By Michael Murillo
Even if you don’t know anything about the sport of lacrosse, you should know that the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association (WCAA)’s Tampa Tribe Girls High School team (photo) is good. Very, very good. As in, three-for-three-in championships good.
“It’s always thrilling to win a game or tournament on your own home field, but this victory was especially awesome,” explained Renée Diaz, the Wesley Chapel resident who is the assistant director of lacrosse for the WCAA. “For the players who have played (on) Tribe for a number of years, it’s a true underdog-type story.” Diaz says that the team, once considered an easy win and annually relegated to consolation brackets, surprised opponents on its way to a record-setting year.
First, the team won the Broward Sunshine State Games championship, which was held in Parkland, FL May 18-20. Next, the team of high school-aged girls, many from the Wesley Chapel/New Tampa area, conquered the Sunshine State Games at the University of Florida in Gainesville June 9-10. And finally, the Tribe won the third and final Sunshine State Game championship June 16-17, at Wesley Chapel District Park. Although the Tribe’s titles were all at the “B” level, by sweeping those contests, they became the first girls team in Sunshine State Games history to win all three championships in the same year, at either the “A” or “B” level.
“Lacrosse, like all youth sports, teaches discipline, good sportsmanship, respect for self and others, and of course the health benefits of exercise,” she said. And as the sport continues to grow in the college ranks, more schools are adding boys and girls club teams and still others are adding lacrosse as a scholarship sport.
WCAA Lacrosse is divided by team names: The Chiefs (for post-high school adults); The Warriors (providing spring competition for children in kindergarten through eighth grade); and The Tribe (active in summer and fall for both boys and girls through high school). Tribe players are separated into different groups based on age and ability, and the Girls High School (GHS) team claimed its three straight titles in just its sixth season.
While the Tribe has players from places such as Ocala, FishHawk Ranch and Palm Harbor, one local player, 17-year-old Arianna Diaz of Wesley Chapel High, is not only Renee’s daughter, she’s also the longest-tenured player on the Tribe GHS team, having been with the squad since its inaugural season in 200. Arianna says she is happy to finally experience success after several years of struggles and challenges — often with few rewards to show for it. “It makes me feel like all the hard work we did paid off,” she said. “When we first started, we didn’t win anything at all.” Taking third or fourth place was realistic, but before this year, she says the team never really entered tournaments thinking they had a chance to win.
“It was surprising to see how much we’ve grown,” she said.
WCAA Lacrosse has grown to accommodate approximately 200 players across its teams serving K-12th grades. That’s a lot of growth from just a few years ago, when girls and boys either had to play together or had trouble filling age- or gender-specific rosters. As recently as last year, Diaz said the GHS team struggled to field a full complement of 12 players at tournaments. But in 2012, the Tribe not only had enough players on the field, there were enough substitutes to field a second GHS squad!
As for the future, the Tribe’s GHS team isn’t looking to rest on its laurels. In fact, Diaz says they’ll be looking to branch out and take on tougher opponents: The team recently participated in its first out-of-state tournament, and will consider moving up to A-level competition next year. While that might affect the Tribe’s win column as they challenge better teams, Diaz said it’s all part of improving the quality of area lacrosse and the players who enjoy it.
“I am a firm believer that the way to excel is through challenging your team to reach higher limits,” she says.
For more information about the WCAA and the Tampa Tribe, call 994-6633 or visit WCLacrosse.org.