were all smiles.
“We are thrilled to support St. Joseph’s Children’s Heart Center because once you have a child with a heart condition of any kind, you realize how precious each day is for that child,” said Renee Diaz, the Tampa Tribe girls’ coach, whose youngest daughter received care from the Heart Center for many years.
In addition to the tournament games, activities included informational booths, equipment vendors and lots of lacrosse exhibitions. As an extra treat for the Tampa Tribe, NCAA Division II women’s lacrosse teams from St. Leo University near Dade City and Florida Southern College in Lakeland played a scrimmage at the tournament and hosted a clinic where players got to practice their moves with college players.
Some members from Parent Heart Watch, a parent advocacy group that is solely committed to protecting children from sudden cardiac arrest while playing sports, were also in attendance at the tournament. They helped educate coaches and the public at the tournament about the importance of being trained to use automated external defibrillators (AEDs).
“Lacrosse, like many sports, is a vehicle for teaching young people critical life lessons, instilling core values, creating higher self esteem and providing a healthy body image,” WCAA program director Joe Palermo says. “It’s also about giving back to our community which is teaching our youth life’s greatest lesson.”
WCAA lacrosse is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the growth and integrity of girls and boys lacrosse. The monies generated through fund-raising efforts and hosting local tournaments goes to the support of student athletes. For more information about the Tampa Tribe, visit TampaTribe.org.
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