by James Coulter
Maria Lopez and Anna Vega are both members of the Winter Haven Pumas. They serve as both coaches and players. They love soccer. They love to play it and coach it. So it was a no-brainer for them to attend the big soccer tournament last weekend.
“It is amazing,” said Lopez We wanted to play. “It was great. The turnout was amazing. A lot of kids came out. A lot of adults came out. So it was really good to see the community come together. I have been playing since I was little. It was great.”
“I want to thank Geo [the head coach] for putting on this event, not just for the community, but for the youth and what these funds go toward to improve the youth,” Vega said.
The Lake Wales Soccer Club hosted its annual 3×3 soccer championship on Saturday at the Lake Wales Soccer Complex. The tournament was hosted as a fundraiser for Rotary on the Ridge.
This year’s competition consisted of ten divisions ranging from Youth 10 to Adult Co-Ed. More than 35 teams competed from Lake Wales and other cities across Polk County including Lakeland, Winter Haven, and Fort Meade.
“This year, we have more teams and it has been a lot of fun,” said Geo Fazzini, the head coach of the Lake Wales Soccer Club. “The majority [of the players] were from Lake Wales, but we would like a majority from out of the county next year. We hope to grow it bigger with better representation.”
Despite the event being hosted on Memorial Day Weekend, the tournament experienced a great turnout from teams and spectators. The sunny weather and clear skies were undoubtedly also a major factor, Coach Fazzini said.
“For a holiday weekend, I think this was amazing,” he said. “The weather could not have been better. We woke up this morning and it was amazing. Great turnout. Good weather. A lot of fun.”
Fazinni has high expectations for next year. This year’s competition was bigger than last year’s event, and he hopes that more players attend next year. He even hopes teams compete from outside of the county as well as across it.
“I am grateful for everyone who came out, and we hope to grow the event and have more people come next year,” he said. “You cannot put on an event like this without good help and volunteers and support. Luckily, there are a lot of good volunteers who helped us out with parents and players, and teams to make this happen. It was a lot of fun. And most importantly, we did this to raise money and for the kids to have fun. We want the kids to have fun and have a little tournament in the community. We hope to grow it in the future too.”