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Zephyrhills league getting jump on the competition

The regular season does not begin until October, but organizers of the Zephyrhills Youth Soccer League feel it's never too early to get players on the field.

To accomplish that, recreational and competitive soccer camps are scheduled in July at the Samuel Pasco Recreation Complex.

Additionally, coaches and administrators are recruiting players for Zephyrhills Youth Soccer Elite, a second-year competitive program designed to keep talented athletes closer to home.

"We were losing some players to other programs (in nearby counties)," said Phil Castro, who coaches the girls under-12 Twisters and the junior varsity boys team at Zephyrhills High School. "We thought we had enough talent here to go with our own select teams and still have a recreational league."

ZYSE included five teams last year: boys under-10, under-12 and under-14; and girls under-12 and under-19. League officials aim to expand ZYSE to include boys under-11, under-13 and under-16 for the upcoming season.

Two ZYSE boys teams performed quite well against teams from Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Manatee counties in their inaugural seasons. The under-12 Thunder won the Division IV championship in USA Soccer and the under-10 Storm was a runner-up in Division II.

"It just shows that we were ready to go into the select program," Castro said, adding that there is plenty of local talent and qualified coaches.

Saint Leo College soccer coach Fran Reidy will direct both camps. Recreational sessions run July 16-20. Sign-ups are at the Samuel Pasco fields on July 9 from 1-4 p.m. Registration for the July 23-27 competitive camp is July 16 from 1-4 p.m.

The recreational camp will focus on basic skills with limited competition, said Reidy, adding, "We try to make it a fun experience for them."

Learning new strategies is the focus of the competitive camp.

"The biggest thing for (competitive players) is 3-on-3, 5-on-5; where they're exposed to tactics a little bit more," Reidy said.

Assisting Reidy will be Saint Leo players Nomar Rodriguez, Marcello Kracolici and Alfred Ataeli. Brendan Morgan, the Monarchs' assistant soccer coach, will work with goalkeepers.

In eight years at Saint Leo, Reidy has guided the Monarchs to their first winning season, a school-record 13-game winning streak and top-20 national ranking. He was named 1994-95 Sunshine State Conference Coach of the Year.

The next Sam Koleduk, Saint Leo's only two-time All-American, may or may not emerge from the ZYSL program. Regardless, players, parents and coaches alike are hoping some of the Monarchs' success rubs off.

Costs for the camps vary depending on when players register. For more information, call (813) 780-7736 or (813) 788-5638.