LITHIA — Tampa Elite Lacrosse's U13 boys team has earned a slot at the December Dick's Sporting Goods National Tournament of Champions in Pasco, thanks to some key performances this summer.
The team took home the title at the Georgia Southern Shootout Tournament last month in Gainesville, Ga. Tampa Elite also finished second at the Dick's Sporting Goods Atlantic Cup Qualifying Tournament just outside of Baltimore on July 6-7.
"The Tampa Elite U13 team's terrific showing in back-to-back out-of-state national tournaments is a testament to these players' skills being the best in the South and on par with the powerhouse programs of the lacrosse hotbeds in the Northeast," said Brian Lemon, Tampa Elite coaching director.
Tampa Elite president Howard Frank credited Lemon for the team's rapid rise.
"Coach Lemon has quickly assembled a national contender by implementing a complete program," Frank said. "From his summer weekend team retreat, team conditioning, mentorship program and community service, Tampa Elite is more than just a travel lacrosse program. These young athletes will cherish these experiences for the rest of their lives. To win on the national stage at the Dick's Tournament of Champions would be the elite crown jewel."
At the Georgia tournament, Tampa Elite went 2-2 during pool play and was seeded third. But the team went on a 3-0 run through the elimination bracket, defeating Alabama 10-2, Tennessee 12-2 and Texas 8-6 for the title.
Earlier in the month at the Atlantic Cup Qualifying Tournament in Maryland, Tampa Elite won all four of its pool play games and entered the championship round seeded first out of 20 teams in its bracket. The team won two more before falling 7-1 to Maryland's Cannons Select Gold in the title game.
East wins T3 Tourney: The Tampa East team, composed mainly of players from Tampa Elite's U13 and U15 clubs, also won the West Florida Lacrosse Tampa Team Tournament (T3) last month at the University of Tampa. The tournament was comprised of players from around the Tampa area. The East team won all four of its games and beat the South in the championship. Goalie A.C. Cordero was named tournament Most Valuable Player.
"Our vision for West Florida Lacrosse is to support and promote the growth and development of all levels of lacrosse in and around Tampa," tournament organizer and UT assistant coach Chris Burdick said. "The T3 Championships showed how much talent exists in the area."
Saladino Academy expands ages: The Saladino Baseball Academy is opening up training for children ages 3-7 this fall. The sessions will take place one day a week for the 3-year-olds and twice a week for the 4-7 age group. Three-year-olds will be grouped together while kids aged 4-5 and 6-7 will each have their own divisions.
The academy moved its operations to the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center this summer and Tony Saladino III said the budding partnership has even exceeded expectations.
"It has been absolutely great," he said. "Really it's even been better than we could have hoped."
Saladino said he wanted to include the younger ages, especially 3-year-olds, in hopes early exposure to the sport would begin to spark the kids' interest in baseball.
"With kids that young we just want to introduce them to running the bases, hitting off a tee and hopefully some coach pitching," he said. "We want to show them the basics and fundamentals of the game."
Saladino said they haven't pinned down which days of the week the sessions will take place but expects to have that hammered out shortly. The cost for 12-week evening sessions is $180 for the 3-year-olds, $240 for 4-5 and $300 for 6-7. For more information, visit www.mybsac.org or www.saladinobaseballacademy.com.
Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]