WESLEY CHAPEL — Mike Diaz doesn't know his newest lacrosse players, but they know him.
The Wesley Chapel High School coach of three years and Tampa Tribe coach of three years is adding yet another bullet point to his resume by taking over the University of South Florida women's lacrosse team.
The program has grown quickly over the last seven years and was searching for a coach who could help push the team to the next level. Diaz made himself available and immediately was heralded by players on the team as the man to take the reins.
"It's a challenge that I think I'm up for as a coach," Diaz said. "The interest from local schools in lacrosse is growing all the time and I'm honored that I can be a part of this program. The fact they thought enough of me and my ability to coach as being good enough to have me coach at this level means a lot. It's the highest level I've ever coached at and I believe I'm up for it."
USF women's lacrosse president Thais Toledo had never met Diaz, nor did she know of his previous coaching exploits, but as soon as Diaz threw his name in the hat, her teammates jumped at the possibility of bringing him in.
"He came out to a practice and talked to us and immediately players on the team started coming forward and telling us they wanted him to step in," Toledo said. "A lot of our players played against his teams in high school and saw how skilled Wesley Chapel's players are. Mike seems very forthright about what he wants to do with the team and we're looking forward to him helping us become a team that players want to come play for."
After taking the Tampa Tribe's girls competitive travel team to North Carolina in October where they won a tournament in front of college recruiters, Wesley Chapel Athletic Association director Joe Palermo believes that Diaz has what it takes to get USF to the next level.
"Mike will be an asset to that program," Palermo said. "Knowing Mike, I think he'll have that program moving in the right direction. He has an excellent demeanor with the girls and is able to get across all of his plays and techniques on their level. His experience and success with other teams like our Tribe travel team can only help USF become competitive at a collegiate level."
Diaz takes the post on a volunteer basis and will look to have the Bulls competing against the likes of the state's best lacrosse schools, with a focus on recruiting and increasing the level of interest.
"I haven't had a real good chance to evaluate the team, but we'll have to work heavily on recruiting and get a little bit bigger of a squad," Diaz said. "I'm going to try to bring some different plays, new skills and a new coaching attitude. With the interest in the sport growing I think it will bring us a variety of players that can help us improve."