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General success halts at national tournament

The Tampa Generals quadriplegic rugby team remains optimistic despite losing a recent national tournament.

"We've got to remember, we won five out of eight tournaments this year," said Joe Soares, team coach and player. "We just didn't win the right one."

The Generals, who were seeded second, played the top teams in the country at a tournament in Salt Lake City in April.

Tampa Bay defeated teams from Tennessee, San Antonio and San Diego, but lost to Alabama by one point in the quarterfinals. The final saw San Diego's Sharp Shadow defeating the Alabama team.

The win was the third national title for the San Diego team, a title formerly held by the Tampa Generals.

"We are seeing other teams move up to a whole other level," Soares said. "Shadow, Alabama and the Generals are the best teams, but now you never know which of us will win."

The tournament came at the tail end of a winning season for the Generals. Earlier this year, the Tampa team beat San Diego in an invitational held in Houston. The team also won a sectional tournament in New York City.

Quad rugby is a fast-paced sport played by wheelchair athletes who have some dysfunction in their arms and legs. Goals are scored by two teams who try to carry a volleyball across one another's end line on a regulation basketball court.

The team is attempting to recruit a head coach to take over for Soares, who combined coaching with playing this season.

The team hopes to have a full-time coach in place by mid-season to let Soares concentrate more on his technique.

"We were undefeated for three years," Soares said. "It just makes us want to win even more next year."

Despite its loss at the nationals, the team is preparing for a new season. This summer Soares, along with Generals players Dave Gould, Bill Renje, Norm Lyduch and Mark Hickey, will compete with the USA national team at the world championships in Toronto.

The players are asking the community for aid in raising money for the trip, which is estimated at $2,000 per person. For more information, call Joe Soares at 1-800-252-3054.